Dangerous Domesticated Animal

Dangerous Domesticated Animals – Strict Liability

A person injured by an animal can also bring a claim in a lawsuit if the animal is a dangerous domesticated animal. A domesticated animal is one that we keep in a tame condition, such as dogs, cats, and horses. A person must prove the following four elements for this claim: (1) the defendant owned or possessed the animal; (2) the animal had dangerous propensities abnormal to its class; (3) the defendant knew or had reason to know that the animal had dangerous propensities; and (4) the dangerous propensities were the producing cause of injury. We covered the first element in the negligent handling section above. Let’s take a look at the three elements that are different.

The second element – that an animal has dangerous propensities abnormal to its class – simply means that a particular dog, for example, acts in a way different from other dogs. A dog that attacks people, unprovoked, or that is generally ferocious might meet this element. Whether a particular animal meets this element depends on the facts of the particular case.

The third element – that the defendant knew or had reason to know that the animal had dangerous propensities – is fairly straightforward. If a person knew that his dog did not like children, or that it attacked people for no reason, then this element is met. Also, this element is met even if a person did not know that his or her animal had dangerous propensities. If the person knew enough about the dog that the person should have known that it was dangerous, that knowledge is enough.

The fourth or last element – that the dangerous propensities were the producing cause of injury – sounds like the “proximate cause” fourth element of a negligent handling claim described above. However, there is an important difference. While proximate causation requires that a defendant foresee that his actions might cause injury, producing causation does have the same requirement. If a defendant’s actions cause injury, under a producing cause analysis, the defendant is liable even if the injury was not foreseeable. This is called “strict liability” in the law.