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Ontario Dog Attacks: Who is Responsible?

When people think about dogs, the phrase “Man’s best friend,” often comes to mind. Dogs provide seemingly unconditional love to their owners. They can be loyal companions, beloved pets, and indeed a member of the family in more than 7 million Canadian households.

But just like humans, even the most mild-mannered canine can occasionally act out and misbehave. If a dog’s behaviour becomes violent, both adults and children could be seriously harmed. When dogs bite, maul, or otherwise attack humans, the physical and emotional scars can be long-lasting, and even permanent.

According to the Canadian Animal Health Institute, more than half a million dog bites occur across the country each year. However, since the beginning of the pandemic, with many families finding themselves spending more time at home in close quarters with their pets, communities across North America have been reporting significantly increased incidents of dog bites.

Dogs have distinct personalities. Like people, some dogs are more introverted than others, and require space to themselves to reduce their levels of anxiety. Dogs that are used to being left to their own devices during the day may have difficulty coping with the “new normal” of owners working from home and children attending school online, all under the same roof. Additionally, dogs have a tendency to mirror or adopt the emotions and behaviours of those people closest to them. If dogs are constantly exposed to their owners’ stress and anxiety throughout the day, they may start exhibiting warning signs of aggressive behaviour to come.

Understanding why dogs may act out towards others is an important step in preventing injuries to other people. While many humane societies confirm that the increased number of dog bite cases is mostly affecting members of the dog’s household, anyone who comes into contact with a potentially aggressive animal is at risk of injury. Postal workers are especially at risk. In fact, Canada Post employees alone suffer approximately 500 dog bite injuries each year, and case numbers are rising. Out of those incidents, approximately 150 lead to serious, even debilitating injuries.

When dogs attack, the results can be fatal. They can also lead to physical injuries, infections, and psychological trauma. Serious injuries that can be sustained in dog attacks include:

  • Scarring
  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Muscular damage
  • Rabies
  • Tetanus
  • Sepsis
  • Endocarditis
  • Meningitis
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • And more

According to Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act, if a dog bites or otherwise attacks another person, the dog’s owner will be strictly liable for resulting damages. If the dog has more than one owner, the owners share responsibility.

That said, ownership may not be limited to the person or people whose names are on the dog’s license. In the legal sense, “owner” refers to the person who had physical possession and control over a dog the moment before it attacked another person. For example, if a hired dog-walker is in control of a dog’s leash and the dog bites a passerby, the dog-walker who failed to prevent the attack may be considered liable for damages resulting from the bite.

This rule applies even if the dog in question has no history of biting. Regardless of the dog’s usual temperament, if a pet causes another person to sustain injuries, its owners may be liable for damages. Even if a dog’s owners had no knowledge of their dog’s propensity for aggressive or violent behaviour, they may still be required to provide financial compensation to the injured party for resulting physical and psychological damages.

If you have been injured by another person’s dog, an Ontario dog bite lawyer may be able to help you recover financial compensation for damages you have incurred or will incur in the future as a result of your attack.

Steps to Take After a Being Attacked by a Dog

Dog attacks can be traumatic experiences, especially if the incident was unprovoked. People who were bitten or attacked by dogs may be in a state of shock in the moments following the violent episode and may not know just what to do next. In the event of a dog attack, taking certain immediate actions could help prevent further injury and benefit future legal action against the dog’s owners. These actions include:

  • Call 911 and seek emergency medical attention if required.
  • Inform the police about the attack as soon as possible.
  • Clean or wash any wounds sustained to the best of your ability.
  • Obtain the name and contact information for the dog’s owners.
  • Inquire about the dog’s history of immunization against rabies.
  • If any bystanders witnessed the attack, request their names and contact information.
  • Take photos of your injuries before leaving the accident scene.
  • If possible, record video or take photos of the dog and the accident location.
  • If you are not able to take a photo of the dog, take written notes about its physical description while the details are still fresh in your mind.
  • Record written notes about the date, time, address, and other circumstances of the attack.
  • Seek medical treatment against rabies and other possible infections.
  • Book a consultation with an Ontario dog bite lawyer to discuss legal options that may be available to you.

Dog Bite Prevention Tips

If it can be proven that the victims of a dog attack provoked the animal before they were bitten, in accordance with the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, the amount of damages to which they will be entitled may be reduced. Actions that provoke a dog, leading it to bite or act aggressively, may be considered contributory negligence, and can have a significant impact on an attack victim’s claim.

People should act cautiously around unfamiliar dogs. In fact, the safest course of action is to avoid coming into contact with dogs you don’t know. Even if the dog is on a leash while passing you on a sidewalk, consider stepping onto a driveway or crossing the street to avoid making contact.

If you have made unavoidable contact with a stranger’s dog and are unsure whether or not it is friendly, according to the Ontario Humane Society, the best course of action is to stand still and avoid eye contact. Running away from the dog might make matters worse.

If an unfamiliar dog attacks you, try placing any object you can between yourself and the dog’s teeth. Use a purse, backpack, jacket, stick, or any other object you have handy. Doing so may help prevent serious injuries and distract the aggressive dog long enough for you to call for help.

What Damages May Be Available to Dog Attack Victims?

Depending on the severity of injuries sustained in a dog attack, victims may face substantial challenges — physically, psychologically, and financially.

Physical injuries sustained in a dog attack can lead to disfigurement, infection, and debilitating medical conditions. People who were bitten by violent dogs often develop lasting psychological damage, including PTSD and permanent fears; overcoming the trauma may require ongoing psychological treatment. Furthermore, the substantial cost of medical treatments for physical and mental conditions sustained by the victims of dog attacks can cause financial distress. If the victim has sustained a debilitating condition, they may no longer be able to work as a result of their injuries, leading to even greater financial uncertainty.

With the assistance of an Ontario dog bite lawyer, victims may be able to recover compensation for damages they have incurred or will incur as a result of injuries they sustained in the attack. By filing a lawsuit against the dog’s owners, a lawyer may be able to help injured victims recover costs for the following damages:

  • Medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Ongoing medical care/in-home care
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Adjusted living expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • And possibly more

Contact Preszler Injury Lawyers Today

If you were injured in a dog attack, you may be eligible to recover financial compensation from the animal’s owners to reimburse you for damages you incurred. To discuss the circumstances of the attack and learn if you are eligible to pursue damages, contact us today.

For a free initial consultation, call Preszler Injury Lawyers today at 1-800-JUSTICE.

Call us now at

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M4R 1A6
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L7L 4X6
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N6A 5B5
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L5N 6A6
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Ottawa ON
K2P 0C2
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