Mad Dogs and the Law in Northeast Thailand

Okay, in the villages of Northeast Thailand it seems life often has gone to the dogs and taking a walk or a bike ride is fraught with four legged dangers. In the cities one might think there should be laws and often there are. Thais generally prefer to carry anger and ill feelings than confront neighbors and those with more status for fear of retribution or hard feelings. In Isaan honesty is rarely the best policy. I asked Frank Anderson, to take a look around and see what he could discover about laws as they pertain to dogs and other dangerous animals and as always his information is as clear and precise as it can be. Now that he is back in Thailand be sure to pay his website a visit. Here is what he discovered.  This isn’t much but it might be enough… It is the official Civil and Commercial Code reference – statutes no. 433 and 452 and the Criminal Code statute Section 377…

Whoever, having in his care a ferocious or vicious animal, allows it to wander about alone in a manner likely to cause injury to a person or things, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding one month or fined not exceeding one thousand Baht, or both.

มาตรา ๓๗๗ ผู้ใดควบคุมสัตว์ดุหรือสัตว์ร้าย ปล่อยปละละเลยให้สัตว์นั้นเที่ยวไปโดยลำพัง ในประการที่อาจทำอันตรายแก่บุคคลหรือทรัพย์ ต้องระวางโทษจำคุกไม่เกินหนึ่งเดือน หรือปรับไม่เกินหนึ่งพันบาท หรือทั้งจำทั้งปรับ

When visiting the Korat meung district municipality this morning on the issue, I was referred to the Environmental Office which in turn referred me back to the main office. No one there at the time who could answer questions but did say there was nothing online they knew of. This is not a credible statement.

Civil and Commercial Code sections that apply…
Section 433. If damage [loss] is caused by an animal, the owner, or the person who undertakes to keep the animal on behalf of the owner, is bound to compensate the injured party for any damage arising therefrom, unless he can prove that he has exercised proper care in keeping it according to its species and nature or other circumstances, or that the damage would have been occasioned notwithstanding the exercise of such care.
The person responsible under the foregoing paragraph may exercise a right of recourse against the person who has wrongfully excited or provoked the animal or against the owner of another animal which has caused the excitement or provocation.
มาตรา 433 ถ้าความเสียหายเกิดขึ้นเพราะสัตว์ ท่านว่าเจ้าของสัตว์หรือบุคคลผู้รับเลี้ยงรับรักษาไว้แทนเจ้าของจำต้องใช้ค่าสินไหมทดแทนให้แก่ฝ่ายที่ต้องเสียหายเพื่อความเสียหายอย่างใด ๆ อันเกิดแต่สัตว์นั้น เว้นแต่จะพิสูจน์ได้ว่าตนได้ใช้ความระมัดระวังอันสมควรแก่การเลี้ยงการรักษาตามชนิดและวิสัยของสัตว์ หรือตามพฤติการอย่างอื่น หรือพิสูจน์ได้ว่าความเสียหายนั้นย่อมจะต้อง
เกิดขึ้นทั้งที่ได้ใช้ความระมัดระวังถึงเพียงนั้น อนึ่ง บุคคลผู้ต้องรับผิดชอบดังกล่าวมาในวรรคต้นนั้น จะใช้สิทธิไล่เบี้ย เอาแก่บุคคลผู้ที่เร้าหรือยั่วสัตว์นั้นโดยละเมิด หรือเอาแก่เจ้าของสัตว์อื่นอันมาเร้าหรือยั่วสัตว์นั้น ๆ ก็ได้
Section 452. A possessor of an immovable property [such as land, house, etc. which cannot be removed] is entitled to seize animals belonging to another person which cause injury/loss on such property and retain them as security for any compensation which may be due to him; he is even entitled to kill them if it is necessary under the circumstances. However he must give notice without delay to the owner of the animals. If the owner could not be found the person seizing must take proper measures to seek him out.

[It is also good advice to immediately notify authorities of action taken, with explanation, photos and/or other evidence if available to support claim and justify actions. It’ good sense to appear reluctant to have done so but given no other choice. Often the first person with the foot in the door has the most credibility]. Example: Several years ago a foreigner’s toy poodle got out from under the house gate onto the front soi where it was attacked and killed by loose dogs belonging to a neighbor. The foreigner picked up a .38 and chasing the dogs for several yards shot the one leading the pack in the neck. It crawled under its owner’s house and died on the spot. The foreigner immediately went to the local police station, filed a complaint against the dog’s owner, and received compensation in the way of a new poodle. It was not made clear to authorities or the owner who shot the dog but the owner suspected it was the foreigner’s brother-in-law who was a policeman and carried a gun. The incident took place in early morning hours with no one up yet and thus no witnesses save the foreigner.
มาตรา 452 ผู้ครองอสังหาริมทรัพย์ชอบที่จะจับสัตว์ของผู้อื่นอันเข้ามาทำความเสียหายในอสังหาริมทรัพย์นั้น และยึดไว้เป็นประกันค่าสินไหมทดแทนอัน จะพึงต้องใช้แก่ตนได้ และถ้าเป็นการจำเป็นโดยพฤติการณ์ แม้จะฆ่าสัตว์นั้นเสียก็ชอบที่จะทำได้ แต่ว่าผู้นั้นต้องบอกกล่าวแก่เจ้าของสัตว์โดยไม่ชักช้า ถ้าและหาตัวเจ้าของสัตว์ไม่พบ ผู้ที่จับสัตว์ไว้ต้องจัดการตามสมควรเพื่อสืบหาตัวเจ้าของ

Other comments:
Obviously any claims alleging loss or damage would have to be acceptably demonstrated, which is difficult in a culture that does not overindulge in accountability, especially for behavior of pets. The police are fine enough in reluctantly filing a complaint based on allegations, but then the prosecutor and court would have to see the evidence and weigh it. Cultural perceptions would be very critical, but if a calm and well-organized complaint was to be made there is no reason why at least some financial compensation would not result. The trick is to substantiate claims in a way acceptable to the Thais who often pooh-pooh such claims.
Further, the court may ask if the alleged party suffering loss or claiming damage had ever contacted the owner of the pet in question to express complaint, and if so, what was the result? As well, how many times was this done and when, and what was the resulting continuing loss that claimant suffered? Litigation is expensive, time-consuming and frustrating. However, if in the beginning the person being bothered by a neighbor’s pet chooses to pursue a complaint recognizing that the pet owner will be angry and indignant, he can immediately file a written complaint with the local municipality asking for a municipal officer to visit and discuss measures to be taken with the pet owner. The result of this visit should be made clear to the complaining party. Once again, keep in mind that the pet owner will not only probably hate you, but will also spread word around the neighborhood that a foreigner is a nasty person who is selfish and does not belong.If you want popularity, don’t make a complaint. I live in a quiet neighborhood but have no friends here. But we have a gun, Rottweiler and someone home, with CCTV cameras, so we are armed.

The ultimate rationale for taking action rests with the person taking or not taking it, and in trying to get action taken before extreme measures such as court proceedings. Does he or she want silence, peace and quiet, or just a nasty neighbor with a loud pet who does not care whether you sleep or not? While this is Thailand and you are supposedly a guest here, you also have a right to a reasonable expectation of peace and quiet.Thais, despite their hatred of offensive warnings from anyone, do pay attention to most of them and in the case of a written complaint made to the municipality or other local authority that is referred to them, will likely take some kind of action. How long it lasts and what kind it is will determine your next step.

Some situations are not so easy to resolve. One foreigner observed…”My sister-in-law next door has kept Dobermans for years, letting them bark incessantly and claiming she does not know how to stop them. Even threats to shoot them did not persuade her to act responsibly. The accumulation of 3-4 years of complaints finally led to a half-assed effort to control the barking but it never really ended.”
That sums it up. As to action and recommended action (for those so inclined):
1. First politely speak with neighbor. It is not likely to lead to much except hurt feelings but at least you tried. Make a note of the date and what was said, and why. Keep the note.
2. After repeated instances – recorded with dates and time and nature o problem, send complaint/or make one in person and ensure that the local official involved actually makes a note). Ask for the authority to visit the person with the pet to ask for cooperation.
3. If still little or no result, warn the person one more time that you are considering filing a police complaint, or if you enjoy litigation, a civil complaint.
4. When still little or no action follows that is acceptable, then actually file a police complaint, and consider filing a civil complaint. At this stage, you can best do this through getting a lawyer who would first issue a warning notice to the offending party. This notice would later be used in evidence of prior notice.
5. Ensure your own sheet is clean.
6. It is likely that your Thai girlfriend or wife will not like any of this. Be prepared to deal with that.
7. At any point you are certainly free to consult with a lawyer, and in fact should consider it although the Thai lawyer will likely be more sympathetic with the irresponsible pet owner…

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