Whether you call your dog; Bingo or Jackie in Nigeria, you should know that owning a pet in Nigeria could lead to a few skirmishes with the law. These days people don’t just have dogs as pets. Some people keep wild animals as exotic pets too.

Owning either category of these pets could get you sued, especially when you don’t take note of the legal issues we will discuss in this article. Yes, ignorance of the law is yet to be an excuse.

To begin our discussion, you should know that the Law does not forbid you from owing or keeping a pet. No, not at all.

Rather, in selected instances, the law makes you responsible (or liable) for any harm or damage that your pet causes to others.  This is because the law expects that you should take reasonable steps to prevent your pet from hurting others.

Our point is this – if your bingo bites someone, you would in appropriate circumstances be held responsible (or liable).

Speaking lawgically or with legalese, varying scenarios determine what you as an animal or pet owner could be held liable for[1]. Your liability for the damage caused by your pet could fall into of two broad categories which are – scienter action or cattle trespass.  

Under scienter action, your (the pet owner’s) knowledge of the animal’s likely wild conduct is taken into consideration before liability is established or determined. For this purpose, the law recognizes and treats domestic animals differently from wild animals. So, if you keep a wild animal as a pet, the law actually presumes that you know that the wild animal (your wild pet) is aggressive and likely dangerous.

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The situation is slightly different for domestic animals. For domestic animals, there will need to be evidence that the animal has a vicious tendency that the owner is aware of. What we simply mean is – if as Bingo’s owner you knew ahead of time that the dog doesn’t keep its teeth to itself and Bingo actually uses those teeth on an innocent passer-by. You will be held liable.

[1] For example if you bring a dog onto the highway he may be liable in Negligence if he does not exercise reasonable care controlling the dog6. Again, if a person keeps animals in such numbers that they unreasonably interfere with his neighbor’s enjoyment of his property then the owner of the animals may be liable in Nuisance7. Similarly, will the owner be liable if the noise or stench which such animals emit, unreasonably interferes with the quiet enjoyment of adjoining property8. In trespass too the owner who commands a dog to attack a person or who drives a beast onto another’s land may be liable9. The occupier of premises may be liable if, for example, injury is caused to a lawful entrant by the occupier’s dog10. Finally, within the principle expressed in Rylands v. Fletcher11, if animals are collected on property, in such a way as to amount to a non-natural user of the land, and, if they are likely to do damage if they escape, the owner may then be liable for all injuries caused by such an escape. See more at https://www.lawreform.ie/_fileupload/consultation%20papers/wpAnimals.htm