Ontario Dog Bite Law: An Overview

Any person bitten, attacked or otherwise injured by a dog in Ontario is entitled to seek compensation. This article briefly addresses the legal rights and remedies available to victims of dog bites and attacks. 

Governing Legislation

In Ontario, dog bite incidents are governed by the Dog Owners' Liability Act. The Act stipulates that an owner of a dog is liable for any damages that result from a bite or attack by his dog on another person or domestic animal. Where there is more than one owner of a dog, they are jointly and severally liable for the resulting damages.

Liability

The dog owner is held to a "strict liability" standard for any damages caused by his dog. Liability of the owner does not depend upon fault or negligence on the part of the owner. Liability will be found even if the dog owner acted completely reasonably. Nor does it depend upon the owner's knowledge of the dog's propensity for attacking people.

Liability will automatically be found where two elements are established. First, the person was bit or attacked by a dog. Second, the dog was owned by the defendant. Where these elements are met the dog owner is financially and legally responsible for any injury caused by his dog. Typically, the dog owner's home insurance or general liability policy will cover the damages.

Damages

If the case settles prior to trial, the quantum of damages is determined on the basis of legal research completed by your lawyer.

Should the case proceed to trial, the quantum of damages is assessed by the Court. The Court will take the owner's fault into account when calculating damages and may increase or decrease the damages depending on the owner's degree of contribution to the dog's action. By way of example, if the owner was negligent in ignoring the dog's propensity to bite people or failed to restrain the dog, the owner may have to pay more damages than an owner whose actions or lack thereof did not contribute to the dog's behaviour.

Contributory Negligence

The amount of damages an injured person is awarded can be reduced due to contribution negligence. The Court will reduce the damages awarded in circumstances where the injured person acted in such a way as to make him partially responsible for the dog bite. An example of an injured person's contributory negligence might include unreasonably provoking the dog to behave violently or kicking the dog prior to the attack. The finding and extent of contributory negligence is wholly dependent upon the circumstances of the case.

Evidence

If you are bitten, attacked or otherwise injured by a dog, you should take the following steps. First, get the dog owner's name. Second, seek proper medical care. Third, report the details of the incident to your local health unit, animal control and/or the police. Fourth, take detailed photographs of your injuries.

For more information, feel free to contact one of our personal injury lawyers.

The information you obtain at this site (including this blog) is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create a lawyer-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as a lawyer-client relationship has been established.

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