Injuries and Damage Caused by Animals – Who is Liable?


September 18, 2016


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Dog attacks in suburban neighbourhoods, parks and off-leash dog enclosures are surprisingly common, and can result in serious injuries to victims. The question is, can victims seek compensation for their injuries or injuries to their animal? And who is liable in such situations?

The short answer is yes. If you have been injured or your property has been damaged by an animal which is owned or under the control of someone else you may be able to get compensation.

The Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW) sets out circumstances in which a person who owns or is in control of an animal may be held liable for damage it causes whether or not they were acting negligently.

Civil proceedings may be brought against an owner if an animal causes injuries to you or damages your clothing. In addition, an owner may be criminally prosecuted if their animal attacks, bites or chases you.

Exceptions are made however in circumstances where

  • the animal has been teased, mistreated, harassed or provoked by someone other than the owner;
  • you were trespassing on land where the animal is ordinarily kept;
  • the incident occurs in the course of lawful hunting or working stock; or
  • the animal is a corrective services dog.

Liability for the behaviour of an animal is not confined to the registered owner, but extends to persons who ordinarily keep the animal and may include more than one person.


What about injuries to other animals?

Owners may also be liable for the cost of veterinary bills if their animal injuries another person’s animal, depending on the circumstances.


Is there insurance that covers liability for injuries caused by animals?

Home and contents insurance policies typically contain some cover for public liability which would extend to animal attacks. For example if you sustained serious injuries as a result of being attacked by a neighbour’s dog, you may be able to sue your neighbour for compensation. Any damages your neighbour is required to pay to you should be covered under their household public liability policy.


How to deal with dangerous animals

If you are concerned about a dangerous animal in your area, that has a history of attacking, bitting or aggressive behaviour, report it to your local council. Council officers have broad powers to deal with dangerous dogs to prevent further harm to humans and animals.

If you have sustained injuries as a result of an animal attack, you should also seek reliable legal advice on your options to recover compensation. If you want to claim any type of compensation, please contact with our compensation lawyers Sydney.