1.Wild Animals.—A person who merely prevents the destruction of game on his land and thus enables it to increase and multiply, is under no liability, although his neighbour's crops may suffer in consequence. But if game be imported by him and the land is thus overstocked he will be responsible for such injury, as in any other case where he makes what is called a "non-natural use" of his property. Where a person imports any species of wild animal which is not ordinarily regarded as being of a harmless nature, he must keep it at his peril, and if it escapes he will be liable for the consequences.
2. Domesticated Animals.—In the case of domesticated animals the owner's liability is limited to the natural consequences of their escape; for instance, if his cattle stray he will be responsible for the grass they eat or trample on. In considering the question as to what may be the natural consequences of their escape, regard must be had to their natural habits. Thus it is the recognized habit of horses to kick one another, and of bulls to gore other animals; and for such consequences the owner will be liable. But it is not supposed to be the general habit of horses or bulls, respectively, to kick or gore human beings, nor of dogs to attack mankind; and for that reason the owner is not responsible if they in fact do so, unless either he or his servant in charge of the animal knew that it had previously done so, or attempted to. Even in the case of a dog it would not be sufficient to show that it had bitten other animals.
Injury to cattle or sheep caused by dog.—To the general rule with regard to dogs an exception has been made by a statute which provides that the owner shall be liable for any injury done by it to cattle or sheep, and that it shall not, in such cases, be necessary for the person whose cattle, etc., have been injured to show a previous mischievous propensity in the dog, or the owner's knowledge of it, or that the injury was attributable to neglect on the part of the owner. "Cattle" includes a horse, whether in harness or otherwise. The occupier of the premises where the dog is kept or permitted to remain at the time of the injury will be deemed to be the owner of the dog unless he prove that he was not, and that it was kept, etc., without his sanction or knowledge. The above liability extends even in respect to cattle or sheep trespassing on land belonging to the owner of the dog.
Fierce or Dangerous Dogs.—Although a person may keep a fierce dog to protect his property, he is not entitled to place it in the open approaches to his house so as to injure persons lawfully coming there. If a dangerous dog is not kept under control a magistrate may, upon complaint to him, order it to be kept under control, or to be destroyed. As to the penalty which may be payable for allowing a ferocious dog unmuzzled to be at large or for setting a dog to attack any person or animal, see Nuisances, p. 1986. Upon complaint that a dog has bitten or attempted to bite any person within the Metropolis a magistrate may order it to be destroyed.
Mad dogs.—See Nuisances, p. 1986.
Stray dogs.—Where all reasonable steps have been taken to get rid of a stray dog which has come on the premises the occupier will not be liable for the injury it may do. The general provision is that a constable may seize any dog that he has reason to suppose to be savage or dangerous, straying in any public place and not under the control of any person, and may detain it until the owner has claimed it and paid all the expenses incurred in its detention. If the owner is known, he must be informed of the fact that the dog has been seized. After three clear days, where the owner is not known, or five clear days where he is known, the dog may be sold or destroyed, unless previously claimed and the expenses paid.
- As to which, see p. 1982.
- But notice to the owner's wife or to one of the servants, though not expressly in charge of the animal, may, under some circumstances, be Sufficient.