Some animals come with their own inherent risks which can unfortunately lead to serious accidents.

I have had numerous claims which have involved injuries caused by a dog bite whereby I have referred to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. However, recently I have come across claims which have involved serious injuries being caused by a swan and a horse.  Both claims involve serious injuries. One of the claimants’ required a referral to a plastic surgeon. Despite treatment, she has since been left with a permanent visible scarring to her lower leg and nerve damage. The second claimant sustained a fracture to his metatarsal which has resulted in significant loss of earnings as a result of being unable to weight bear.

In order to bring a claim for personal injury against the owner/keeper of that animal we need to prove they have been negligent in looking after, controlling or restraining the animal in question. In order to prove this we need to establish 3 elements;

  • The owner/keeper of the animal in question owed the injured person a duty of care;
  • There was a breach of this duty of care
  • The incident was caused by the breach of duty
  • The injured person suffered damage/injury

As well as proving negligence there is specific legislation governing accidents involving animals which can assist in bringing a claim against the owner/keeper of the animal in question and secure compensation for the injured person.

Animals Act 1971

The Animals Act 1971 provides a distinction between dangerous and non-dangerous species.

Under section 2(1) of the 1971 Act, where damage is caused by an animal from a dangerous species, the keeper/owner of a dangerous animal is strictly liable for any harm which may have been caused by that animal, regardless of whether or not the keeper or owner was at fault. Strict liability means neither negligence nor intent is required for liability to be shown.

A dangerous species is one which:

  • is not commonly domesticated in the British Isles; and
  • which, when fully grown, unless restrained, is either likely to cause severe damage or is such that any damage which it does cause is likely to be severe.

If the court decides that an animal is a member of a dangerous species, then all the claimant needs to prove is that the defendant was the keeper of the animal and that the animal caused the claimant’s personal injury.

Under Section 2(2) of the 1971 Act, where damage is caused by an animal from a non-dangerous species, the keeper of the animal is liable for the damage. Animals within this category include dogs, cattle, horses, etc.

To prove liability under Section 2(2), the following needs to be established:

  • the damage is of a kind which the particular animal, unless restrained, is likely to cause – or if caused is likely to be severe;
  • such likelihood is due to the characteristics of the particular animal not normally found in animals of the same species, or not so except at certain times or in certain circumstances;
  • that those characteristics were known to the owner/keeper as defined above.

The keeper/owner of the animal maybe able to raise various defences defined within Section 5 of the 1971 Act if applicable to escape liability.

  • The keeper/owner of the animal is not liable where the damage is caused wholly by the fault of the injured person.
  • The keeper/owner of the animal is not liable if the injured person has voluntarily assumed the risk of injury from the animal.

If you’ve been attacked or injured by an animal, please call us today on 0161 207 2020 to see if you can make a claim for compensation or click here to learn more.


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