As a Fort Worth personal injury attorney specializing in dog bites and animal attack cases, I can tell you that - while uncommon - exotic animal attacks do happen in Texas.
If you've been bitten or attacked by an exotic animal that someone was keeping as a pet, you have rights in Texas. Legally, you're entitled to compensation for your injuries and pain.
Exotic Animals Kept As Pets in Texas
Some of the most common wild animals that are kept as pets in Texas include:
- Sugar Gliders
The keeping of these animals is legal, but only if the owner meets specific handling criteria, which is outlined below.
Texas Law Regarding Wild and Exotic Animals as Pets
Anyone who possesses a dangerous wild animal is required by law to obtain a certificate of registration for that animal and must designate a permanent location where it will be kept.
The animal must be kept in a cage that's approved by the Texas Board of Health.
The owner must also have a minimum of $100,000 in liability insurance for each individual dangerous wild animal they own.
The Texas Health & Safety Code §822.101 defines a lion, tiger, ocelot, cougar, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, bobcat, lynx, serval, caracal, hyena, bear, coyote, jackal, baboon, chimpanzee, orangutan, gorilla, or any hybrid of any of these animals as a “dangerous wild animal.”
Local laws regarding keeping wild, exotic or dangerous animals will vary across the state of Texas. For example, the City of Fort Worth prohibits such animals within the city limits.
In the event that a dangerous animal escapes the premises where they are kept, the owner has a legal obligation to notify local law enforcement and the animal registration agency immediately, and they are liable to pay all costs associated with the capture of the loose animal.
Who's At Fault When an Exotic Pet Attacks?
If you have been bitten or attacked by a dangerous, exotic pet, the first step is to determine who's at fault (also referred to as who's "liable" or "negligent").
Often, the owner of the animal is found at fault for the attack, meaning they (and their insurance company) will be responsible for paying for the damages and injuries their animal caused.
Since exotic animals are thought to be dangerous and uncontrollable, owners of dangerous animals are subject to "strict liability," which means that they are responsible for paying for the medical bills of the injured person (even if they didn't do anything specifically to enable the attack!)
The Exception of Domesticated Animals
The exception to this rule is if the formerly wild animal has been domesticated.
For example, hived bees are wild animals that have been domesticated. If you're stung by the bees from someone's hive, that person won't automatically have to pay for your medical bills because their bees are domesticated (and different rules apply).
In the case of domesticated animals, your lawyer must prove that the animal (in this case, the bees) were known to be a threat. If the hive was easily agitated, for example, or if the bees had stung someone before unprovoked, then negligence can be established.
If you are unclear whether or not the exotic animal that attacked and injured you is regarded as wild or domestic under Texas law, feel free to give us a call at 817-294-1900. We'll be happy to answer your questions, and we never charge for calls.
How a Lawyer Can Help You
If you or a member of your family is bitten, mauled or attacked by a wild animal which is kept as a pet, it is important that you consult with a board certified personal injury and wrongful death attorney who is experienced animal attack law in Texas.
The animal attack lawyers at the Anderson Law Firm in Dallas-Fort Worth offer all injury victims a completely free, no obligation consultation. Call us today at 817-294-1900.
(Want more information? Download my free book "How to Make a Successful Dog Bite Injury Claim In Texas" here.)