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Racehorse owners and trainers have renewed calls for changes in the law that says horse owners can be held strictly liable for injuries caused by their animals.

This follows the settlement of a case involving former jockey and trainer Chris Kinane who was kicked in the head at Wolverhampton racecourse in April 2005. He was assistant trainer to Ian Williams at the time.

Legal action, leading to an out-of-court settlement reached recently, caused the bankruptcy of uninsured owner David Irvine, while trainer Ian Semple admitted that the pressure of legal action was a factor in handing in his training licence at the end of 2007.

Under the Animals Act 1971, the horse owner is liable for the animal’s actions.

Rupert Arnold from the National Trainers Federation (NTF) said: “Since [the Kinane] case, it has become a compulsory licensing requirement for trainers to hold public liability insurance to a minimum value of £2m.

“Ultimately, the NTF would like to see a change in the law so owners and/or keepers do not have strict liability for injuries caused by their animals — in other words, they are not liable where no negligence is involved. We appreciate the government is supportive of this but no legislative vehicle currently exists to bring it about.”

Mr Kinane was kicked unconscious by the Ian Semple-trained Saameq in the paddock while he was legging up a jockey on another horse. He underwent 16 major operations and now requires constant care. His family sued connections of Saameq for negligence, claiming damages of between £3-5m.

Proceedings were due to start in London’s High Court on 10 November, but the case was settled out of court on 12 November. Non-disclosure agreements prevent details of the settlement being made public, but it is reported to be a “substantially smaller sum”.

Read this story in full in the current issue of Horse & Hound (27 November, ’08)