High court reporters
The parents of a young boy allegedly attacked by a pitbull dog at a house he was visiting have brought a High Court challenge over the authorities' refusal to investigate the incident.
The court heard the boy suffered severe facial injuries, requiring immediate emergency surgery, in an incident that occurred late last year.
The parents of the injured child made formal complaints to both the local gardaí and the local council's dog warden. However, they were informed by those parties that the incident could not be investigated and that they would have no further involvement in the matter because the incident occurred on private property.
The people taking the action cannot be identified by order of the court. The dog, it is claimed, was owned by an associate of the boy's father. The alleged attack occurred when the boy and his father were visiting the dog owner's home.
Control of Dogs Act
The parents are unhappy with the authorities' responses and in their High Court action claim that the 1986 Control of Dogs Act is flawed, and unconstitutional.
They claim that the 1986 Act entitles persons attacked by a dog in a public place to certain legal protections and entitlements, including the issuing of fines, penalties and destruction orders by the courts in respect of dogs no kept under control.
However, they claim that the legislation does not afford those same protections to a person, who is lawfully present as a visitor in a dwelling house, attacked by a dangerous dog belonging to that property's owner.
They claim that from a public and common good perspective it cannot be the case that the State is prevented from investigating a dog attack that takes place in circumstances like what they say happened to their son.
Where a complaint relates to an attack on a child, they claim that the State must act to ensure such an incident is not repeated.
Alleged criminal offences
The boy's parents believe the incident should be investigated, on the grounds that criminal offences under the 1986 Control of Dogs Act and 1997 Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act have occurred.
Represented by Derek Shortall SC, the applicants, in their judicial review proceedings against the local council, the Garda Commissioner and the State, seek various orders and declarations from the court.
They also seek a declaration that sections of the 1986 Control of Dogs Act are repugnant to the Constitution, and the European Convention on Human Rights as they fail to protect the applicants' fundamental rights to bodily integrity, fair procedures and are discriminatory.
They further seek declarations that the Gardai and the local council's refusal to investigate the matter amounts to a breach of their duty to investigate such complaints and a failure to vindicate the applicants' rights.
The matter came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan at the High Court on Monday.
The judge, on an ex-parte basis, granted the applicant permission to bring the challenge.
The matter will return before the Court in October.