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Animal Disputes

Animal Disputes

Owners have certain responsibilities for their animals, whether they are pets or livestock. For instance, a dog that has bitten a neighbor on more than one occasion may be declared dangerous by a judge and ordered to be confined in the home or behind a fence. Also, local ordinances may determine whether you may keep chickens or other livestock in your backyard. This article focuses on neighbor animal disputes, beginning with the legal history of such disputes.

In the old courts of England, the owner was held strictly liable for any damages to person or property done by his livestock straying onto the property of another. The mere fact that they strayed and damaged crops, other livestock, or personal property was sufficient to hold the owner liable for the injuries inflicted by cattle, sheep, goats, and horses.
This strict liability position made sense in the confines of a small island such as England, but in the United States with herds of livestock wandering over vast expanses of land, a different process developed. The legislatures enacted statutes which provided that livestock were free to wander and that the owner was not responsible for damage inflicted by those livestock unless they entered land enclosed by a legal fence. These became known as open range laws.

Some years later, certain states reversed the open range laws and required the owners of livestock to fence in their livestock. This position was similar to the common law position, only instead of strict liability, the livestock owner could be held liable only upon a showing that the livestock escaped due to the owner’s negligence.

Dogs or other animals inflicting bites, scratches, or other injuries may make their owners both civilly and criminally liable for such behavior. In some jurisdictions, an animal can be declared dangerous by a court and a judge may order the animal be confined or destroyed. States differ on the threshold for liability, however. For instance, some states hold owners strictly liable if they’re dog bites an individual. But in other states, the owner must have known (or should have known) that the dog was dangerous or unpredictable.

If the issue is that the neighbor has too many pets, the neighbor could be in violation of a zoning, health code, or noise ordinance. Also, the welfare of the pets may be called into question, especially if they live in unsanitary conditions or don’t receive adequate food, water, or medical care. It’s best to speak with an attorney to determine how to proceed if a neighbor has too many pets.

You already have liability and collision insurance for your car, pay for a decent health insurance plan, and have just purchased a life insurance plan for your children. You feel a little tapped-out, but you also will want to you consider your home insurance options if you’ve recently purchased a home. While home insurance policies typically cover damage from fire, certain natural disasters, or damage caused by others, they also can prevent costly lawsuits due to the various liabilities that homeowners assume. For instance, a policy would help shield you from the costs associated with a lawsuit if your new neighbor slipped and fell on your icy driveway, breaking their leg. In many ways, a home insurance policy is there in case the unlikely happens, with the level of coverage dependent on your particular liabilities and appetite for risk.
In any event, it helps to know what a home insurance policy covers before you choose, since it can be quite confusing when you consider additional coverage.

Homeowner’s insurance policies cover legal liability in the event that anyone suffers an injury while on the insured property. Certain actions of the policyholder which occur away from the insured property may also be covered. Even if a house is under construction and has no contents to be protected, the homeowner should obtain liability insurance to protect against claims of workers, and even trespassers.

When a homeowner purchases liability insurance, part of the insurance company’s obligation is to provide a defense in the event of a lawsuit. Even though the insurance company selects the lawyer and must approve the payment of all legal fees and other expenses of the lawsuit, the lawyer represents the policyholder. Under most types of liability insurance, the insurance company has the contractual right to settle or defend the case as it sees fit. The homeowner has an opportunity to express opinion, but the company typically has no obligation to obtain the policyholder’s consent or approval.

A suit against a homeowner may involve several different claims, some of which may be covered by the liability insurance policy, and others which may not be covered. The insurance company is obligated to provide a defense for any claim, which could be covered, but the company may not be obligated to pay the damages for certain types of claims. Since liability policies typically do not provide coverage for intentional acts, there may be a question as to whether the policyholder acted intentionally.
Negligent or accidental acts are generally covered, however, papers filed in court might allege both negligent and intentional actions. In such a situation, the insurance company may send the homeowner a Reservation of Rights letter, a notice that the company is paying for the defense for the claim, but is not agreeing that it is required to pay for any and all losses under the terms of the policy.

Animal Dispute Lawyer Free Consultation

When you need help with an animal dispute, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506