Livestock owners are set to benefit from a change in the Animals Act of 1971. The Government has published a consultation paper proposing reforms which would mean that owners of livestock will not automatically be held responsible for their causing accidents.
 
Currently, owners of horses or cattle which cause accidents are liable for any injuries they cause and can face huge compensation claims, and therefore increased insurance premiums, regardless of how careful they have been to prevent damage or escape.
 
Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, president of the CLA which has been lobbying for a change in the law, said, ‘This is great news. Hopefully, now the risk of having to pay out has been reduced, insurance companies will cut the premiums animal owners have been burdened with in recent years.
 
‘Of course a person who is negligent in the way they control their animal should be held liable if that animal injures someone, but it is wrong for someone to be held liable if they had no reason to suspect there would be a problem and, in any event, had done everything they could to prevent it.’
 
The current state of the law is the result of a judgement of the House of Lords in 2003 in the case of Mirvahedy v. Henley. Mr Mirvahedy was seriously injured when his horse was in collision with Mr and Mrs Henley’s horse which had been frightened by something unknown and had bolted onto a dual-carriageway.  
 
The horse had been in a secure field, and a claim against the Henleys under liability in negligence failed. However, through a majority judgement in the House of Lords, the Henleys were held liable.

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