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What are the legal consequences if cattle escape and trespass on to another’s land? Or worse yet, if somebody else’s cattle trespass on your land and cause damage to your property or breed with, injure or even kill your cattle?

Cattle-trespass is the term given to a legal claim where an animal strays onto an adjoining property. It is distinct from the traditional legal action of trespass and nuisance. The action extends to any situations where even domesticated animals or animals such as sheep, cows, pigs and horses stray onto neighbouring property. It is not necessary to prove that the animals caused damage to successfully establish that cattle-trespass has occurred.

The person liable is the person in control of the animals. There is often not an obvious answer to this and our experience is that the person liable may not be the owner of the land.

A legal claim that is similar to cattle-trespass is the scienter action. A scienter action involves an animal causing injury to another.  In order to successfully establish such an action, it is necessary to show that an animal which caused injury to another was dangerous or is a species which is likely to cause injury. It is therefore important for anybody who controls animals to consider whether those animals are dangerous or of a species likely to cause injury. This claim is separate to a claim for breaches of legislation such as the Dog Act.

The person who is liable in cases of cattle trespass and scienter actions is the person who is in control of the animals. In a recent case which involved a land owner’s sugar cane crop being damaged by straying cattle, the defendant land owner escaped liability because the Court was not satisfied that he was the person in control of the cattle.

The injuries and financial losses caused by stray animals will also often lead to an emotionally charged and volatile situation, having quality legal representation can help reduce the volatility and accelerate reaching a resolution.

If you are in control of livestock or dangerous animals, you should consider whether your insurance covers you for such claims.

This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office at or call us on 1800 609 945.