Animals Act

Applies to EnglandApplies to Wales

Title: Animals Act

Category: England and Wales Law

Date: 1971

Reference: Chapter 22 [Full text not available]

General Description:

This legislation relates mainly to the liabilities and responsibilities of animal ownership, as it relates both to domestic pets, and to livestock.

In most cases, damages caused by an animal which belongs to a 'dangerous' species (i.e. a species which is known to be aggressive or violent) are the liability of the keeper or owner of the animal. If the animal does not belong to a dangerous species, then the owner is liable so long as the animal might be expected to behave in such a way, and the animal displayed unusual characteristics, which were previously known about by the owner.

Generally, if a domestic animal kills or injures livestock then the keeper of the animal is liable. However, in the case of humans the keeper is not liable if the damage is wholly due to the actions of a victim, or if the victim voluntarily took a risk.

If a person trespasses on to land over which an animal (e.g. dog) has jurisdiction (i.e the dog is kept/owned by the owner/keeper of the land), and the animal mauls the person, then the owner of the animal is not liable in most circumstances. Similarly, if livestock stray onto land upon which such an animal has jurisdiction, and the animal kills the livestock, the owner shall not be liable.

Detention of animals

When livestock stray onto land, out of the control of the owner, the land occupier has the right to detain them. This 'right of detention' ceases:

After 48 hours if police or owner not notified

When monies are tendered by the owner of the stray beast, in lieu of damages incurred.

If, after 14 days detention, no proceedings have been taken to return the animal, the beast can be sold at market. However, the persons detaining livestock are responsible for damage incurred through general lack of care, attention, food and water during any detention period.

Protection of livestock against dogs

In the case of owners of livestock protecting livestock from dogs, it is a defence for a person to prove that the defendent was acting to protect livestock and was entitled to do so. This is providing that the police were informed of any incident within 48 hours of it occurring. Generally, persons only have the power to act if land is owned by them, or they are acting on behalf of the owner of the land.

In the case of a livestock owner shooting a dog, a person can only be accepted to be protecting his livestock, if a dog is actually worrying, or is about to worry sheep. In addition, the dog must be on its own, and there must be no other way of stopping it from its actions, and there must be no easy way of finding out to whom it belongs.

Pertinence to Agriculture: Safety, Damage Liability

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