Under section 18(1) of the Civil Liability Act 1936 (SA) compensation for injuries, loss or damage caused by animals (other than dogs) is decided according to the principles of the law of negligence, see Negligence.
Negligence is a failure to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury, loss or damage to another person. In determining whether an animal has been kept, managed or controlled to a reasonable standard, the courts would consider [s 18(2)]:
- the nature and disposition of the animal
- what measures were taken to 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 vicious, dangerous or mischievous [see s 18(3)].
Farmers who do not maintain their fences in good order and owners who allow their pets to roam the streets may be held liable for damage to road users caused by the animals [see s 18(4)]. 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.
In relation to employees 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 will not be presumed that the employee accepted the risks attendant upon working with animals [see s 18(5)].
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.