Horse owners could benefit from cheaper insurance premiums under plansto clarify owners’ liability announced by farming minister Jane Kennedy.

The proposals, published today (March 27) for consultation, would amend the Animals Act 1971 to clarify owners’ liability should their animals cause damage.

The law in its current form lacks clarity and means that animal keepers face the prospect of being held strictly liable for damage or injury regardless of any actions they may have taken to prevent an incident from occurring.

Ms Kennedy said: “We aim to give animal owners peace of mind when giving their horses or other animals the space and the exercise they require. This small amendment means that, if they’ve taken reasonable precautions and their animal causes damage, the owner will no longer be held strictly liable.

“This is great news for all animal keepers, especially as it could even lead to lower insurance premiums – something which I know would be very welcome to many rural businesses.”

The amendment would mean that all animal owners or keepers must continue to take reasonable precautions to prevent accidents occurring, and they would remain liable for any negligence on their part, but it would introduce new and clearer criteria for the application of strict, no fault, liability in cases where the accidents could not have been predicted.

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