A simple summary of the Animals Act 1971

Animals Act 1971

The Animals Act 1971 is a piece of legislation enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom with the aim of establishing civil liability for damage caused by animals in England and Wales. This act replaced various common law rules related to animal liability, including those concerning cattle trespass and actions against animals known to be vicious. It also superseded statutory provisions from the Dogs Act 1906.

Key Provisions:

  • Abolition of Common Law Rules: The Act abolished strict liability under common law for damage caused by animals considered ferae naturae or known to have vicious propensities.
  • Liability for Damage: It established that keepers of animals, both dangerous species and non-dangerous species, are liable for damage caused by their animals if certain conditions are met.
  • Protection of Livestock: The Act also addresses liability when livestock stray onto another person’s land, holding the owner responsible for any resulting damage or expenses.

Significant Cases:

  • Mirvahedy v Henley [2003] UKHL 16: A House of Lords decision that highlighted challenges in interpreting certain sections of the Animals Act 1971 due to unclear language.
  • Court of Appeal Cases: Various Court of Appeal cases such as Clark v Bowlt [2006], McKenny v Foster [2008], and Freeman v Higher Park Farm [2008] have further examined and applied the provisions of the Animals Act 1971.

Liability Exclusions: The Act includes provisions that exempt individuals from liability in specific circumstances, such as when damage is due to the fault of the person suffering it or when a person voluntarily accepts the risk.

In summary, the Animals Act 1971 is a crucial piece of legislation in England and Wales that governs civil liability for damage caused by animals, replacing older common law rules and providing clarity on responsibilities regarding animal-related incidents.

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