Boy savaged by dog gets €25,000
Council to appeal liability for attack by stray that left child scarred
Published 07/04/2011 | 05:00
Patrick Keenan shows the scars (left) he was left with after a stray dog attacked him. Press 22
A LOCAL authority is set to appeal a landmark court ruling that held it liable for a stray dog biting a child in a council-owned park.
Cork City Council was yesterday ordered to pay €25,000 to Patrick Keenan (12) who, as a six-year-old, suffered serious injuries when he was attacked by a stray dog at Loughmahon Park in the city.
The ruling could hold every Irish council liable for compensation for the activities of stray animals that wander on to their property.
But Cork City Council's barrister, James Duggan, secured a stay on the €25,000 award after he said the matter had raised important legal issues.
In this case the dog -- a large German Shepherd -- bit the child on the legs as he played and the youngster subsequently required 60 stitches to his wounds. The dog was never located and its owner was never identified.
A Circuit Civil Court action was taken on the child's behalf by his father, James Keenan, of Childers Road, Ennis, Co Clare.
The family was visiting friends in Cork when the attack occurred on the council-owned land and play area.
Judge Patrick Moran was told that, as a consequence of the attack, the boy was left with permanent scarring to his legs.
He had to be hospitalised for several days following the incident on July 28, 2006.
The plaintiff's counsel pointed out that regulations clearly placed the responsibility on the owner of land for any such incidents if the animal involved is permitted to remain there for any period of time.
But Mr Duggan said that it was a matter of some concern that every local authority in Ireland was now apparently being held responsible for the activities of stray dogs.
He pointed out that the action was only taken against the council because it proved impossible to track down the owner of the errant animal involved.
"In my respectful submission is it ridiculous to allow such a wide view to be taken as that," Mr Duggan argued.
He also said that it was clear that the council would have been liable if it had been aware of the stray dog and had done nothing to remove it -- but this was not the case.
However, Judge Moran said he took the view that the council did in fact permit the animal to remain on the land and was, as a consequence, liable.
"I take the view that the city council did permit a dog to remain at that particular place at that particular time.
"It might be harsh on the local authority but that is my view of the legislation," he said.
Judge Moran awarded the youngster €25,000 in damages and directed that the money be lodged in court until he turns 18.
However, given the important legal issues raised by the case, he said he would place a stay on the €25,000 award pending the council's decision on an appeal.