A woman was confronted with damage claims resulting from injuries suffered by a man who fell due to the defendant's dog. In a recent decision the accused dog owner was acquitted by the Austrian Supreme Court who denied a general obligation for dog owners to leash their dogs

The incident took place on a meadow between two neighbouring villages in Upper Austria where a woman took her French shepherd – in concreto a Briard – for a stroll. At that time the hairy fellow was only 10 months old and therefore still rather playful, so the owner let him run around freely and didn't use the leash. As fate would have it, the claimant took his own dog – in concreto a poodle – for a walk at the same time and the same place. When the defendant's young dog approached the claimant, he didn't hesitate as a precaution to lift his loyal poodle up in order to protect him from the potential French threat. Gripped by the protective instinct that every dog owner knows, he tried to shoo the furry attacker away. However his act of bravery failed tragically as the claimant stumbled, fell on the ground and injured himself. For the poodle-enthusiast it was clear who was at fault and he therefore demanded EUR 12.500 in damage claims. He argued that the other dog owner clearly disregarded her obligations by letting her impetuous 25 kg dog run around without a leash.

The Austrian Supreme Court has now ruled that there is no such thing as a 'general leash-obligation' for dog owners. How a pet is to be kept depends on the individual circumstances and therefore each case has to be considered independently. Rather, it's decisive if it's likely and possible that the pet will cause harm to others. Or in other words predictable damage has to be prevented. Taking this into consideration the court decided in favour of the defendant as her dog was a certificed 'puppy school graduate', hadn't shown any behavioural disorder before and therefore no danger could be expected. (4 Ob 20/18x)

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