Animals and Liability

What about when 4-H’ers bring their animals to a 4-H event or fair and the animal causes injury to someone or damages someone’s property?

In most instances under Maine state law, an animal owner is not responsible for injuries or damages caused by horses or livestock. They may be held responsible, however, if the owner of the animal is knowingly negligent, such as if they bring to a 4-H event a horse that is known to bite or kick.

However, in the event that someone initiates a claim or lawsuit because of the actions of an animal, the University liability protection described previously could apply. Protection would extend to enrolled 4-H members and University-approved volunteers while the 4-H sponsored event is in progress and the person is directly participating in a University-approved 4-H activity.

Animal owners should seriously consider purchasing liability insurance to protect themselves against claims alleging negligence related to their animals’ actions in instances where the University’s protections would not apply. This coverage can usually be purchased as part of one’s homeowner’s or farm insurance policy. Additionally, the Maine Association of Livestock Exhibitors offers a policy for a small membership fee that extends to activities and events at most Maine fairs. This coverage can be purchased by filling out the application form on the 4-H Web site or by contacting your county 4-H staff.

Posting a sign that says something like “Pass at your own risk animals can cause injury” can be very helpful. Display this near animals at public events such as fairs.

Bodily injury or property damage caused by livestock trailers or other trailers or campers pulled by a vehicle is the responsibility of the owner of the vehicle to which the trailer or camper is attached. Damage to a livestock trailer or camper is the responsibility of the party causing the damage, whether this is an individual, the fairground owner, or the University.

Animal Projects at Home

Volunteers working with large animal 4-H projects at their homes should carry farm liability insurance or talk with their insurance agent about getting a “rider” to their homeowner’s policy.