Injured by Exotic Pet

Every once in a while you hear a story in the news about someone who has an exotic pet, like a tiger, monkey, or lion, that winds up injuring another person who may be visiting someone. Sometimes, you hear about someone’s exotic animal pets escaping from their home and injuring other people. The kinds of injuries can range from lacerations, to fractured bones and spinal cord injuries, to even death. When someone is injured by another person’s wild animal or exotic pet, who is at fault?

In Indiana, a possessor of a wild animal is generally strictly liable for harm done by their naturally ferocious or dangerous animal, which means they are responsible for the damages without the injured party having to prove that the owner was careless or negligent. An owner could have used the utmost care to confine the animal or otherwise prevent it from doing harm, but that does not necessarily prevent them from being held strictly liable for harms done by their exotic pets.

However, there are some exceptions and defenses that can apply to certain situations and make the owner of a wild animal not liable. Two common exceptions to holding an owner strictly liable are (1) the injured party assumed the risk of the harm, and (2) the injured party was a trespasser on the land of the owner of the exotic animals, even if the trespasser had no reason to know that a wild animal is kept on the property.

For example, if a court or jury determines that an injured person assumed the risk that he or she might get injured by the wild animal, then that can bar them from being able to recover anything from the owner of the wild animal. Let’s say that Bob is over at his friend’s house and his friend has pet tigers. Suppose Bob knowingly sticks his hand into a fenced-in area where his friend keeps his tigers so that he can pet the tigers, but winds up getting his entire arm pulled through the fence by one of the tigers and is seriously bitten and injured. In that instance, Bob may be found to have assumed the risk that a tiger may bite or otherwise injure him, and if he assumed that risk, then he may be barred from being able to recover any damages from the owner of the wild animal.

On the other hand, suppose that a person’s exotic pet lion escapes from home and attacks and injures a person who is out gardening in their yard. In that situation, the owner of the lion could be held liable for the injuries to the other person.

If you have had an injury that happened in Indiana and you need legal help, please pick up the phone and call us at (219)736-9700. For additional information and to receive our newsletter click the “Sign Up Now” button below.

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