Horse owners across the country could soon have their insurance costs lowered, thanks to government proposals released today.

Defra minister for the horse, Jane Kennedy, has today announced plans to amend the Animals Act 1971. Under the proposals put out for public consultation today, the Animals Act 1971 would be amended to clarify owners’ liability should their animals cause damage.

At present, animal keepers can be held strictly liable for any damage or injury caused by their animal, regardless of whatever preventative action they may have taken.

So, although it may not have been the fault of the keeper, they can be held responsible for an incident caused by their animal.

The government is proposing a change to the Animals Act that would remove liability from an animal owner or keeper if they have taken all reasonable precautions to prevent an accident occurring.

The liability cases that have reached court have overwhelmingly involved horses — though the law will apply to other animals, including cattle and dangerous dogs.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has been campaigning for a change in the Animals Act for five years.

CLA president Henry Aubrey-Fletcher today welcomed the news, which he said was “great for horse owners”.

“The proposal would end the unfairness that meant an owner could be held liable for their horse’s behaviour, even when they had done everything reasonably possible to prevent an accident”.

• Read next week’s Horse & Hound (2 April) for more in-depth analysis of the change, and reaction from the horse industry.