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Attacked by a Dog? What You Need to Know About Dog Bite Liability in Ontario


The Dog Owners’ Liability Act spells out dog bite liability in Ontario. The Act, established in R.S.O. 1990, Chapter D.16, provides you the right to seek financial restitution in the event you are attacked and injured by another person’s dog.

The law does, however, provide some exceptions to the owner’s liability. These include in cases where you may have played a role in your own injuries. Below are some of the most common questions victims have about their rights after a dog bite or attack.

Who is liable for the dog bite?

The Act assigns liability to the owner for all damages resulting from a bite or attack. This includes injuries to both humans and domestic animals. For example, you may seek damages if you were out walking your dog in a public space and a stranger’s dog attacked both you and your dog.

What if the owner didn’t know the dog was so aggressive?

The owner retains liability for the attack even if he or she was unaware of the dog’s capacity for aggression. This means the dog’s owner may be held liable even if this was the first time the dog attacked or bit a person or domestic animal.

Are there any circumstances where a dog’s owner may avoid liability?

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The court may reduce your damages if the defendant can prove your actions contributed to the attack. For example, your final compensation may be reduced if the owner can prove you were provoking the dog at the time of the attack. The court will reduce your damages in direct proportion to the degree to which it finds you to be at fault for the attack.

The owner is not liable in cases where a person enters a property for the purpose of committing a criminal act. This means you cannot collect damages if the dog’s owner can prove you were trespassing on private property or engaged in theft or vandalism at the time of the attack. This applies except in cases where the court finds the keeping of a dog to be “unreasonable.”

What happens if there were multiple owners?

The Act provides that all owners will he held jointly and severally liable in cases where more than one party is identified as the dog’s owner. This means you can seek full damages from any one party (owner). In turn, that defendant can pursue applicable damages from other liable owners.

What should I do immediately after a dog bite?

To best protect your health and right to compensation, follow these steps immediately after a dog bite:

  • seek prompt medical attention – dog bites carry great risk for infection.
  • report the bite to the Toronto Animal Service by calling 416-338-7297.
  • identify the owner of the dog – this is crucial for establishing liability.
  • collect and preserve evidence of the attack – this includes photos of injuries and proof of the dog’s ownership.

A personal injury lawyer may be able to assist you in proving ownership and liability in the pursuit of fair damages. Call the Preszler Injury Lawyers in Ontario to schedule a free case evaluation: 1-800-JUSTICE®.

 
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