An Essential Guide to Dog Owner Liability in Ontario
How much do you know about dog owner liability?
We love our pets. For many of us, our pets are just like our children- only furrier. Bringing home a new fur baby to their forever home is an exciting feeling, as it’s time to prepare for a future of love, happiness, and amazing memories.
But, like many things in life, there are a lot of responsibilities you have as a dog owner. As a member of society, we owe a duty to our fellow Ontario residents to ensure that we’ve done our part to keep everyone safe.
Do you know what to do if your dog bites someone? What about if you’re the one bitten by a dog?
If you’re considering getting a dog, make sure you understand dog owner liability in Ontario before you bring Fido home.
The Dog Owners’ Liability Act
The Dog Owners’ Liability Act of Ontario outlines your responsibilities when it comes to your dog.
Essentially, under the law, dog owners are liable for any injury or damage to people or property that their dog causes. This also applies if the dog bites another domestic animal.
If you share custody of a dog, for example with a spouse or common law partner, you will both be held liable for the dog’s actions.
Even if the victim provoked the dog in some degree, you will still be held negligent and will pay a reduced fine.
The Act also outlines specific regulations for certain breeds of dogs that are known to be more aggressive.
For example, there are many regulations for pit bull owners. In Ontario, it’s illegal to own a pit bull unless you owned it before the law was amended. If you do have a “grandfathered” pit bull, you are required to keep it muzzled outside of your property and sterilize it to prevent breeding.
Don’t Assume it Won’t Happen to You
Just because your dog is a gentle, timid canine doesn’t mean they won’t suddenly bite someone if they feel threatened.
The reality is that dog bites happen more often than you’d think. Every year, there are approximately 4.7 million dog bites or attacks, and about 20% of those incidents require medical attention.
Dog bites can also be fatal.
As a dog owner, the most important thing you can do is take proactive measures to prevent these incidents from happening.
In Toronto, under the regional bylaw, you’re required to care for your dog and provide the appropriate care and control. This includes providing it with exercise, food and water, protection from the elements, and so on.
Caring for your dog properly is a proactive measure in preventing them from becoming aggressive. You’re also required to make sure you are training the dog properly and taking action to control them in public.
One bite could cost you thousands of dollars, and possibly jail time depending on the situation.
My Dog Bit Someone. What Do I Do?
First, it’s important to understand that not all dog bites are the same. There are 6 different levels of dog bites, ranging from 1 (minor bite with minimal to no skin puncturing) to 6 (fatal bite resulting in death).
You will be held liable if your dog bites someone or someone’s pet.
If your dog bit someone, the first thing you should do is restrain your dog and attend to the victim. Call an ambulance if you need to, and provide first aid if you can.
Be cooperative and provide the victim with your contact information. If you have your dog’s vaccination or medical record on hand, provide that as well.
Understand that the victim has rights. They can contact animal control, the police, and a lawyer if they feel they are suffering serious injuries.
What to do if You’ve Been Bitten by a Dog
If you’re the one who has been attacked, mauled, or bitten by a dog, it’s important that you take the right steps to not only heal your injury, but also to hold the dog owner liable.
The first thing you need to do is seek medical attention as soon as possible. Dog bites, and bites from any animal in general, can become infected.
You’ll also have to contact the dog owner and get their contact information. They are responsible for paying the damages, so you’ll need to inform them.
Make sure you have plenty of documentation that you can use as evidence. This includes taking photographs and keeping all of your medical documents or receipts from treatment.
Photographs are important because you’ll need to be able to prove that the incident did happen, that your injuries happened as a direct result of the incident, and that the dog belongs to that owner.
Dog Bite Claims and the Courts
When you make dog bite claim, for an injury caused by a dog attack, the court will look at certain factors in order to determine your eligibility for a settlement.
Here are some of the factors that will be considered:
- The likelihood that you’ll need surgery in the future
- Whether the injuries you’ve suffered are permanent
- How serious the injury itself is
- If you’ve suffered economic losses as a result of the bite or attack, such as lost wages due to missed work for medical treatment
- Whether you did something to provoke the dog, contribute to the attack, or cause the attack to happen. If you are found somewhat responsible, the dog owner will still be held liable, but the damages will be reduced.
Depending on how serious your injury is, there are a few options the court will consider when penalizing the dog owner. For example, they could order the owner to pay a fine, or confine the dog to their property.
In more serious cases, the court could order the dog to be sterilized or euthanized, or they could prohibit the owner from being allowed to own a dog for a certain period of time.
This is done to protect the public from future attacks if the dog shows signs of an aggressive nature.
If You’ve Been Bitten by a Dog, Conte Jaswal Can Help
At Conte Jaswal, we love animals. However, we also know that, without proper precautions, our beloved canines can become dangerous.
Our goal is to hold liable parties accountable for their actions and get you the compensation you deserve. If you’ve suffered a serious injury from a dog bite, we will fight for you.
We’ll go over your case with you and help you consider your options. You don’t have to do this alone.
Contact Conte Jaswal now to book a consultation at one of our offices in Whitby and Vaughan. We’ll help you get the compensation you need to carry on with your life.