Jakob Weinrich, LL.M. - Your lawyer in Vienna.

Liability as a dog owner - What do I need to consider?

Next to the cat, the dog is the most popular pet in Austria. Man's best friend also keeps the courts busy enough. Did you know what liability exists as a dog owner and what has to be compensated in case of damage?

Imagine you are walking in the forest with your dog. Far and wide no human being. You know he is obedient and does not endanger anyone. Therefore, you let him run in front of you. Suddenly someone comes and your dog - the cheerful one - greets this person. Unfortunately, so stormy that this person comes to fall and hurt himself.

In such a situation, you are subject to liability as a dog owner. The special thing about this liability is that in the event of damage, you must prove that you have observed objective care. Specifically, you must have provided the necessary custody or supervision of your dog. The more dangerous an animal, the more care must be taken in its safekeeping. Courts include the following points in their decisions:

  • (Recognizable) properties and the dangerousness
  • Type and individuality of the dog
  • External conditions

Court decisions on liability as a dog owner are case-by-case. Provided you have a good-natured, non-malicious and obedient dog, it may be perfectly fine for it to run freely in front of you in a little-visited wooded area.

But if you know that your dog greets every other walker, this speaks in favor of leashing him. Admittedly, even the stormy greeting from a dachshund turns out differently than that of a St. Bernard.

According to the jurisprudence of the highest court, the requirement of safekeeping should not be overstretched. Thus, precautions are sufficient which have been taken by the animal owner taking into account the animal's previous behavior and which can reasonably be expected.

The dog owner is liable for damage that would not have occurred if the dog had been properly cared for. Even if there is no atypical, but an objectively foreseeable behavior of the animal. This also includes damage that may arise from the consequences of jumping up.

If injuries occur among themselves during play, there is not necessarily liability for compensation. In the case of non-vicious and obedient dogs playing with each other with the consent of the dog owners, the Supreme Court ruled that the necessary custody or supervision was provided. Therefore, no liability of the dog owner was assumed.