dog owners liability

Dog Owners Liability in Ontario

Dog bites are a serious issue, regardless of the size of dog involved. Canines of every shape and size have the potential to injure seriously, sometimes fatally. Even the timidest, sweet dog can bite.

There’s been a lot of debate over whether certain breeds are more likely to bite than others, and that discussion has led to a provincial ban on what we commonly refer to as a ‘pit bull.’ But regardless of what type of dog you have, dog owners are legally liable for the damage their dog does to any pet, person, or property.  When it comes down to it, any dog can bite.

Pit Bull Terriers

The Province of Ontario enacted specific legislation in 2005 concerning the particular breed of dog known as ‘pit bulls.’ With a grandfather clause permitting those who owned pit bulls at the time of the legislation, it is prohibited to own, breed, abandon, transfer or import pit bull terriers. The law is so strict that Cesar Millan had to forgo bringing his goodwill ambassador, ‘Junior’ the pitbull during a Canadian tour in 2011.

Who is Considered the Dog’s Owner?

The Dog Owner’s Liability Act defines the owner as the “person who possesses or harbours a dog and, where the owner is a minor, the person responsible for the custody of the minor.” So, if you are taking care of a dog (“harbouring” it) – as a dog sitter or dog walker, for example, you will be considered the owner of the dog in the eyes of the legislation, should the dog cause damages.

A Dog Has Bitten You. Now What?

If you are bitten by a dog in Ontario, the first thing to do is get medical treatment. Once your condition has been evaluated by a medical professional, and they’ve given you the all clear to do so, get the identity of the dog and dog owner. The owner will be the person held accountable for the dog’s actions, and responsible for compensation for any damages incurred. Regardless of whether you know the dog owner or not, you should notify the local authorities/ police.  If there were witnesses to the bite, be sure to get the contact info for the witnesses as well.

Unfortunately, dogs don’t come with a guarantee, and even the most responsible dog owners can find themselves in an unexpected dog-bite situation. And while you can’t be 100% certain a dog will never bite, you can significantly reduce the chances.

  • Train and properly socialize your pup, exposing them to diverse situations and a wide assortment of people;
  • When not on your property, keep your dog on a leash at all times;
  • Do not let your dog run free, or ‘at large;’
  • Learn the basics of dog behaviour so you can recognize the signs of anxiety in your dog, or others;
  • Properly introduce your dog to other dogs and people, especially children or those with mobility issues or devices;
  • Respect dog owners when they ask you to keep your distance, they know their dog better than you do;
  • Post signs on your property advising visitors of a dog on the premises.

And also ensure that your pup is up-to-date on all medical check-ups and that man’s best friend is not experiencing a medical reason, such as injury or pain, to act in an aggressive nature.

A well-trained, socialized dog is not only a pleasure to be around, but also a significantly reduced liability.

Freedom Chevalier

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