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The Telegraph's legal expert, Solicitor Advocate Frank Maguire of Thompsons Solicitors looks at the problems pet owners could face if their much-loved animal causes an accident, or attacks someone.

We have all heard horrific stories about pitbulls attacking children and dogs bred for fighting.

In these instances the law takes a hard line, and under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 owners of certain dogs can face jail and having the offending animal put down.

But what about your own loveable family pet? What if it bites someone or cause a traffic accident?

Well, if the damage caused by the animal was due to your failure to restrain your pet or predictable given the circumstance (e.g. a dog frightened by fireworks biting a person), then the Animals Act 1971 says that the owner will be liable.

From a human level the thought of hitting a dog or cat whilst driving is unimaginable and for the owners the risk of their animal being injured is certainly a significant concern.

If however it can be proven that the accident was unavoidable from the drivers' point of view then the animal owner is liable to pay compensation to the driver for the damage to their car and personal injury compensation if they have been hurt. This can add up to thousands of pounds.

The merit of pet insurance was underlined by the House of Lords in 2003 when they found the owner of a horse strictly liable (i.e. liable without any fault at all on their part) for damage caused by the horse in circumstances completely out with the owner's control.

If your pet does cause an accident, a final saving grace may be the fact that many Home Insurance policies cover against the indiscretions of our canine or feline friends.

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