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Ask H&H: neighbouring stallions

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Q: The owners of our neighbouring field have a stallion. The dividing fence, which is their responsibility, is made from sheep netting and barbed wire.

What would happen if the stallion escaped and covered my mare or injured my gelding?
MW, Bedfordshire

The duty of the horse’s owner arises under the law of negligence and the Animals Act 1971.

“If a horse owner has been negligent by having inadequate fencing, they can be liable,” said Sarah Webb, partner at Russell Jones & Walker.

“Under the general law of negligence, damage caused by the escaping horse, including covering a mare, could be recovered from the owner if a lack of care on the owner’s part was shown.”

Claims under the act provide for strict liability for damage done by animals. According to Sarah, claimants must prove the animal has escaped and caused damage, by demonstrating the following:

• The damage is of a kind that the unrestrained animal was likely to cause and it was likely to be severe

• The damage was due to a characteristic of the animal not normally found in an animal of the same species

• The characteristic was not normally found, except in particular times/circumstances

• These characteristics were known to the keeper

Equine insurance policies usually provide indemnity for accident, sickness and injury,” added David Buckton, associate director of South Essex Insurance Brokers (SEIB).

“An accidental injury to an insured horse caused by another animal would generally be covered by such a policy.

“I see that the fence is the responsibility of the stallion owner. But, regardless of who is responsible for the fence, I would strongly recommend you put up your own fence of an adequate strength to protect your animals.

“Perhaps you and your neighbour could agree to share the cost? The stallion owner may have a public liability insurance policy, which you might get a payment from if it could be shown that the stallion owner was liable for any damage, as described by Sarah Webb.

“In this example, it would be far better to negotiate safe management of all the animals involved, rather than wait for an accident to happen,” he said.

Information

Russell Jones & Walker, tel: 0207 837 2808 www.rjw.co.uk

SEIB, tel: 01708 850000 www.seib.co.uk

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (29 October, ’09)

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