Personal Injury: Animal Owners Liability

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personal injury Dog Owners' Liability

In plain English, the owner of a dog is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack by the dog on another person or domestic animal. If you are injured as a result of an attack by a dog, a claim may be brought against a dog’s owner for causing your injuries. An owner is defined as either having possession or harbouring a dog.

Information on the Dog Owners’ Liability Act and Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005

  • On October 26, 2004 Ontario government introduced Bill 132 to amend the Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA) that was passed by the Legislative Assembly and received Royal Assent by March 9, 2005.
  • The legislation bans pit bulls in Ontario, places restrictions on existing pit bulls, and toughens the penalties for the owners of any dog that poses a danger to the public.
  • Ontario’s pit bull ban took effect on August 29, 2005.
  • All dog owners must comply with the amended requirements of DOLA and other provisions of law.
  • Pit bull owners may keep their existing dogs, as long as they comply with certain requirements.
  • DOLA also introduced new penalties for the owners of all potentially dangerous dogs, regardless of breed or type.

Grandfathered/Restricted Pit Bulls – Owners’ Responsibilities

  • Pit bull owners are required to ensure their pit bulls are in compliance with the amendments and regulations.
  • Pit bull owners have to have their pit bulls leashed and muzzled in public and comply with sterilization requirements.
  • The regulations stipulate that restricted pit bulls be muzzled and leashed unless the dogs are on their owners’ enclosed property or on enclosed property occupied by another person who consents to the pit bull being without a muzzle or leash.
  • A leash may be a maximum of 1.8m.
  • Muzzles should be humane, but strong enough and well-fitted enough to prevent the pit bull from biting, without interfering with the breathing, panting, or vision of the pit bull or with the pit bull’s ability to drink.
  • All pit bulls must be sterilized.

“Pit Bull” includes,

  • a pit bull terrier,
  • a Staffordshire bull terrier,
  • an American Staffordshire terrier,
  • an American pit bull terrier,
  • a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to those mentioned above

Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA) Proceedings

If a dog bites you, you may bring a civil action against the dog’s owner for damages.

  • The Act states that the owner of a dog is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack and that liability does not depend on the owner’s fault, negligence or knowledge of the propensity of the dog to bite or attack.
  • Any individual can start a court proceeding under Part IX of the Provincial Offences Act (POA).
  • Violations of various Ontario statutes, including DOLA, constitute provincial offences and may be prosecuted under the Provincial Offences Act.

All Dangerous Dogs

A dangerous dog’s owner is liable when:

  • Another dog has been bitten or attacked
  • The dog has behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals
  • An owner did not exercise reasonable precautions to prevent a dog from biting or attacking or posing a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals
  • A dog owner did not take specified control measures

Penalties for Offences:

  • $10,000 fine ($60,000 for corporations); and/or
  • Six months imprisonment; and/or
  • In addition to any other penalties, the court will be able to make restitution orders requiring convicted persons to make compensation or restitution to victims.
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