Owners of unsupervised pets that injure people will be responsible for compensating the victims, according to the latest draft law submitted to the top legislature for a third reading yesterday.
The draft tort liability law, designed to ensure that people are compensated when their civil rights are infringed, has new sections that draw a clearer line about who should be responsible in the event of an animal attack, Zhang Bailin, vice-chairman of the NPC Law Committee, said while briefing lawmakers.
The draft stipulates that animals' owners or managers will be held responsible if they have not adopted safety measures to keep their pets from attacking others, Zhang said.
The law requires that if an animal that has been abandoned attacks a person, the animal's original owner or manager will shoulder the responsibility.
The draft was tabled for discussion at a five-day legislative session of the NPC Standing Committee that started yesterday.
If a zoo animal attacks someone, the zoo will bear the responsibility unless zoo officials can prove they have done their duty in animal management, said Jiang Xingchang, a member of the standing committee. The same law would apply to animals from wildlife conservation areas and nature conservation zones, Jiang said.
In recent years, incidents in which animals attack humans have increased sharply as more abandoned animals, mostly cats and dogs, wander around cities, according to documents provided by the NPC Standing Committee's Legislative Affairs Commission.
More than 40 million people are attacked by animals each year, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health.
The ministry's recent annual report shows that more than 2,400 people died of rabies.
According to Shanghai Municipal government's statistics, about 117,000 cases involving dog bites were logged in 2008. Many local governments now emphasize to animal owners that they take responsibility for their pet.
In Beijing, for example, if a dog that is not under any safety measures bites a person, its owners are held responsible for the dog's damage.
Animal rights expert Grace Ge Gabriel from the International Fund for Animal Welfare argued that the draft could encounter difficulty because not all the dogs or cats are registered.
However, holding animal's owners liable for their animal's actions is a sound law, she said.
She proposed setting up an animal protection law to replace each individual law involving animals to achieve a more harmonious environment for animals and humans.