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Dog Bites and Your Rights

If you have been bitten by a dog, the owner of that dog is automatically responsible for your injuries. The Dog Owner’s Liability Act in Ontario stipulates that the owner of a dog is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack by the dog on a person or another animal.

The owner of the dog is responsible regardless of the dog’s past history of attacks and bites. This means that if a dog bites you, you may sue the owner for your damages and the owner will bear at least some legal responsibility.

Many dog bites are minor in nature and do not result in a lawsuit since the quantum of money that an injured person would recover would not make it worth their while to proceed with a lawsuit. However, many individuals suffer significant damages including scarring, severe physical injury, and psychological injuries resulting from the attack. Damages may also include loss of income for time off work, plastic surgery, pain and suffering, psychological counseling, and future care costs. In these cases, it is often necessary to sue the dog owner to cover the expenses and damages the injured person incurs.

The damages assessed to have been suffered may be reduced to account for the injured person’s involvement in the attack. If a person taunts a dog and encourages the attack, the courts will reduce the damages awarded in proportion to the degree, if any, to which the injured person contributed to the attack.

These rules apply similarly to a dog that attacks another animal. In this case, the owner of the attacking dog would be responsible for the damages suffered by the ‘innocent’ other animal.

It is important that the damage need not be caused by a bite, but could also be caused by an attack. Attacks need not take the form of biting but may include jumping viciously, scaring, tripping and so on.

The Dog Owner’s Liability Act also ensures that separate court proceedings may be commenced to have the dog destroyed, confined, or restrained to prevent further occurrences of harm to others. In making such an order, the court will consider the dog’s past and present temperament and behavior, the seriousness of the injuries, unusual contributing circumstances tending to justify the dog’s behavior, the dog’s physical potential for inflicting harm, and the precautions taken by the owner to prevent similar future attacks.

* The information above is not intended to be legal advice. Each situation is different and the information provided above may not provide you with all law applicable to your facts. To ensure you are properly protected under the law applicable to your facts, please contact Murray Ralston Law for a free consultation.