The Animals Act 19711

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1971.tb02349.x
Publication Date01 September 1971
AuthorAlec Samuels
STATUTES
THE
ANIMALS ACT
1971
AT long last, the Animals Act
1971
codifies the common law on
liability for dangerous animals, cattle trespass and the shooting of
dogs and creates a new liability in negligence in respect of animals
straying onto the highway.
The genius
of
the common law has been the evolution
of
the
concept
of
negligence, eating up
its
exceptions, and developing into
a
generalised conceptual liability. This process should have been
allowed
to
operate in respect of liability for animals. Classification
of animals into dangerous and harmless leads
to
artificial distinction
divorced from reality. The Goddard Committee sensibly recom-
mended that liability
for
the acts
of'
every class
of
animal should
be based upon negligence.
It
is hardly a logical pattern
to
find
liability
as
follows in these situations
:
(1)
a
cow escapes from farm A
to farm B-strict liability;
(2)
a
cow escapes from farm A onto the
highway-negligence;
(3)
a
cow escapes from common land onto
the highway-no liability;
(4)
a
cow escapes from the highway on-
to farm B-negligence. The proper solution would have been
the
imposition
of
a general duty
on
the owner to take care of his
animal and
a
properly adjusted comprehensive private and public
duty to fence in order to reduce the high incidence
of
road accidents.
Animals straying onto the highway
The Act abrogates the old common law rule in
Searle
v.
Wallbank
that there was no duty to take care
it0
avoid damage
being caused by animals straying onto the highway and applies
the ordinary common law concept
of
negligence. The interests
of
farmers and country dwellers must be balanced against the
interests of motorists and householders. A person is not to be
1
Sources:
Civil Liability for Animals,
Law Commission Pyer No.
13.
Simon
Roberts,
"
Law Commission: Civil Liability for Animals
(1968)
31
M.L.R.
683.
Report of
the
Committee
on
the
Law of
Civil Liability
for
Damage
done
by
Animats, chairman Lord Goddard,
1953
Cmd.
8746.
Ttoelfth
Report
of the
Lato Reform Committee for Scotland
1963
Cmnd.
2185.
House
of
Lords,
Vol.
305,
cols.
527-543, 546563,
November
11,
1969
(second reading);
Vol.
305,
cols.
1388-1400, 1409-1476,
November
27, 1969:
Vol.
306,
cols.
62-74,
December
2, 1969
(committee):
Vol.
306,
cols.
655-665,
677-728,
December
11,
1969
(report).
House
of
Lords,
Vol.
312,
cols.
195-236,
October
29, 1970
(second reading):
Vol.
312,
cols.
840-914,
November
12, 1970
(committee)
;
Vol.
313,
cols.
446-467,
December
1,
1970
(report).
House
of
Commons,
February
2,
1971
(seFnd reading). Standing Committee
A,
March 1G,d
18.
1971.
P.
M.
North,
(1966)
30
COnV.(N.s.)
44.
(flenville Williams,
Liability
for Anipals.
The Act comes
into operation October
1. 1971.
An earlier version
of
this artiole has appeared
(1971) 115
S.J.
and the material
is
used with kind permission.
[1969]
A.S.C.L.
649.
2
[I9471
A.C.
341.
Searle
v.
Wallbank:
The Legislative Struggle
550

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