Owning a dog is a serious responsibility and is immensely rewarding. As a dog owner, the last thing you would wish to happen is for your furry friend to turn violent and harm another person. Yet, such occurrences do happen unfortunately. The primary concern is obviously the welfare of the victim. But it is also important that every dog owner understands whether ownership carries the legal weight of responsibility for the dog’s actions,should an attack occur as the injured victim can sue you as the dog’s owner.
Factors determining liability
There are a number of factors that determine a dog owner’s liability. Firstly, under which legal jurisdiction does the attack come under? The law differs from province to province. For instance, outside of Ontario, a rule exists that states an owner may not be held responsible if the dog has never attacked before, known as the ‘1-bite’ rule. This rule does not therefore apply if the dog has previously been violent, in which case the owner is entirely responsible.
Secondly and again, depending on where the case is being examined, ‘provocation’ could be a factor in determining liability. For instance, if the dog could be perceived as provoked into the attack because it saw its owner being harmed or threatened, then the attack becomes a type of proxy self-defence scenario, in which case, the owner is not deemed liable. The plaintiff’s plea may not hold in the court of law as he or she was a threat to the dog owner.
In Ontario, adherence to a strict approach regarding liability is done. In accordance with the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, the owner is financially and legally responsible for all injuries and damages, regardless of whether he or she was aware of the dog’s history or inclination towards violent behaviour. If there have been any incident that highlights the aggressive nature of the dog or the dog breed is listed as dangerous, the owner has a higher liability towards the plaintiff.
Insurance policies may also vary. Most home insurance includes coverage for third-party liability. Thus, if your pet does cause harm to anyone, you are likely covered. It is highly advisable that you not take any chances however and ensure that you are familiar with the specifics of your coverage. An animal attack on a human can have serious long-term health consequences so it is important to fully appreciate all the legal and financial obligations that come with owning pets, especially dogs.If such an attack occurs, always inform your insurance company as soon as possible or hire the services of a personal injury lawyer in Sudbury to represent your rights.