liability for animals
the special area of law dealing with civil liability of people for the behaviour of animals.
In England, prior to the Animals Act 1971, the owner was liable for an animal of a dangerous species – ferae naturae – or for one that was not of such a species if, but only if, the owner was aware of the animal's dangerous propensities.
Under the Animals Act 1971 it is a matter of law whether an animal is of a dangerous species or not. Liability in respect of such animals is strict liability. Liability is fixed on the keeper. Liability for non-dangerous species depends upon knowledge of the particular beast being likely to cause severe damage. See Curtis v . Betts [1990] 1 All ER 769. Defences include contributory negligence and assumption of risk. Notably, it is not a defence to strict liability under the Act to show act of God or the act of a third party.
In Scotland dogs are deemed to be within the category of animals likely to cause physical injury. The knowledge aspect is not part of the Scots statute: the Animals (Scotland) Act 1987. That Act imposes liability according to the zoological category of the animal (using the schedule to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976) and according to the damage likely to be caused. Liability is upon the keeper, and the defences of assumption of risk and contributory negligence are available. In both Scotland and England the ordinary law of negligence applies.

Collins dictionary of law. . 2001.

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