Did You Know? Iowa is one of several states with a Domesticated Animals Activity Act which provides broad, blanket immunity for a wide variety of domesticated animal activities.

What does that mean? Should any employee, participant, or spectator to any horse/equine activity get injured by a horse, the person or company connected to the animal or activity is generally not held liable. These activities include:

  • Riding
  • Horseshoeing
  • Showing horses
  • Loading, hauling, and transporting horses
  • Inspecting horses at events
  • Using horses for farm work

The Law at Work: Recently, the Iowa Supreme Court addressed a case in which a farm hand mounted a horse for the purpose of moving two heifers. The horse became unruly and bucked the farm hand. The farm hand was thrown to the ground and then trampled by the horse, which seriously injured the farm hand. He sued the horse owner but could not recover because of the immunity provided by Iowa’s Domesticated Animals Activity Act. However, the farm hand was permitted to make a workers’ compensation claim.

Rifle of Allen’s Diamond Four Ranch

Are there any Exceptions? There are several exceptions to the Act:

  • When an animal injures someone in a public area where the animal is not expected to be
  • When an owner or activity sponsor acts recklessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • When an owner knowingly provides faulty tack or equipment to a participant

Example: In another recent case, a fairgoer was walking along a public pedestrian walk area. A loud noise spooked a horse in a housing barn nearby. It bolted out of the barn and onto the walk area, running into the fairgoer and injuring her. The fairgoer claimed the fair association was negligent for failing to protect her from out-of-control animals. The fair association claimed immunity based upon Iowa’s Domesticated Animals Activity Act, however, the Iowa Supreme Court stated that the fairgoer may not have been a participant to an equine event and a runaway horse is not an expectation on public pedestrian walk area.