Do Donkeys Get “One Free Bite”? Donkey Bites Children During Live Nativity Scene In Wales

“Living nativity” have long been the rage during the holidays, particularly as part of traditions like the one at St Mary’s Church on Holton Road in Wales. The scene includes live donkeys to the delight of the children. However, this year was marred by one donkey taking a bite out of one of the children — thereby bringing together two of my favorite themes: Christmas and torts. The case could come down to the question of a type of “one free bite” rule.

The Church in Wales apologized but noted “As generations of Barry children have learnt from riding donkeys on the local beach they are among the more stubborn and unpredictable of God’s creatures.” The spokesperson added an element of possible comparative fault to the incident by noting “We would remind children to treat all donkeys with care and respect and ask families to keep a watchful eye on younger children in particular when in the company of these much loved animals.”

The liability for animals has been a long controversy and is subject to different standards depending on the animals and the location. A wild animal in the possession of an individual or company is generally subject to a strict liability standard. A domesticated animal is generally subject to negligence. However, the line can become blurred. For example, under the common law, dogs unlike wild animals are not subject to strict liability. As a domesticated animal, dogs are subject to a negligence standard. This led to the evolution of a “one-free-bite” rule where after a bite, the dog was presumed to be vicious and the owner was potentially subject to strict liability for future attacks. The rule is a bit of a misnomer. You do not get a free bite if the dog showed vicious propensities in other ways. What constitutes a “wild” animal can also be debated. Under the common law, an animal with animus revertendi (or a habit of return) was not considered wild but again that is an uncertain standard to apply in many cases.

Many states have special provisions for zoo and public entertainment areas. Courts have rejected strict liability claims on the basis that this is a public enterprise as well as rejecting attractive nuisance claims for children injured. In Guzzi v. New York Zoological Soc’y, 182 N.Y.S. 257 (N.Y. App. Div. 1920), the court held that the society, which maintained the Bronx Zoo, would not be liable in strict liability or nuisance after a girl who crept under the cage of a bear.

Donkeys are generally viewed as domesticated animals but the Church statement recognizes that these animals do bite. In the United States, there would be a strong claim for the negligence standard but the church could still be liable. Animals and children can be a dangerous mix. Indeed, a donkey in a show has many of the elements of an attractive nuisance for children. Despite the spokesperson’s statement regarding parents watching children at holiday events, it could find itself facing the same reaction as Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist: “If the law supposes that, the law is an ass.”

Of course, none of this means that the family will take that significant step of actually suing the Church in a Christmas-based tort.

58 thoughts on “Do Donkeys Get “One Free Bite”? Donkey Bites Children During Live Nativity Scene In Wales”

  1. Jesus is mentioned roughly 90 times in the Koran, and Islam accepts the historical facts of Jesus’ birth and ministry and so forth. The distinction between Christianity and Islam is that the latter views Jesus as a prophet, like Mohammed, but not as the son of God. Islam does not recognize the concept of the Trinity or that Jesus was God or the son of God or of the tripartite God-Son-Holy Ghost. In Islam there is God (Allah) and his revered prophets, Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed. But that Jesus existed historically and that most of his story is historically accurate is not questioned in the Koranic texts.

    1. TIN – Muhammed was illiterate and seems to have gotten the stories of Jesus and Mary from other travelers, but there was a problem in the translation.

      1. Paul, Mohammed doesn’t claim to be the author of the Koran. He couldn’t have been. As you point out, he was illiterate. So he could not have written a rudimentary account of stories he heard, much less the highly sophisticated forms of Arabic literature and poetry in the Koran. Moreover, there is no indication that he was multi-lingual. He spoke Arabic, but only an educated person would have been able to converse with traveling Hebrews and Greeks. Plus the Koran says that Mary “was chosen above women of all nations.” Would a simple, uneducated, chauvinistic Arab give that kind of credit to a Jewish woman in a book which was intended to be by and for Arabs? The Islamic explanation is that the Koran was verbally revealed by God, over a 20 year period. The people who can’t accept what can’t be proven presumably would argue that highly educated, multi-lingual Arabs heard the stories from from travelers and compiled a book. I don’t know. But you have to admit, it certainly caught on……the fact that it was so readily accepted among non-Arabs is interesting, but then again, Christianity rapidly spread among non-Jews.

        1. TIN – if we accept that Mary is the mother of Jesus and Jesus is God and then we accept that God whispered in the ear of Mohammed, don’t you think Mohammed would get the story straight? Or God? Someone missed the plot.


    HARK, the Herald Donkeys cry, “Pro social gentle Jew sweet Jeez, was the HOLY Child of TWO Holy PEDOS and a Holy ADULTOPHILE Mom.”

    “All early Christian sources say Mary was 12 years old when she married Joseph the carpenter.”

    So, the Unholy Pedo problem’s finally SOLVED. Legal & Moral, Global Ages of Consent currently 12 thru 21 – to be equalized down to TWELVE.

    And, Looziana ‘Killa’ Lee Lewis & Sweet Memphis Myra were sooo right WAY back in Rockin ’58!

  3. Today, Father John P. Meier’s 4 volume ‘A Marginal Jew ….’ study on the Historical Jesús appears quite authoritative, with a volume 5 expected ‘soon,’ whatever that means.

    Bart Ehrman’s multiple works on Jesús are likewise authoratative, as are Michael L. Brown’s works like ‘The REAL Kosher Jesús — Revealing the Mysteries of the Hidden Messiah,’ as well as ANSWERING JEWISH OBJECTIONS to JESÚS —General and Historical Objections.’

    Thus the issue for contemporary readers is not did Jesús exist, but was he the Messiah as for told by Isaiah, who by the way was not suppose to be a religious scholar, or one in being with Yawheh Himself, but primarily a military commander who would return ancient Israel to a Davidic reign and expell any foreign occupiers, like Rome. So how Jesus, who sees himself as fully human and someone NOT fated to create a religion seperate and distinct from his native Judiasm, is after his death converted into the ONLY Son of God, cosubstantial with the Father requires substantial subsequent manipulation by the early Christian church. a-men.

  4. Breaking News! The CIA, the FBI, and the NSA have reached a consensus on the Russian hacking based on statements made by the brother-in-law of a confidential information who obtained the secret information from an unnamed source disclosed by another confidential informant.

    So far, the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA have determined that the first names of the Russian hackers are Boris and Natasha. They are now working on their last names and are attempting to track them down through the assistance of the National GeoSpatial-Intelligence Agency. Things are taking longer than expected because the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and the NGA have determined that $73,6 million does is insufficient for a project this complicated and involved, and they are asking for the budget to be increased by President Obama to $125 million.

    Meanwhile, thanks to the CIA’s surveillance efforts, they have managed to make a video of the Russian spies before they made their clever escape:

    I’ll keep you posted on the dramatic developments as they unfold.

  5. I wish more donkeys would bite the imbeciles who feed free range donkeys on the side of the road. Teaching them that snacks can be had near the street gets humans and donkeys killed, since they will hang out, hoping for the next apple.

  6. The answer to this problem is not to subject donkeys to these Nativity scenes. Instead, why not substitute a mule, which is a much more domesticated animal? During a trip to the Grand Canyon, I took a mule ride along the Canyon rim for some spectacular views. I felt 100% safe riding with the mule, and the mules were more than friendly and cooperative and they got along fine with children. As always, such interactions with children should be under the supervision of adults.

      1. Mespo – a mule will do absolutely anything for a rider they love, and absolutely nothing for one they dislike. (So said a famous mule jumper). If looking for a trail mount, it’s worth it to have a good relationship with a mule, because there is nothing more sure footed. And they are less likely to go along with being over worked to the point of injury. A badly handled mule, however, is an absolute pain to try to work with. A sweet tempered mule does also love to play games. I remember watching a girl try to bridle a draft mule for about a half an hour while I rode. The mule would raise his head, so she’d go fetch a bucket and go stand on it to bridle him. He would oh so slowly lower his head, while she kept missing putting the bridle on, until he got too low for the bucket. So she’s hop off, and he’d repeat. She really wanted to do it herself, but that mule sure was enjoying making her work for it. He wasn’t mean tempered at all, and would never hurt her, but mules can be like that. They have an intelligent mind and strong opinions, and kind of a funny sense of humor.

  7. Donkeys are Loving wonderful animals, Bring them up with love and you get love in return. They do bite when playing with each other.. just a love bite.. Are they stubborn?? Not really, just smart so they are not easily pushed around.. Secret is know your animal and work with intelligence..

    1. Plus they are completely adorable and instinctively chase coyotes out of the corral. Someone I know fostered a herd that had been neglected by a hoarder. It took hardly any work for them to go from wild to sweet. But trimming their elf feet was tough the first few times because they started out wild and could kick in all directions. One of these days I want a mini donkey.

  8. Thanks, Karen. I love to read/listen to people w/ real world knowledge and experience. I know squat about carpentry but LOVE to watch Norm Abrams.

    1. Thanks, Nick. You know all conversations are 6 degrees of separation from horses for me. 🙂

  9. One more reason for the accidental bite. Kids often feed petting zoo donkeys so much that they associate reaching fingers with food, and can get grabby. Sometimes equines can get into the habit of nipping either from constantly thinking you’re trying to give them treats, or trying to play colt games with you. It’s just soooooo funny to nip Ned the Colt to start a game of tag. Why don’t humans seem to enjoy it as much? If so, then you can put a toothpick in your hand and casually walk with your hand within reach. When your colt or donkey reaches over to take a playful totally hilarious nip, he’ll poke himself with the toothpick and think you’re prickly and not much fun to nibble. You mustn’t jab him, because he must not think you’re fighting or mad at him, and he mustn’t actually get hurt or he won’t trust you. You must just be a super nice, prickly cactus that he mustn’t bite.

  10. Horses and donkeys can bite, kick, and step on kids. There should always be a sign and a waiver to interact with them at their own risk.

    There are three types of bites – the accidental bite from feeding the donkey where he accidentally gets fingers. That would be a hard pinch immediately spit out. (They are, after all, herbivores.) The next is the warning bite they give to each other (and people if they are naughty) when they want that animal to move away or object to something they’re doing. Again, this is a pinch that shouldn’t even break the skin. It would hurt but not do damage. Then there is the deadly serious fighting bite, in which case they can easily draw blood. Those are very, very serious, and rare among well handled equines and people. I knew of a rank stallion who tore the bicep muscle completely away from the bone of a farrier.

    Jack donkeys or stallion horses are far more prone to aggression than gelded horses or donkeys. If it was a mixed group, then it was highly unlikely the donkey was an intact Jack. I doubt this was a serious attack, or else it would be all over the news as a bloodbath at the nativity.

    So it was just one of those accidental or warning bites that happen from time to time. What was going on that precipitated the bite? Was the child hurting the donkey, screaming, yelling, pulling it’s sparse mane, trying to feed it? When a donkey has had enough it will usually give all the warning in the world – pinning its ears, lowering its head, wringing its tail, but people who don’t spend time around animals wouldn’t understand. It may not have been the child’s fault at all and the donkey may just have had a naughty moment. It can be very trying to be a petting zoo animal, and it takes the heart and patience of a saint. Sometimes animals don’t quite meet the requirements for canonization. Plus donkeys are so intelligent that they complain about and to management if they think a proposal is stupid.

    Although an accidental or warning bite would just be a hard pinch that would only bruise an adult or large child, if it was a toddler, the fingers could have been broken. A responsible adult should always be present to intervene when a young child is handling even the most gentle equine, because accidents happen, and it’s usually the equine who pays for it.

  11. Read ‘The Gospel According to Jesus Christ’ by Jose Saramago. Read ‘Zealot’ by Reza Aslan. They bring a missing humanity to the demigod. Saramago poses the interesting question of why Joseph didn’t warn the other parents of the impending slaughter of the innocents, at least a few of them.

  12. In some states, Like Virginia, those persons who are objects of a charity are barred from recovery for negligent acts under the doctrine of Charitable Immunity. A church would qualify as such a protected charity. There are exceptions for negligent hire and retention or gross negligence, but these are rare instances.

  13. One irony is that neither of the infant narratives in Matthew and Luke say anything about a donkey being present at the birth of Jesus. This is something that has been added to the story more recently. Maybe the donkey was unhappy with being drafted for such unhistorical duty.

    1. Lamar Hankins – I thought that Mary rode the donkey to the inn. Since none of the writers of the birth narrative would have been there they would have been depending on a description from Mary.

      1. You will find no mention of a donkey in the birth narratives. Check them for yourself. Noted New Testament scholar/historian Bart Ehrman has made this point:

        “There is nothing in the Bible about the baby Jesus being surrounded by donkeys and oxen.”

        1. Just because the author didn’t mention it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. What we think of as a “manger,” a covered crib or stall for animals to eat hay was unknown in the Middle East two thousand years ago. All inns had a walled, open air courtyard attached, where travelers would leave their animals to prevent them from straying off during the night. If the inn was full, or the traveler lacked money, he could bed down in the courtyard with the animals, who were typically donkeys and camels.

        2. Lamar Hankin – I think part of this is part of the “born in a stable” which isn’t accurate either. It was more like being born in the basement. Are you familiar with the Jesus Project? They are trying to figure out just what was said by Jesus and what wasn’t. Not a lot of attributions to Jesus so far.

          1. That’s the Jesus Seminar and their methods guarantee that very little will be considered authentic, because to qualify as ‘authentic’ it has to be incongruent with previous or subsequent tradition. They’re not serious (and do not represent most scriptural scholars).

          2. Paul — I thought the Jesus Project had been discontinued. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry — the group that had organized and funded the project – yanked the funding for the project back in 2009. I also recall hearing that there had been internal conflicts among the participating scholars, particularly concerning those in the project who subscribed to the mythicist theory about Jesus, This included Richard Carrier and Robert Price, both of whom I am pretty sure broke any active involvement with the project some years ago.

            1. dogfightwithdogma – I knew the project started but did not follow it to its conclusion and did not hear of a conclusion. However, it seems that you are right and some where along the line they had trouble deciding on a historical Jesus and it all went to hell in a bread basket after that.

        3. Bart Ehrman is not a neutral historian. He is a self-described atheist and New Testiment critic. But as a matter of common sense, if I were driving through the Nevada desert at night, looking for a place to sleep, and came upon the only motel within hundreds of miles, but it was full so I had to sleep in my car in the parking lot, wouldn’t it be fairly assumed by readers of my plight that I was surrounded by cars? How else did all the other travelers get there? Same as in the Jesus story. The inn was full and the adjoining courtyard where the travelers kept their animals most assuredly would have had numerous animals in it, because people in those days travelled with donkeys and camels and took cattle to market. Now maybe the animals were sleeping or completely disinterested in noticing that a child was being born in their midst, but as to the presence of the animals, I don’t see how any rational person could seriously question that.

          1. Ehrman is a NT historian whose scholarship is not only in the mainstream among such historians, but he also writes books that make their scholarship accessible to the non-historians among us. Do you have to be a devotee of Shakespeare to get a PhD in English? He is a textual critic, not a NT critic. And textual criticism is a particular specialization in the field. People who use argumentum ad hominem attacks usually do so because they can’t muster facts to support whatever their position is. Furthermore, there is no evidence that there were lots of travelers in Bethlehem because there is no evidence that a census was being taken that required people to travel to the home of their ancestors from a thousand years earlier. If that is made up, why wouldn’t other parts of the story be made up? Of course, there could have been a football game in Bethlehem that night.

          2. TIN — Just what qualifies as a neutral historian? Most biblical scholars who subscribe to a historical Jesus — which, by the way, Bart Ehrman does — are Christians. By the logic you seem to be using here, they too are not neutral historians.

            1. dogfightwithdogma – oddly enough, as a historian, I am an agnostic who believes in a historical Jesus. I just do not believe he is/was God and anything that goes with a Godhead.

            2. A neutral historian is one who is simply in search of facts, not one who is seeking support for his views. When I pick up a book on religious history, the first thing I look at is the author. If he describes himself as a Catholic priest, or a born-again fundamentalist, or an atheist, I usually return the book to the shelf, because I am not looking for a slanted view of history. That is why those interested in the historical Jesus put more stock in the writings of the Roman historian Josephus or the Buddhists who wrote of Jesus. These people were not Christians or Jews and they were not trying to prove or disprove divinity. They simply described a contemporary individual who was creating quite a stir at the time.

          3. While what you say is quite rational, it is so only if one accepts the assumption that Jesus actually existed. And there are a not so insignificant number of rational thinkers who do not accept this assumption or claim.

            1. They’re not ‘signficant thinkers’. They’re combox atheists who haven’t the sense to choose there battles. (Even Madelyn Murray O’Hair couldn’t be bothered with your thesis).

            2. Oh today it is unchallenged that Jesús existed circa the reign of King Herod and that he was a radical Judean Rabbi who succeeded in royally pissing of both the Sanhedrin and Pilate, resulting in his crucifixion.

              The fate of the donkies remains ‘unclear.’

    2. There is more proof that Jesus wasn’t even present at his own birth than that he was, with or without donkeys, kings, a cheating wife, a cuckolded husband, etc.

      What is interesting is the old story of the god mating with the mortal or swan is still alive.

      1. issac – you are clearly off your meds. What do you mean Jesus was not even at his own birth? Even you were at your own birth.

          1. issac – if I missed it, you better explain it. BTW, remember we have established a historical Jesus over the last couple of days, if that is going to be your point of attack.

            1. You may have established the existence of an historical Jesus to your satisfaction, but not to mine. You don’t require much in the way of evidence to believe something do you?

              1. dogfightwithdogma – it depends how much proof I need. I happen to believe Josephus. He has no reason to lie. He has no skin in the game. That he identified James as the brother of Jesus is certain.

                1. I view undocumented or incorroborared historical figures with skepticism but I do accept their existence when their actions give rise to historical movements or currents. Alexander the Great is almost devoid from corroborative written history but who seriously doubts his existence or exploits. I view the historical Jesus in the same way.

                  1. mespo – since we study the battles of Alexander the Great in all the military academies of the world. Hard to see him as unreal. His problems was that the first biographies were written by enemies, so as they would say on a reality so, he got a ‘villian’s cut.’ I was required to read Arrian’s Campaigns of Alexander for a military history class. Of course, Arrian is Greek, 500 years after Alexander, however an interesting read.

                    1. That’s what I mean. the historical corroborations are unreliable but his effect on the times is verifiable. Kudos on getting through that book. Everyone loves a good anabasis.

      2. Faith is a gift. Unfortunately, not everyone has received it. Those who are incapable of believing in anything that cannot be “proven” by some form of mechanical or scientific testing are missing out on much of the beauty and wonder of this world. I have an 88 year old relative who doesn’t have long on this earth. She doesn’t believe in God because there is “no proof.” I think that is really sad….but to each his own.

      3. REJOICE! Pro social gentle Jew sweet Jeez, was the HOLY Child of TWO Holy PEDO Dads and a Holy ADULTOPHILE Mom. “All early Christian sources say Mary was 12 years old when she married Joseph the carpenter.”

        So, the Unholy Pedo problem’s finally SOLVED. Legal & Moral, Global Ages of Consent currently 12 thru 21 – to be equalized down to TWELVE fer Wedlock and ZERO fer sex-keen kids self-consent and mere masturbation scientifically PROVEN starts in the Womb!

        PLUS, Looziana ‘Killa’ Lee Lewis & Sweet Memphis Myra were sooo right WAY back in Rockin ’58!

  14. I would tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the donkey. Even a gentle housecat can become stressed and hiss or strike if it feels threatened or cornered by a child. Parents should know that children and strange animals should be kept a safe distance from one another. In the future, all nativity scene animals should be fitted with body cams so that they can show whether the kid was poking him or pulling his tail.

  15. Donkeys, Camels, Horses, they not only can bite, include Moose and Deer and cattle, and they can stomp our human hides. Walt Disney did a lot to dumb people down about animals.

  16. Having ridden a donkey, I can attest to their ability to bite. They also are not good at following directions. 🙂

  17. A donkey should be able to bite a kid. Cain and able. Donkey in the stable.
    Myron Bright died. Cover that story.

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