Alldogscanbite.com cites the Canada Safety Council for the estimate that every hour, about 42 Canadians are bitten by dogs. Any Ontarian who has been the victim of a dog bite or attack knows it can be a traumatic physical and emotional experience.
Ontario law provides a legal framework for someone injured by a dog to bring a claim for damages to compensate the victim for resulting losses. Those damages may cover a variety of harm, potentially including medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, loss of care and companionship, and others.
Nature of dog bites
Injuries from dog bites may include:
- Puncture wounds
- Lacerations and scratches
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD
- Temporary or permanent disability
Resulting medical needs can be:
- Plastic surgery and facial reconstruction
- Mental health treatment
- Physical or occupational therapy
- Short- and long-term medical care
- And more
Dog Owners’ Liability Act
The Ontario Dog Owners’ Liability Act or DOLA provides that a dog bite victim may sue the animal’s owner in the Ontario Court of Justice. The owner will be strictly liable regardless of whether he or she was negligent in supervising or training the dog or in any other way caused the dog’s behaviour. The dog’s owner is still liable even if he or she had no idea the dog had any vicious or dangerous propensity.
In other words, once the victim shows that the animal injured the victim, owner liability automatically attaches.
Dog owners are not only liable for bites and attacks on people, but also on other dogs or domestic animals.
An owner may also be sued under DOLA if the plaintiff alleges that the dog “has behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals” or the owner did not “exercise reasonable precautions” that would prevent the dog from biting or attacking or posing as a menace to safety.
If the dog bite victim’s behaviour contributed to the harm, the amount of damages is reduced by that amount. In other words, if the plaintiff’s bite happened when the victim was teasing or hurting the animal, the plaintiff may have contributed to that bite.
Similarly, if a third party’s “fault or negligence caused or contributed to the damages,” the dog’s owner may pursue recovery from the third party of that proportion of the damages assessed against the owner.
For DOLA purposes, a dog owner also includes anyone who “possesses or harbours” a dog and when a minor owns the animal, the minor’s legal custodian is considered the owner. If the dog has more than one owner, each owner is “jointly and severally liable,” meaning each is individually responsible for the entire amount of damages.
DOLA also provides standards for the court to order an owner to restrict a dog or even for a dog to be euthanized. The law also restricts greatly the ownership of pit bulls in the province. Local or municipal laws often also cover areas of dog-owner responsibility and animal control.
Anyone Ontarian harmed by a dog should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible to understand how DOLA might provide a legal remedy.
The lawyers at the Ottawa, Ontario, law firm of Quinn Thiele Mineault Grodzki LLP represent injured victims of dog bites throughout the Ottawa Valley to recover damages in dog bite claims.