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What is a dog owner's civil responsibility?

Posted by Laura Pearce on 23 January 2017
What is a dog owner's civil responsibility?

If you own a dog you might be surprised to learn that you are automatically considered legally responsible if your dog injures another person whether or not the dog does so unexpectedly or because  it was provoked, and even if you did nothing wrong.

The Ontario Dog Owners' Liability Act imposes "strict liability" on the owner of a dog that bites/attacks a person. "Strict liability" means that the dog owner is legally responsible for the victim's injuries and losses, even if the attack occurred without the dog owner's intention or negligence.

Put another way, the victim of the dog attack does not have to "prove" any wrongdoing. The owner is liable for the attack and any resultant injuries, even if the owner did not do anything negligent to cause the attack; even if the dog attacked "out of the blue", having never acted aggressively before; and even if the victim caused the dog to attack.

Being legally accountable for your dog's attack could result in you being financially responsible to pay the victim's medical bills; cosmetic surgery costs; wound and scar care expenses; psychological counselling fees; and even lost wages if the person needs or needed time off work to recover from the injuries.

If the victim of your dog's attack approached your dog despite your warnings about the dog's tendency to bite, or if the victim continued to bother the dog despite the dog becoming visibly agitated, you will still be held responsible for the attack, but the victim's financial compensation might be reduced to account for his or her fault or negligence.

You will not be held responsible if your dog hurts someone on your property who is committing, or has the intention of committing, a criminal act, unless keeping the dog on your property was unreasonable for the purposes of protecting your property or people on it.

Dog attacks can be both physically and psychologically devastating for victims. If you have been hurt by a dog and want to know what can be done to help you recover, give us a call. Consultations are free.

This article is not a substitute for legal advice. If you have any questions, please contact us at 519-946-4300.

Author: Laura Pearce
Tags: Liability

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