It is well-known that the owner of a pet is responsible for ensuring that their animal will not harm others except in some cases of self-defense. However, the alligator had not been a pet, but a wild animal. Does that make Disney liable since the attack happened on their property? Or is Disney not liable since they did not own the animal? Likewise, what would happen if someone was attacked by a wild animal on your property?
A Question Of Negligence
It is impossible for someone to predict the actions of a wild animal and it is unlikely that a court or lawyer will accuse you of not exercising enough control over an undomesticated animal.
Legal obligation comes down to whether or not the owner of the property had exercised all reasonable precautions in order to reduce and prevent the likelihood of an animal attack. In the case of the unfortunate alligator attack at Disney’s Grand Floridian hotel, it was lucky for Disney that the family had not pursued a court case.
While Disney could not have possibly controlled the actions of a wild animal, they did have a responsibility to exercise a reasonable amount of warning and protection to their guests and customers. Disney was aware that alligators lived near and in the lagoon on their property, but did not warn those on their property about their existence. Several of Disney’s guests and customers come from other states and even faraway countries making it entirely impossible for them to be aware of the alligators that wander around Florida.
Since that unfortunate attack, the Grand Floridian hotel at Disney has erected new barriers and developing long-term solutions in order to prevent future attacks.
What Home Owners Should Know
Things get a bit more complicated when it comes to home owners. Unlike Disney, most home owners do not have the same access to the landscaping or construction companies that will allow you to build barriers or change an entire area of property for better security. At most, you may be able to put up a fence or use a type of animal repellant system.
Courts understand the limits of a home owner and certainly do not expect you to make the same efforts as Disney to prevent wild animal attacks. However, what small efforts you do make will mean a lot in court to show that you actively tried to reduce the risk of harm to the best of your ability.
For example, raccoons can get around into many home owners backyards and are a common carrier of rabies. If someone on your property ended up colliding with an isolated raccoon, was bit and got rabies, it is unlikely that you could have down much to prevent the incident.
However, if you knew that raccoons were living in a space underneath your home and you chose to neglect this which resulted in someone getting bit on your property, then this could be seen as an act of negligence on your part. To notice a risk, understand the hazard it could present and then chose to do nothing about it is considered shirking from your most basic legal responsibility as a home owner.