Dog Owner’s Liability

Dog Owner’s Liability

Simply put, the owner of a dog is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack by the dog on another person or domestic animal. Where there is more than one owner of a dog, they are jointly and severally liable.

The Province of Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA) is a piece of legislation in relation to dogs, including pit bulls, intended to increase public safety.

If a dog owner is found guilty of an offense under DOLA, a court could issue a control order, fine, or a destruction order for the dog.

A proceeding may be commenced in the Ontario Court of Justice against an owner of a dog if it is alleged that,

(a) the dog has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal;

(b) the dog has behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals; or

(c) the owner did not exercise reasonable precautions to prevent the dog from,

(i) biting or attacking a person or domestic animal, or

(ii) behaving in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals.

The extent of liability of the owner does not depend upon knowledge of the propensity of the dog or fault or negligence on the part of the owner, but the Ontario court shall reduce the damages awarded in proportion to the degree, if any, to which the fault or negligence of the injured person caused or contributed to the damages.

Where a person is on-premises with the intention of committing, a criminal act on the premises and incurs damage caused by being bitten or attacked by a dog, the owner is not liable, unless the keeping of the dog on the premises was unreasonable for the purpose of the protection of persons or property.

If your dog is continuously barking or whining and disturbing your neighbours, you can be charged under the Noise Bylaw. The City of Toronto’s noise bylaw prohibits persistent barking, whining, or other animal-related noise in a residential area. If the dog owner does not fix the issue, officers can issue notices of violation, written warnings, and may lay charges.

Every owner of a dog is required to exercise reasonable precautions to prevent their dog from engaging in a dangerous act. A dangerous act is defined as any bite, attack, act of menacing behaviour, or any combination of a bite, attack.

Steps to take if you have been bitten by a dog:

If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, report the bite or attack to Toronto Public Health (416-338-7600) and Toronto Animal Services (311) as soon as possible. In the event that you had to be transported to the hospital, the bite or attack should be reported to Toronto Public Health and Toronto Animal Services as soon as possible after treatment is complete.

If a dog bites or attacks you and breaks the skin:

  • Seek medical attention (call 911 if serious).
  • Obtain the dog owner’s name and address.
  • Obtain information about anyone who witnessed the bite.
  • Immediately wash the bite or wound with soap and water for at least 15 minutes.
  • Apply an antiseptic to the wound, if available.
  • Take a clear photo of the bite injury – document the date and time of the photo.
  • As soon as practical in your own handwriting, make clear concise notes on the date, time, and location where the bite occurred, what happened, and a clear description of the dog.
  • Approach a store/home/Ministry of Transportation/business that may have had a video camera which may have recorded the dog attack and ask for a copy of the video.

If a dog attacks or menaces you, but does not break the skin:

It is not necessary to contact Toronto Public Health. However, the dog may still have committed a dangerous act, defined as any bite, attack, act of menacing behaviour, or combination of the above. Call 311 and provide:

  • a clear description of dog (if possible)
  • dog owner’s name and address
  • date, time, and location where the incident occurred
  • witness information, if possible

If your pet has been bitten or attacked by a dog, report the bite or attack to Toronto Animal Services (311) as soon as possible.

If you are the owner of a dog that has bitten:

  • Leash your dog and isolate it from causing further threats.
  • Provide your contact information to the person who was bitten.
  • Make clear, concise notes of the incident in your own handwriting.
  • If the person’s skin has been broken, isolate your dog until contacted by Public Health.
  • If necessary, consult an expert about your dog’s behaviour.

Depending on the details of the incident, Toronto Public Health may:

  • initiate an investigation within 24 hours
  • assist the healthcare provider in assessing the level of risk associated with the exposure
  • provide rabies vaccine upon request of the healthcare provider
  • confine the dog for a 10-day observation period, usually at home with their owner
  • ensure the dog is up-to-date for their rabies vaccination, which is required by law in Ontario

Once Toronto Animal Services receives information about a dog that has committed a dangerous act, the following happens:

  • If the dog is still on the loose, an officer will respond within two hours.
  • If the dog is with the owner and under control, an officer will respond within 24 hours.

Toronto Animal Services’ staff will walk you through the process after you’ve had a negative encounter with a dog. An officer will:

  • investigate the incident
  • interview the victim, dog owner, and any witnesses
  • request the victim and any witness prepare a written statement detailing the incident
  • request medical documentation (if applicable)
  • take photographs
  • collect any other evidence pertaining to the incident.

If it is determined that the dog committed a dangerous act, one of the following actions will be taken:

  • A written warning will be issued when the dangerous act is the first on record with the City and the dangerous act is not found to be severe.
  • A dangerous dog order will be issued when the dangerous act is found to be severe or was the second or subsequent dangerous act on record with the City.

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, please contact JEWELL RADIMISIS JORGE LL.P for a free initial consultation.

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