Animals Causing Injuries

In the United Kingdom, the number of people being attacked by animals has increased over the years. In our experience we have noted that individuals are of the belief that you can only claim for dog bites, but this is a misconception, as you can claim for compensation due to being attacked by dogs, cattle, and horses, to name a few.

To have a successful claim you are required to prove that the owner of the animal was negligent and because of their negligence they are liable for the injuries caused, which will be discussed below.


Normal rules apply: show that the Defendant breached their duty of care, foreseeability, and damage

Donaldson v Wilson [2004]

  • Donaldson had been driving his motorcycle when he collided with a cow that escaped from Mr Wilsons fields. Mr Wilson did not put a border around the road.
  • Judge found it is extremely reasonable that Mr Wilson should have expected walkers in his fields as it had footpaths running through his fields. Therefore, reasonably foreseeable that a cow might get onto the paths/roads and therefore negligence will follow. He should have taken safety precautions to avoid harm.


The Animals Act 1971

  • S.6(3): A person is liable under the act if they own the animal or has it in his possession.
  • What extent of control you need to be in possession:
    • Hole v Ross-Skinner [2003]: Landowners can be found liable for damage caused by animals on their premises.
  • Multiple keepers:
    • If you own a horse and someone else is riding that horse, then they are both liable.
    • One keeper can’t claim against the second keeper.
  • Criteria for Liability:
    • S6(2) defines dangerous animals.
    • A dangerous species is a species not commonly domesticated in England; or who’s fully grown animal have such characteristics that they are likely unless restraint to cause severe damage.
    • All the rest are non-dangerous e.g., certain breeds of dogs.
    • Dogs: Since dangerous dog’s act there is certain criteria of dogs which are defined as dangerous (S2(1) Animals Act 1971).
    • S.2(1) Strict liability for damage done by dangerous animals: any person who is the keeper of the animal is liable for the damage except otherwise provided by this act.
    • S.2(2) Strict liability for damage done by non-dangerous animals: a keeper is liable for his damages, except otherwise provided by this act.

This act sets out 3 criteria:

  1. Likelihood test (2 limbs)
    • Foreseeability: “likely” such as might happen. Freeman v Higher Park Farm [2008] stated that you must look at all the way damage can be caused then decide what is serious.
    • If damage caused, it is likely to be severe.
  2. Characteristic test (2 limbs)
    • Likelihood of the damage being severe is due to the unusual characteristics of the animal which are not normally found in the animal of same species.
    • Not normally so found except particular times and circumstances. Livingstone v Armstrong: If you cannot identify characteristics then you can identify liability.
  3. Knowledge test
    • The keeper must know that the characteristic in S.2(2)(b) applies to this particular animal.

There are different ways in which animal attacks can lead to a successful claim:

Occupiers Liability

You may claim for compensation against the owner of an animal whilst out in public or on their own territory when visiting their residential or business premises. If the owner of the animal has insurance in place, then you may be able to claim for compensation.

However, if the person does not have insurance cover but has financial assets you may be able to claim for compensation directly from the owner.

Accidents At Work

If you are attacked by an animal during your employment, you could pursue a claim for compensation against your employers instead of the owner. It can be easier to establish negligence against an employer as they owe a range of different duties to their employees regarding health and safety.

For example, when being employed by a delivery company they are required to provide relevant training for you to carry out your duties safely. This can include what to do when entering a premises with dogs and other animals. If the employer has failed to provide training, then you may be entitled to compensation.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA)

CICA is a governing body which you may be able to claim compensation if an individual deliberately uses their animal to attack and injure you. This should be used as a last resort if the owner does not have insurance or any significant financial assets.

To claim using this route, you will be required to file a report with the police and assist in their investigations against the owner. Without doing so, it could lead to you not receiving the compensation you deserve.

Taking the above into consideration, if you have been attacked and injured by an animal and would like to speak to one of our Personal Injury specialists, please contact us on 0207 870 4870 today.

Written by:

Jai Singh

Trainee Solicitor

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