Dog and animal ownership is on the increase in the UK, and as a result so are the frequency of animal injuries. The most common animal attacks are domestic pets (especially dogs) but attacks could include horses, cattle or zoo animals.
One only needs to look at the BBC to see that animal attacks can happen to anyone and at anytime. It is also clear that dog attacks on children are unfortunately on the increase. With the number of breeds being imported increasing it is likely that the number of animal attacks (and in particular dog attacks) is only going to increase.
The owner of an animal has a responsibility for the behaviour of the animal concerned and if that animal goes on to attack someone, the owner is potentially liable for the damage done.
The Animals Act 1971
The Animals Act 1971 imposes strict liability on owners of animals that cause injury and damage to others. The Act separates animals into 2 categories that of dangerous and non-dangerous animals.
When it comes to dangerous animals (For example a bear) things are very clear cut.
Whilst going about your daily business you are attacked and injured by a bear which has escaped from the local zoo. The persons who are directly responsible for the incident (zoo keepers/owners) will be seen as liable for your injuries that you have sustained.
What is a dangerous animal?
Under s.6 Animals Act 1971 a dangerous species is defined as:
(2) A dangerous species is a species-
(a) which is not commonly domesticated in the British Islands; and
(b) whose fully grown animals normally have such characteristics that they are likely, unless restrained, to cause severe damage or that any damage they may cause is likely to be severe.
With regard to non-dangerous animals (i.e. domesticated animals such as dogs) there is more of a grey area. To bring a claim under the Animals Act for an attack by a dog you need to show the following points.
- The damage is of a kind which the animal, unless restrained, was likely to cause or which, if caused by the animal, was likely to be severe
- The likelihood of the damage or of its being severe was due to characteristics of the animal which are not normally found in animals of the same species or are not normally so found except at particular times or in particular circumstances
- Those characteristics were known to that keeper or were at any time known to a person who at that time had charge of the animal as that keeper’s servant or, where the keeper is the head of a household, were known to another keeper of the animal who is a member of that household and under the age of sixteen. (In other words the owner knew of the characteristics of the animal )
Who is a keeper?
Under s.6 Animals Act 1971 a keeper is defined as:
(3) Subject to subsection (4) of this section, a person is a keeper of an animal if-
(a) he owns the animal or has it in his possession; or
(b) he is the head of a household of which a member under the age of sixteen owns the animal or has it in his
All three of the above criteria need to be shown in order to bring a claim under the act for a non-dangerous animal. The problem lies with the second and third criteria in that the second is particularly vague and the third relies solely on the fact that the owner of the animal knew about its characteristics which is at it’s base subjective.
We would advise you to contact us on 0800 014 8727 to discuss your case further and to hopefully shed some light on your situation.
The Dangerous Dogs Act
On top of claims under the Animals Act 1971 there are actions available under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. These categorise the following dogs as being deemed dangerous and the public need protection from them.
The Act also cover cross breeds, and amongst other things, requires these “types” of dog to be muzzled and kept on a lead in public.
Common Law Claims
On top of the acts mentioned above there are common law claims if you have suffered from animal attacks or they are being a significant nuisance. Some examples of the common law remedies are:
- Nuisance: The tort of nuisance may be actionable if the animal is causing persistent, significant noise or smell. (There does however have to be a persistent nuisance for this to be actionable.)
- Trespass: Similarly to tort of trespass against humans who enter your property you can bring an action for trespass against the owners of dogs/animals who continually stray onto your land. (Although it should be noted that cats are exempt from the law of trespass and so action can not be taken against their owner)
- Negligence: Similar to professional negligence if the owner has failed to take reasonable care and the damage caused by the animal is reasonably foreseeable there is potential a common law claim of negligence available to you.
- Occupier’s liability: If you have the permission of the property owner to go into their property they are then burdened with a duty of care to your safety whilst you are there. If you are attacked by an animal whilst visiting their property and they have failed to take measures to prevent any potential attack from happening you may be able to bring a claim.
If you or one of your family have been victim to animal attacks please contact us on 0800 014 8727 where one of our team will be able to advise you further on whether there is the potential for a claim to be made on a no win no fee basis.