Dog owner in the dock in Palma. | Majorca Daily Bulletin reporter

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The owner of a dog has been ordered by a Palma court to pay 8,700 euros in compensation to a pedestrian who suffered a sprained knee after being frightened by the dog's sudden barking.

The animal was on a lead and did not cause direct harm to the victim, but it was its attitude and barking that caused the pedestrian to panic, stumble and sprain his ankle. According to the court ruling, although what happened was not negligence on the part of the owner, he is directly liable for the damage caused by the animal.

The court found that there was no direct link between what the dog did and the damage, as the dog was not a dangerous breed and concluded that barking was not "dangerous and harmful" behaviour, but what happened was a "general risk to life".

The court ruled that dog owners are responsible for the actions of their pets unless there is a circumstance of force majeure.    "The owner's fault is not penalised, but the responsibility derives from the ownership of the animal itself," said the court.

Regarding the barking and the attitude of the animal, the court pointed out that it is not a guard dog in a house but a dog on the public highway: "Dogs that walk along the streets with their owners, bark at pedestrians or approach them in an aggressive or annoying attitude are situations in which the pedestrian may be surprised and frightened, even if the dog is not a dangerous breed," the ruling states.