Civil Law

18 January 2013 No Comments

Interpreting Section 2 (2) of the

Animals Act 1971

”Where damage is caused by an animal which does not belong to a dangerous species, a keeper of the animal is liable for the damage, except as otherwise provided by this Act, if –

 (a) 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; and 

 (b) 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; and

 (c) those characteristics were known to that keeper… ”(1)

Breaking that down to interpret each part in relation to dogs:

  • ”Where damage is caused by an animal which does not belong to a dangerous species” – Dogs that are commonly domesticated in this country are not regarded as a dangerous species. “Damage” means “death of or injury to any person”; “Species” means “sub-species and variety”.
  •  “a keeper of the animal is liable for the damage… …if…”  the keeper (owner or has it in his possession) is liable if…
  •  “(a) the damage is of a kind which the animal, unless restrained, was likely to cause” – the dog was likely to cause the damage (injury) unless it was restrained…
  •  “or which, if caused by the animal, was likely to be severe;” – OR the dog was likely to cause severe damage (injury);
  • “and (b) 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” – the likelihood of the dog causing damage (injury) or the likelihood of it being severe was due to characteristics that dogs do not normally have…
  • “or are not normally so found except at particular times or in particular circumstances;” – OR that dogs do not normally have those characteristics except at particular times or particular circumstances.
  • “and (c) those characteristics were known to that keeper… ” – the owner (person who had it in their possession) knew it behaved like that.
  • (“except as otherwise provided by this Act” – exceptions are made under S.5 for people whose own fault it is, for people who voluntarily accept the risk and for people trespassing where the dog was not kept as a guard.)

So what we find is that if a person who has a dog knows that it is likely to behave in a way that will cause injury if it isn’t restrained, or that the injury was likely to be severe, and the characteristic that makes it behave in this way is not normally found in dogs, or is found only at particular times or circumstances, they will be liable if it does cause injury.

Therefore whether the characteristics displayed by a dog causing injury to a person are judged to be normal behaviour, or normal in some circumstances, is crucial. Expert opinion can be vital in distinguishing normal from abnormal dog behaviour.

(1) The Animals Act 1971 – National Archives

 

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