Ever wondered who really owns a pet, if you’re allowed to speed in an emergency, or when exactly a signature is valid? We put some head-scratching legal questions to the experts to find out more
If my neighbour’s cat eats the fish in my pond, is the owner liable?
“It all depends on what you mean by ‘cat’. Section 2(1) of the 1971 Animals Act imposes strict liability on the keeper for damage caused by an animal that belongs to a dangerous species (a tiger, for example). Section 2(2) of the Animals Act imposes strict liability on the keeper for damage caused by an animal that does not belong to a dangerous species (a domestic cat, for example), only if the damage was of a kind that was likely to be severe and the likelihood of the damage was due to abnormal characteristics not normally found in animals of the same species and those characteristics were known to the keeper.
There is nothing abnormal in a domestic cat killing and eating fish. Although an action in negligence might be contemplated, even if the owners owe a duty of care to their neighbours in these circumstances (and that is doubtful), there are no specific precautions that a reasonable cat owner could be expected to take in order to avoid the unfortunate occurrence in question. Pond owners should consider buying netting or a pond cover, using sprinklers or a water gun, or providing shelter for their fish in a pond that is at least 2ft deep.
Paul Eden, senior lecturer in law
If I use a surrogate in the UK and they change their mind after giving birth – even if the baby isn’t genetically theirs – who is the legal parent?
The surrogate will always be the child’s legal mother, regardless of the method of surrogacy or whether they are the biological mother or not. This is the case whether the surrogate was in the UK at the time of the insemination or whether they were abroad. English law doesn’t allow a surrogate to give up their legal parenthood before the making of an order by a judge after a court process. There are no pre-birth orders in England that terminate the surrogate’s legal rights as there are, for example, in California. Even if a pre-birth order has been made in respect to a child born abroad and the surrogate is not considered to be a legal parent in the jurisdiction of birth, the law in England will treat them as the legal mother until a court order is made terminating their parenthood.