Law Relating to Animals 400825

The Law as it Concerns Bees - Injuries to Trespassers - Injury or Trespass by Domestic Animals - Reclaimed Wild Animals - Trespass from the Highway - Trespass by Wild Animals

Although bees are classed as wild animals, they do not generally sting unless disturbed, and it would appear that, in order to render the owner of bee-hives kept in an ordinary place liable for damage caused by the stings of his bees, some negligence on his part in the keeping of them would have to be shown.

In Ireland a man who kept bees in unreasonable numbers and in an unreasonable place, and who smoked them out at an unreasonable, time, was held liable for the death of a man from injuries caused by his horse being stung by the bees.

Injuries to Trespasser Unless it escapes, the owner of a dangerous animal is not liable for any injury done to a person who brings the injury upon himself, or who is himself a trespasser. Where a zebra was kept secure by being tied up in a stable, the owner was held free from liability for injuries caused to a man who went into the stable to stroke the animal. If a savage bull is kept in a properly fenced field, and a trespasser enters and is gored, he has no remedy. But if he was there under a claim of right, even were it a disputed right of way, he has grounds for action.

Injuries by Domestic Animals

The owner of a domestic and harmless animal is not, in the absence of negligence, liable for acts of a vicious or mischievous kind, which it is not the animal's nature to commit, unless he knows that the animal has that particular vicious propensity; and proof of this knowledge is essential in any claim for compensation. It has been held that it is not in the ordinary nature of horses, bulls, rams, or dogs to injure or attack human beings or of a boar to bite a mare. A statement that a particular bull would run at anything red was held to be evidence of scienter, or knowledge of its mischievous propensity on the part of the owner. The scienter need not always be the personal knowledge of the owner himself; if he delegates the care and control of his animal to others, notice to them is equivalent to notice to himself. Neither is it essential that the defendant should be the real owner of the animal; anyone who keeps it on his premises, or allows it to resort there, may be liable.

Trespass by Domestic Animals

The owner of domestic animals is bound to keep them under control, and is liable, if they escape, for such damage as it is in their nature to commit. When cattle, sheep, or poultry stray into a neighbour's land or garden, and devour his grass, corn, or vegetable produce, their owner is liable for the damage, unless he can show that the animals trespassed owing to the neighbour's fault in not maintaining the fence, and that it was not his, the defendant's, duty to keep the fence in repair.

It is a trepass if any part of the animal crosses the boundary of the properties by getting through the fence or stretching it's neck over a ditch. The owners of a mare which trepassed into a field and kicked a horse, and of a stallion which bit and kicked a mare through a wire fence, were held liable for the damage.

It is not, however, in the ordinary course of nature for horses to bite or kick human beings. The owner of a horse which trespassed on to a highway and kicked and injured a child was held not liable, in the absence of proof that he knew the horse was of a vicious disposition. A cyclist who was upset by a fowl which had strayed on to the road was held not entitled to recover.

Damage by Reclaimed Animals

If a man reclaims wild animals and puts them on his land, he is liable, if they trespass, for any damage caused by them which it is their ordinary nature to commit. Where pigeons from a dovecot fly on to neighbouring land and eat the corn, their owner is liable for the loss of the corn. In a case in Ireland the defendant was held liable for damage done by park deer which had escaped some six years previously and had wandered about uncontrolled ever since.

Trespass from Highway

In the absence of negligence, the owner of cattle trespassing from a highway, while lawfully there for the purpose of passing and repassing, is not liable for the damage. A man who has property adjoining the highway must take precautions, by fencing or otherwise, to protect it, and if he fails to do so he must take the risk and the loss will fall on him. An ox which was being driven through the streets of a town went into a shop through an open door, without any negligence on the part of the driver, and did serious damage before it could be driven out again; the loss fell on the shopkeeper.

No Trespass by Wild Animals

There can be no trespass by wild animals sufficient to give a right of action, as a general rule, because the owner has only a qualified ownership in them while they are alive, and they go with and belong to the soil; as soon as they have crossed from the land of one man to that of another, the latter has the right to kill them and reduce them into possession.