My son was bitten by our neighbor’s dog. I learned that the dog was not vaccinated against rabies. Is there a law that penalizes owners of dogs who fail to have their dogs vaccinated with anti-rabies? Can I compel my neighbor to pay for the anti-rabies vaccine to be given to my son?
As defined, rabies is a highly fatal disease caused by a lyssa virus, transmitted mainly through the bite of an infected animal and is characterized by muscle paralysis, hydrophobia and aerophobia, and other neurological manifestations (Republic Act 9482).
The pernicious effect of rabies to humans as well as to animals is alarming. Within days of being afflicted with this disease, if no immediate treatment is administered, a person may die. To address the prevalence of this virus in the country, R.A. 9482 or the Anti-Rabies Act of 2007 was enacted.
This law mandates owners of dogs to be responsible pet owners, to wit:
“Sec. 5. Responsibilities of Pet Owner.—All Pet Owners shall be required to:
(a) Have their Dog regularly vaccinated against Rabies and maintain a registration card which shall contain all vaccinations conducted on their Dog, for accurate record purposes.
(b) Submit their Dogs for mandatory registration.
(c) Maintain control over their Dog and not allow it to roam the streets or any Public Place without a leash.
(d) Be a responsible Owner by providing their Dog with proper grooming, adequate food and clean shelter.
(e)Within twenty-four (24) hours, report immediately any Dog biting incident to the Concerned Officials for investigation or for any appropriate action and place such Dog under observation by a government or private veterinarian.
(f) Assist the Dog bite victim immediately and shoulder the medical expenses incurred and other incidental expenses relative to the victim’s injuries.”
As mentioned above, it is the duty of the dog owner to have his/her dog vaccinated against rabies. It is likewise the duty of the pet owner to assist the victim of his dog and shoulder the expenses incurred as a result thereof.
In addition, the aforementioned law provides penal sanctions against those who shall be found guilty of violating its provisions, as follows:
“Sec. 11. Penalties.
(1) Pet Owners who fail or refuse to have their Dog registered and immunized against Rabies shall be punished by a fine of Two thousand pesos (P2,000.00).
(2) Pet Owners who refuse to have their Dog vaccinated against Rabies shall be liable to pay for the vaccination of both the Dog and the individuals bitten by their Dog.
(3) Pet Owners who refuse to have their Dog put under observation after said Dog has bitten an individual shall be meted a fine of Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00).
(4) Pet Owners who refuse to have their Dog put under observation and do not shoulder the medical expenses of the person bitten by their Dog shall be meted a fine of Twenty-five thousand pesos (P25,000.00).
(5) Pet Owners who refuse to put leash on their Dogs when they are brought outside the house shall be meted a fine of Five hundred pesos (P500.00) for each incident.
(6) An impounded Dog shall be released to its Owner upon payment of a fine of not less than Five hundred pesos (P500.00) but not more than One thousand pesos (P1,000.00).
(7) Any person found guilty of trading Dog for meat shall be fined not less than Five thousand pesos,(P5,000.00) per Dog and subjected to imprisonment for one to four years.
(8) Any person found guilty of using electrocution as a method of euthanasia shall be fined not less than Five thousand pesos (P5,000.00) per act and subject to imprisonment for one to four years.
(9) If the violation is committed by an alien, he or she shall be immediately deported after service of sentence without any further proceedings.”
Thus, you can compel your neighbor to pay the expenses you incurred for the treatment of your child after being bitten by your neighbor’s dog.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org