If you are attacked or injured by an animal, you may have a claim against the owner.

In relation to injuries from animals (other than dogs), you must prove that the owner of the animal was negligent.

In the past, the ‘keeper,’ or owner, of an animal was strictly liable for injury caused by undomesticated animals (e.g. a pet snake). If the animal was domesticated (e.g. a cat or guinea pig), liability was dependent on proof that the animal had a dangerous or mischievous propensity.

In 1983, the South Australian civil liability legislation abolished those principles and you no longer need to prove that an animal has a dangerous or mischievous propensity. The current legislation provides that negligence is the basis of liability for injuries caused by all animals except dogs, which are discussed below.

Negligence is the failure to take reasonable care to avoid injury to another person. In relation to animal attacks, the court will consider the nature and disposition of the animal, what measures were taken to control the animal and what measures were taken to warn the person against any vicious or mischievous tendencies of the animal.

If a farmer does not maintain their fences and their animals escape, they may be held liable for the damage caused by the animals. This can include circumstances where a person sustains injuries when their vehicle collides with a farm animal that has strayed onto the road.

Injuries caused by dogs

Being involved in a dog attack can be a frightening experience. If a dog bites or attacks you, the owner could be prosecuted for an offence and fined.  If you are injured, you may have a claim against the owner for personal injury compensation.

In South Australia, dogs are dealt with quite differently by the law compared to other animals. Under the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995 (SA) and the Civil Liability Act 1936 (SA), strict liability is imposed on dog owners.  This means that you do not have to establish negligence or knowledge of a dog’s propensity to be vicious, dangerous or mischievous.

Most dog owners have home and contents insurance which includes cover for public liability. This type of insurance generally covers dog owners for injuries caused by their dog.  If the dog owner is not covered by insurance, they will have to pay your compensation from their own pocket.

If you have been injured by a dog or other animal and think you might have a claim, you should contact our public liability solicitors to discuss your potential entitlements. It is important to seek advice as soon as possible after an accident or injury because there are strict time limits that apply.