A Basic Overview of Ontario’s Dog Bite Law

Many individuals would contend that dogs are man’s best friends and that they are there to care for us, love us, and protect us.  However, it’s important to remember that they are capable of inflicting considerable harm, if they attack without predication.  A single dog bite can cause a great deal of pain and leave the victim permanently disfigured.  Additionally, aggressive dog breeds are known to maul the victim so much that they need cosmetic surgery or children are fatally attacked. In personal injury law, animal attacks and dog bites are the basis for numerous claims and subsequent court cases.

The reality is that no matter what breed and size of dog you own, you could be liable if your pet attacks and bites another individual or their pet.  There is also the contention that certain breeds are more dangerous and more likely to attack and bite than others.  For example, Ontario Province has banned pet owners from having pit bulls pursuant to the Dog Owners’ Liability Act which is more commonly referred to as Ontario’s Dog Bite Law (Public Safety Related to Dog Statute Amendment Act, 2005).

In legal terms, the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. D.16 has 4 components or sections which are as follows:

1) Liability of the owner R.S.O. 1990, c. D.16, s. 2 (1) – the dog owner will be liable for damages if their animal attacks and/or bites another individual or domesticated animal.

2) When there is more than a single owner R.S.O. 1990, c. D.16, s. 2 (2) – under this section of the law, multiple owners of the same dog will be jointly and severally liable.

3) Extent of liability R.S.O. 1990, c. D.16, s. 2 (3) – liability is not dependent on owner fault or negligence nor does it depend upon their knowledge of the dog’s propensity for attacking and biting.  However, the court can reduce the amount of damages that are awarded in proportion to the way in which the plaintiff’s fault or negligent behavior caused or contributed to said damages.

4) Contribution by the at-fault individual R.S.O. 1990, c. D.16, s. 2 (4) – according to this section of the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, any dog owner who is liable for damages “is entitled to recover contribution and indemnity from any other person in proportion to the degree to which the other person’s fault or negligence caused or contributed to the damages.”

With few exceptions, dog owners are responsible financially and legally should their pets injure another individual or damage their property.  In Ontario Province, you can lose your dog as well as your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance if your pet attacks and/or bites another person.  Conversely, if you were bitten and injured in a dog attack, you could be entitled to compensation for any losses you sustained as a result of your injuries.  However, it is always wise to discuss your circumstances with an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer beforehand.