Dangerous species

Animals not commonly domesticated in the uk and who, unless restricted, could cause severe damage.

As defined in S 6 (2) The Animals Act 1971 a dangerous species is a species;

(a) which is not commonly domesticated in the British Islands ;

(b) whose fully grown animals normally have such characteristics that they are likely, unless restrained, to cause severe damage or that any damage they may cause is likely to be severe.

The term dangerous is a question of fact in every individual case in Behrens v. Bertram Mills Circus Ltd (1957). Behrens, the plaintiff,  filed the suit against Bertram Mills Circus. Behrens operated a funfair concession between Bertram Mills Circus ring and the elephant house. Berhens brought his daughter to the circus she had brought her dog with her and the dog broke loose and scared one of the elephants during the elephant parade. The elephant chased the dog causing Behrens to suffer damage to himself and his booth.

Behrens argument relied on the breach of an absolute duty laid upon the keeper of a dangerous animal to confine and control it and failure to do so put the defendant under strict liability (liability without fault).

Devlin J ruled that the circus needed to maintain control of the elephant (strict liability because of foreseeable harm, high degree of risk, and elephant ownership is uncommon, unusual, and inappropriate to a normal situation), as its relation to its species (wild elephants) suggests the animal is a risk .

The defendant was found to be liable in the same way as if they had let the elephant loose.

The keeper of the animal is strictly liable and the keeper is defined as the owner or the head of the household if the owner of the animal is under 16.


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