The liability for the damage done by animals can be studied under the following three heads:
(1) The Scienter Rule: The liability of the defendant under this rule depends upon the knowledge of the dangerous character of the animals. If the defendant has not been able to properly control the animal which he knows or ought to know to be having a tendency to do the harm, he is liable. For the purpose of this rule, the animals have been divided into two categories. (A) Animals ferae naturae I.e. animals dangerous by nature and (B) Animals mansuetae naturae i.e. animals harmless by nature.
In Filburn v. People’s Palace And Aquarium Company limited, Lord Esher M. R. said that as to the first category of animals, ” a person who keeps an animal belonging to that class must prevent it from doing injury, and it is immaterial whether he knows it to be dangerous or not.” As to second category of animals, Lord Esher said that “the law assumes that animals belonging to it are not of a dangerous nature and any one who keeps an animal of this kind is not liable for the damage it may do, unless he knew that it was dangerous.”
(2) Cattle Trespass: The owner of the cattle will be liable if his cattle commits trespass on the land of another person. The liability in such a case is strict and the owner of the cattle is liable even if the vicious propensity of the cattle and owner’s knowledge of the same are not proved. There is also no necessity of proving negligence on the part of the defendant. Dogs and cats are not included in the term and therefore there cannot be cattle trespass by dogs and cats.
(3) Ordinary Liability in Tort: It may also be possible to commit various torts through the instrumentality of animals. Keeping dogs in some premises which cause unreasonable interference with the neighbour’s enjoyment of his property is a nuisance. Nuisance could be committed through the stench of pigs or making a stable near a neighbour’s house or obstructing a right of way thorugh animals. The torts of assault and battery can be committed by setting a dog on the passerby and tort of negligence by not keeping proper control of animals on the highway.
In case of Sterns v. Prentice Bros. It has been held liable that if rats naturally come on the defendant’s land then escape and cause damage then there is no liability for the same.
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