If an animal causes property damage or physical injuries, the animal’s owner is generally held liable. However, the owner’s liability may be held to may depend upon the type of animal kept, the type of injury, and the state the injury occurs in. For instance, owners of domestic animals, such as cats and dogs, might only be subject to liability based on negligence.

This general standard for domestic animals depends on the state. For example, some states hold dog owners to a strict liability standard for dog bites, while other states hold owners liable only if he or she should have known the dog was dangerous.

What Is an Exotic Animal?

The exact legal definition of an exotic animal may depend on the state you live in. However, this category might include animals that are not domesticated and found in the wild, such as bears, tigers, or crocodiles, as well as snakes and some birds.

How Can the Owner of an Exotic Animal Be Held Liable for Injury?

Owners of wild animals are usually held strictly liable for injury that is of the kind you would expect from such an animal. This is because wild animals are unpredictable and cannot be tamed.

To hold an owner liable for injury by an exotic or wild animal, the injured person will have to show that the exotic or wild animal was under the person’s control or that the person introduced the animal to the area. The plaintiff might also have to demonstrate that the animal is dangerous or has dangerous propensities.

What Is a Dangerous Animal?

In determining whether an exotic or wild animal is dangerous or has a dangerous propensity, the court may consider several characteristics, including:

  • General characteristics inherent to the species
  • The character of the animal that caused injury
  • History of prior attacks

With wild and exotic animals, the court might presume that the owner is aware that the animal has dangerous propensities, even when the animal does not have an aggressive history.

Are There Other Penalties for Owning an Exotic Animal?

In addition to liability for injuries, owning an exotic animal might be a violation of state or local law. This might subject the owner to monetary fines or even criminal prosecution.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

Animals can cause serious injuries. If a wild or exotic animal has injured you, a personal injury lawyer can help you evaluate your case. If you are being sued for injuries caused by a pet, a lawyer can help defend your case.