Liability under the Animals Act 1971—all other animals

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

  • Liability under the Animals Act 1971—all other animals
  • Conditions for strict liability
  • Damage (section 2(2)(a))
  • The damage is of a kind which the animal, unless restrained, was likely to cause
  • The damage, if caused by the animal, was likely to be severe
  • Characteristics of the animal (section 2(2)(b))
  • Not normally found in animals of the same species
  • Not normally so found except at particular times or in particular circumstances
  • Knowledge of the characteristics (section 2(2)(c))

Liability under the Animals Act 1971—all other animals

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

All animals except those that belong to a dangerous species (all non-dangerous animals) are governed by the same rules. There is sometimes strict liability for injuries caused by those animals but only where special conditions are met. Unfortunately, the conditions are difficult to interpret.

Animals do not belong to a dangerous species if they are commonly domesticated. Most animals (including cats, dogs, cows, sheep and horses) are non-dangerous animals because they are often tamed or kept under human control. For further guidance, see Practice Note: Liability under the Animals Act 1971—dangerous species—Which animals are classified as belonging to a dangerous species?

If there is strict liability, it will be imposed on the animal’s keeper. For further information on who qualifies as a keeper, see Practice Note: Liability under the Animals Act 1971—dangerous species—Who is a keeper?

Other than incidents involving dogs, either biting or causing injury by knocking a person over, the most common incidents are those involving horses, typically riding accidents. See Practice Notes: Injuries caused by dogs, Injuries caused by animals straying onto the highway and Horse riding accidents.

Conditions for strict liability

Where damage is caused by an animal which does not belong to a dangerous species, three conditions must be satisfied:

  1. the damage is of

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