Liability of animal owners

If your sheep (or any other animals) stray onto my land, then I have the right to stop them or to recover from you the cost of any damage your sheep (or other animals) have done.

Build a proper fence, keep them in a sheep pen, do something other than run to the newspaper egged on by people who do not appear to know the law!

The civil liability of an owner of an animal for damage or injury caused by that animal is governed by the provisions of the Animals (Civil Liability) Act, Cap. 194A.

Section 5 provides that where livestock trespass onto another’s property and cause damage or other expense to the owner of the property, then the livestock owner is responsible for the damage and expenses.

Where it is the land itself that is damaged, then the landowner must summon a Justice of the Peace to do an appraisal of the said damage and any resultant expense. The landowner can also detain the livestock for up to 48 hours before making a written report to the police station.

If the animal remains unclaimed after 14 days, then it may be sold to cover the damage and expenses. Livestock is specifically defined as “cattle, horses, asses, mules, sheep, pigs, goats and poultry.”

The owner of an animal which is considered to belong to a species classified as dangerous, for example, snakes, tigers and bears, is strictly liable for any damage caused by such an animal.

In addition to the obvious types of animals, the definition of “dangerous” in section 4(2) includes a species “which is not commonly domesticated in Barbados” and whose characteristics, when fully grown, can lead to the likelihood of severe damage.  Try the green monkey for example.

Under section 3(2) of the Act, a number of pre-conditions are set out for the establishment of liability of an owner for injury or damage caused by an animal not normally considered to be dangerous.

It must be proved that (a) “the damage was 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 the keeper or …that keeper’s servant, or where that keeper is head of a household…to another keeper of the animal who is a member of that household and a minor.”

Loosely translated liability is established under section 3(2) if the damage or injury was associated with the type of animal, the severity of the damage was as a result of the characteristics of the particular animal or the particular circumstances in which the damage occurred and the owner, his servants and/or agents or any persons in his household under the age of 18, knew of the propensity of the individual animal for such behaviour.

As per the case of Osbourne v Choqueel [1896] 2 Q.B. 109, the knowledge attributed to the owner must be of the precise characteristic displayed and which led to the injury.

 There are a number of defences to liability in negligence under the terms of the Act namely, (1) the sole fault of the injured person; (2) voluntary acceptance of the risk by the injured person; (3) where the injured individual is a trespasser and the animal is not kept on the premises for the purpose of protection of life or property; or (4) where the injured person is a trespasser and it was reasonable to keep the animal on the property for the purpose of protection of person or property.

In the specific case of livestock, it is a defence to show that the animal “strayed from a highway and its presence there was a lawful use of the highway.” Failure to fence by the owner of the damaged property does not help the livestock owner to avoid liability unless there was an actual duty to fence (for example, where there is an agreement between the parties to erect and/or maintain fencing).

 On a final note, dogs are given special treatment under section 8. The owner of a dog of whatever species is liable for any damage caused and it matters not whether the dog had a “mischievous propensity” or whether the owner knew of it or was in any way negligent.

However, if you trespass onto my property and provoke my dog into attacking you, then the law has no sympathy for you.

(Alicia Archer is an attorney-at-law in private practice)

2 Responses to Liability of animal owners

  1. Lennox hewitt January 13, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Yes i understand u thanks Miss Archer looking to hear from u again next week i read u last week now this week and every week interesting .

  2. Angie January 13, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    So that gives you the right to shoot people’s live stock because the encrouched on your property rather than trying to make peace and get the stock off by chasing them. How does that benefit you or the owner of the livestock?


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