Area of Law: Animals and the Law
Answer # 4010
Dog owner liabilityRegion: Ontario Answer # 4010
Generally, municipalities are responsible for animal control. If a person has a complaint about another person’s dog, they should contact their local animal control office. In emergency situations, the police should be contacted.
Liability when an injury occurs
If a person is bitten by a dog, they have the right to sue the dog’s owner for damages. It does not matter if the person was bitten due to the owner’s fault, negligence, or knowledge of the propensity of the dog to bite. Also, Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act makes dog owners liable for any damage caused by bites to persons or other domestic animals.
Definition of a “dog owner”
According to the Act, you are considered a dog owner, and can potentially be held liable for damages, if you:
- legally own a registered dog,
- look after or babysit a dog for its owner, or
- are the parent of a minor who is babysitting a dog
What type of injuries may occur?
Injuries from a dog attack can range from wounds resulting from a dog bite, to injuries from a mauling. Injuries can range from minor scratches to permanent physical disabilities and disfigurement (such as the loss of an eye or permanent scarring). Medical care to treat the injuries is usually expensive and can be for a prolonged time period. In addition to the physical injuries, a dog attack could cause the victim to suffer psychological harm. If a lawsuit is successful, the court can order that damages be paid to the victim.
In serious cases, an application can be made to a court for an order to destroy or euthanize a vicious dog. The court can also order an owner to provide better control of the animal by ensuring it is on a leash, muzzled, confined to a secure area with warning signs, or prohibit them from owning a dog for a certain time.
Pit Bull bans
Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act bans “pit bulls” from being bred, imported or transferred through the province. Pit bulls in the province before 2005 are exempted. That said, a “restricted pit bull” must be muzzled, leashed and sterilized. Currently, pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and American pit bull terriers are all considered pit bulls and are named in the act as banned dogs. An offence can result in a fine of up to $10,000 and/or six months in jail. For the most up-to-date information, view the Pit Bull Controls section of the Act.
What to do if you have been injured in a dog attack
If you have been bitten or more seriously injured by a dog, you should immediately seek medical attention. There are a number of additional things you should also do:
- record the name and contact information of the dog owner
- record the name and contact information of any witnesses
- take photographs of: the dog, your injuries, and where the injury occurred
- save any clothing or other possessions damaged by the dog
- do not immediately admit fault with the owner’s insurance company or accept any settlement
- report your injury to the police and request a copy of the report
- contact a personal injury lawyer
If you or someone you care about has suffered an injury from a dog attack, contact our preferred experts, Nicola (Nick) Giannantonio Legal Services. They offer a free consultation and do not charge up-front fees.
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