The classification of an animal as domestic or tame, as opposed to wild, is a matter of law.
Domestic animals are those which by training or habit, live with humans. Domestic animals may be owned in the same way as other goods or personal property. Their owner may take proceedings in respect of their detention (detinue) and appropriation (conversion) by another. The general principles in relation to trespass to goods apply.
The young or offspring of animals belong to the owner of the female. If however, the animals are leased, then in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, their ownership is presumed to vest in the lessee.
Wild animals, for civil liability purposes, are all animals, whether living in the wild or savage or not, which are not classified as domestic animals. There is no absolute property in wild animals while they are alive. They may be the subject of “qualified” property. The property may be terminated, if the animal leaves, resumes in its wild state or not being pursued. It may be lost if the animal is taken by another person and reduced into his possession.
The owner of real property in which animals are situated may have a common law right to reduce them into his possession. Where a person by his own work and effort, has tamed an animal, which would be otherwise classified as wild, it may become his property, at least until it regains its liberty. This may apply, for example to swans, doves and deer.
There is qualified property in a captive animal. This may, for example, include hares, peasants or partridges in a warren or enclosure, deer in a park, tamed hawk, fish in a pond, rabbits in a warren, prawns in private water, bees in a hive. Bees are wild but come into the ownership of the person who owns the hive.
The owner of land has qualified property in the young of wild animals born on the land until they leave. An action for trespass will lie for taking or interfering with them.
An owner of land, unless he has disposed of the exclusive right to hunt or take non-tame animals, has a qualified right in them for so long as they are there. He may grant the right to hunt and take animals from his land by licence. In this case, the person so licenced has qualified property in them
This is subject to provisions of law in relation to the protection of wildlife.
If animals are killed or die, they vest in the owner or occupier of the land. If a sporting or shooting license has been granted, they may vest in that licensee.
Domestic Animals and Liability I
A person may be liable for injuries caused by domestic animals, which he owns or controls. A person may be liable for damage and injury caused by an animal under general principles of negligence, nuisance or trespass. A person who is negligent in the control of an animal may be liable to persons who are foreseeably injured in consequence of a breach of his duty of care.
In this section, ownership, possession and control are presumed to be synonymous. Liability is generally based on possession or control, rather than ownership in itself, in most based on negligence or trespass. The possessor and controller will generally be the owner, but need not be necessarily be so. Ownership of itself separate from possession and control will not usually be sufficient to establish cause liability to arise.
In some cases, the occupier of land where the animal is kept may be liable. Occupation and possession of land in itself requires control. Statutory liability for dogs lies with the owner. The definition of ownership is wider than ownership in the proprietary sense.
Domestic Animals and Liability II
Negligence in relation to animals will often involve failures in their direct control. Liability for negligence may arise, for example, in herding cattle or other animals who may do damage if they go free. A person who has control over a dog may be liable for negligence in handling or controlling the dog.
A person may be liable for nuisance, most commonly arising from keeping animals. Cattle may block the public highway, leading to liability for public nuisance. Animals may by reason of their number, accumulation in unreasonable numbers, noise, smell or otherwise interfere with an adjoining owner’s reasonable enjoyment of his land. This may occur for example in the case of barking dogs, beehives etc,. Their owner or controller may be “strictly” liable (without negligence) for the tort of (private) nuisance.
A person may be liable for trespass against land if he sets or drives an animal onto another person’s land. Similarly, he may be liable for trespass against the person, by way of assault or battery, by threatening or setting a dog on another. Liability in each case is for trespass as direct action against land or the person is involved.
A person may be liable without further proof of negligence for the actions of a dog, as the occupier of the property. The general principles of occupier’s liability apply. A dog may be an unexpected source of danger. Occupier’s liability, like nuisance, is in once sense strict, but in another sense may be based on negligence. The negligent element lies at the organisational level.
There have long been special rules on liability for damage and injuries caused by animals. A distinction was drawn between tame or domestic animals on the one hand and wild animals on the other hand. The general principle was the owner /possessor of a wild animal kept it at his risk. If it caused damage or injury, the owner was strictly liable for the consequence. This is similar to the “Rylands v Fletcher” principle by which a person is liable strictly for the consequences which follow, if a dangerous or risky thing which he keeps, escapes.
Prior to reforms in the mid-1980s, a person was liable for the actions of a tame or domestic animal which he owned or controlled, only if he knew that the animal had a tendency or propensity to do damage of the type concerned. Classically dogs, other domestic animals and many farm animals were not classified as dangerous, (with consequent strict liability) unless the owner had knowledge of its dangerous tendencies.
If it could be shown that the owner/controller knew, for example, that the dog concerned acted aggressively by growling and fighting, that may be sufficient evidence of knowledge of the tendency. The tendency need not have been permanent or chronic. Occasional bouts of temper or tendency to do harm may be sufficient.
The owner/controller’s was required to have actual knowledge of the animal’s tendency. The expression that every dog was allowed one bite was partly accurate. It reflected the requirement for knowledge of the dangerous tendency. However, the owner/controller may be deemed to have knowledge of the dog’s propensities by behaviour short of bite.
The classification of animals into wild and domestic animals is made in broad species terms. The courts have indicated that cats, dogs, animals, horses, partridges, are domestic animal. In contrast, bear, zebras, lions, elephants are wild animals. Whether or not an animal is domestic may depend on the particular setting and culture.
The Control of Horses Acts deals with licensing and control of horses. An owner, keeper, or a person in charge or control of a horse who wilfully or recklessly permits a horse to pose a danger to a person or property or causes injury is guilty of an offence. It is an offence wilfully or recklessly, to cause a horse to pose a danger to a person or property or to injure a person or property.
The Control of Dogs Act 1986 revised the law on civil liability in relation to dogs. The act makes the owner (as defined) strictly liable for injuries caused by dogs to livestock and for damages caused in an attack by a dog on an individual. It is not necessary to show knowledge of a mischievous propensity in the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such previous propensity or to show the injury or damages due to the neglect of a dog.
The owner of a dog includes the occupier of any premises where the dog is kept or permitted to live or remain at any particular time unless such occupier proves to the contrary. If there is more than one dwelling in any house, the occupier of the dwelling in which the dog is kept, or is permitted to live or remain, shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to be the owner;
Accordingly, the above rules are amended as far as dogs are concerned. There is strict liability for dogs now.
Where livestock are injured by a dog on land on to which they have strayed and either the dog belonged to the occupier of the land or such presence was authorised by the occupier, the person is not liable in respect of damage or injury done to the livestock unless the person caused the dog to attack the livestock.
A person is liable for the damage caused by a dog kept in any premises or structures to a person trespassing thereon only in accordance with the law of negligence. Liability to a trespasser would arise in limited circumstances only. See the sections on occupier’s liability, which determines liability in these circumstances.
The older rule still applies in respect of circumstances falling outside the above provisions, which are limited to an attack on a person by a dog. An attack implies some element of aggression so that an accident or mischance would not suffice.
The Civil Liability Act provision in relation to contributory negligence, apply to injuries caused by dogs. This may apply where a number of dogs collectively attack livestock for example.In some case, the claimant may be contributorily negligent.
The Control of Dogs Act provides for licensing of dogs and for the control and seizure of stray dogs. It creates offences, which are set out below. There is provision for application to the District Court to restrain nuisance caused by barking dogs.
There are regulations relating to guard dogs. A guard dog must be accompanied by a handler or secured so that it may not go freely about the premises or escape. A warning note must be displayed at all entrances to the premises. Guard dogs must have identification collars and electronic devices with a permanent code.
There is a defence to shooting a dog, who was worrying or about to worry livestock or was otherwise a threat to livestock caused by stray dogs.
The Control of Dogs (Amendment Act 1992 provided stricter rules on dangerous dogs. The Minister may, by regulations, specify standards for premises at which a guard dog is, or more than 5 dogs aged over 4 months are, kept, and make provision for the use and control of dogs.
An owner is liable for damage caused by cattle who have strayed from their land onto another property. This is strict liability for so-called cattle trespass, at common law. Strict liability for cattle trespass arises where cattle escape directly or indirectly onto another’s land. Where cattle are being driven but are not deliberately driven, then liability would depend on negligence.
The principles of cattle trespass apply to species than bovine species. It includes horses, sheep, goat, pigs, asses, domesticated deer, domesticated fowl.
Liability for cattle trespass applies to the person who is the occupier of the land and possessor of the animal. Ownership of itself, without control, occupation or possession is not sufficient.
Cattle trespass liability related primarily to damage to the land itself. Liability may also arise in relation to damage to livestock, crops, animal and arguably personal injury.
Cattle trespasses liability is strict; it is likely that the usual defences to strict liability, in particularly “act of God” and inevitable accident applies. If the claimant himself, his fault or contributory negligence may reduce the extent of the respondent’ liability.
Formerly there was no liability for damage caused by animals which strayed onto the highway. The rule did not apply to straying en masse, causing an obstruction to the highway. Similarly, where an animal had a propensity to stray causing danger to the public, the above principles would apply, which lead to liability.
The common law exemption from liability is confined to rural conditions where there is no obligation to fence. It does not apply to animals deliberately brought onto the highway. Where the cattle are driven onto another’s land this may constitute trespass (distinct from cattle trespass) as the action is direct, where cattle are driven.
The Animals Act 1985 abolished the common law exemption from liability in so far as it exceeded or restricted duties of persons which might otherwise be liable to take such care as is reasonable in the circumstances, to ensure that damage is not caused by an animal straying on to the public highway. In effect, the general principle of negligence apply.
Where damage is caused by an animal straying from unfenced land on to a public road, a person who placed the animal on the land shall not be regarded as having committed a breach of the duty to take care by reason only of placing it there if the land is situated in an area where fencing is not customary, and he had a right to place the animal on that land Fencing includes the construction of an obstacle designed to prevent animals from straying,.
Liability is dependent on proof of negligence.
If a trespasser kills an animal on the land of another, the owner or occupier has a better title. The trespasser has no title to them. A poacher who takes and kills animals may be subject to an action in conversion.
If a trespasser chases a wild animal on to the land of another and kills it there, there is contradictory case law. Older cases held that the carcass of the animal belonged to the trespasser. These case have been severely criticised.
At common law, a person was not liable for trespass where a dog entered another’s land unauthorised, unless the dog was wilfully sent on to the land or if he permitted the dog to be at large knowing that it was wont to kill. At common law, dogs were not deemed inherently dangerous.
A person who keeps a dog which causes damage by killing livestock is liable for damage, absolutely subject to limited defences; Animals Act UK 1971. UK decision law not in common law.