Under section 18 of the Civil Liability Act 1936 (SA) compensation for injuries caused by animals (other than dogs) is decided according to the principles of the law of negligence. Injuries caused by cats are not subject to any special rules and the ordinary rules of negligence also apply to them. Negligence is a failure to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury or loss to another person. In considering whether reasonable care was taken, the courts consider:
- the nature and disposition (or temperament) of the animal
- whether measures were taken to confine or control the animal
- what measures were taken to warn against any vicious, dangerous or mischievous tendency exhibited by the animal.
It is not necessary for someone claiming compensation to prove that anyone knew that the animal had a propensity to be dangerous.
In relation to farm employees and others in close contact with animals, it may not be enough for the owner to warn about possible risks. The owner may also be obliged to ensure that accidents do not occur by providing safe handling equipment and protective gear. It should not be presumed that the employee accepts the risks which may accompany work involving animals.
Farmers who do not maintain their fences in good order and owners who allow their pets to roam the streets will be held liable for damage to road users caused by the animals. However, if animals escaped onto a road as a result of an unauthorised person leaving a gate open, the owner may not be held liable State Government Insurance Commission v Trigwell 26 ALR 67.
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