Ontario Dog Bite Laws – When your best friend is in the doghouse
Dogs really are a person’s best friend. They’re always there for us, whether we need protection or just a snuggle. But dog owners have a responsibility to their pets and to their community. Even the most lovable pets can become cranky, due to factors such as stress, illness or age. Dog owners should be aware of their responsibilities and the potential consequences should their pet bite someone.
What happens if my dog bites someone?
If your dog bites someone, make sure the victim gets immediate proper medical attention, whether that means basic first aid, calling an ambulance or a drive to the hospital. As well, any dog bites should be reported to the local Heath Unit, whether by the owner, the victim or by medical personnel providing care to the victim.
Can I be sued if my dog bites someone?
Dog bites in Ontario are governed by the Dog Owners’ Liability Act which says that a dog owner is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack. No negligence needs to be shown. All the victim needs to show is that he or she has been bitten by your dog and that you owned the dog. The extent of any damage award will depend on the severity of the bite and the consequences for the victim as well as whether the victim contributed to the damages. It is not unusual for injuries to the face, neck and hands to be severe when a dog attacks, which can result in lost work, prolonged physical problems and/or scarring.
Dog bites are usually covered by your home owner’s insurance policy, but there may be consequences that go beyond financial considerations. Depending on the circumstances, the court may order that your dog be confined to your property or restrained by means of a leash. If a court finds your dog a menace to public safety, it may order your dog destroyed if the court is satisfied that such an order is necessary for the protection of the public.
To protect your best friend and yourself, it is important to take some basic precautions, such as:
- Keeping your dog on a leash when in public
- At home, keeping your dog in an enclosed area, not running free
- Paying close attention to changes in your dog’s behaviour, and seeing a vet as necessary
- Never leaving young children unsupervised with your dog.
If your dog bites someone, our Ontario injury Lawyers can answer questions and offer a free no obligation consultation to discuss your rights and obligations under the law. If you have been bitten by a dog and are unsure if you may be able to take legal action for your injuries, see our post Ontario Dog Bite Laws- Can I sue if a dog bites me?