Defences to claims for injuries caused by animals

The following PI & Clinical Negligence practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Defences to claims for injuries caused by animals
  • Accident caused by claimant
  • Voluntary acceptance of risk
  • Trespass
  • Contributory Negligence

Defences to claims for injuries caused by animals

The Animals Act 1971 is referred to in this Practice Note as AA 1971.

Accident caused by claimant

A defendant will escape liability for injury caused by an animal if they can show under AA 1971, s 5(1) that the claimant’s injury was wholly their own fault.

Examples might include:

  1. riding too close to another horse in a show ring causing that horse to kick out (see Jones v Baldwin (2010) Cardiff County Court (not reported by LexisNexis®))

  2. grabbing and restraining a dog so that it feels threatened and bites (see Preskey v Sutcliffe (2013) Leeds County Court (not reported by LexisNexis®))

Voluntary acceptance of risk

A defendant will also escape liability under AA 1971, s 5(2) if the claimant voluntarily accepted the risk of injury. This defence does not apply if the claimant is the defendant’s employee and the risk was incidental to employment.

The defendant must prove that the claimant:

  1. fully appreciated the risk, and

  2. exposed themself to it

The words in AA 1971, s 5(2) are simple English and must be given their ordinary meaning. The defence should not be complicated by reference to the old common law doctrine of volenti.

Voluntary assumption of risk for the purposes of AA 1971, s 5(2) requires knowledge of any risk which was

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