Dog Bites And The Law In Ontario

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If you are bitten by a dog in the province of Ontario, what are your rights and what which remedies are available to you?

Liability: Dog Bites In Ontario

In Ontario, the law with regards to dog bites is governed by Dog Owners' Liability Act (R.S.O. 1990, Chapter D.16) . The Dog Owners' Liability Act, finds that it is the owner or owners of the dog who are liable and this standard of liability is held to a standard of strict liability.
This standard of liability is favourable to the person who is bitten by the dog, since it need only be proved that the dog bite occurred for this standard of strict liability to apply.
In spite of the strict liability imposed by Ontario law with regards to dog bites, the person who was bitten or their guardian at the time of the incident if they are a minor, may be found partially liable or contributorily negligent for the dog bite. How this occurs depends on the set of circumstances under which the dog bite occurred, however some of the more common set of circumstances are a person provoking the dog or the guardian of the minor failing to properly supervise the minor, thus contributing to the occurrence of the dog bite.

What Do I Do If Bitten By A Dog In Ontario

If you are bitten by a dog in Ontario, the first thing you will want to do is to get the name of the dog owner, thus identifying the person at fault for the dog bite incident. While this may seem like a simple task, especially if you are bitten at somebody's home or on their premises, it can prove problematic if you are bitten in a public place and by a dog with whom you are not familiar with.

At any point following the dog bite incident it is appropriate to seek out a lawyer who is experienced with regards to dog bites. To facilitate your claim against a dog owner, it is helpful to provide your lawyer with the name and address of the dog owner, as well as to take pictures of the wounds that you suffered as a result of the dog bite incident.

Who Pays For My Injuries ?

Dog bites are generally covered by the dog owner's home insurance policy and therefore when the dog owner is notified that the victim of the dog bite incident is seeking a claim for damages, they merely need pass the notice letter to their home insurer who will then assign an adjuster to the claim.
It is worth noting that even if the dog bite incident occurs outside of the home, that the dog owner's home insurance policy should still respond to any claims made arising out of a dog bite incident.

Other Remedies

Under the Act, a court can also order an owner to take more control over a biting dog or even get rid of the dog altogether. The consequences for an owner will depend on what the dog has done and on the owner’s conduct or lack thereof. If the court decides that the dog is a menace to the safety of the public, it can order that the dog be destroyed. Or it can allow the dog to remain alive, but order the owner to take more precautions to protect the public from the dog.

Also, the Act contains a very vaguely-worded provision that the court may order the owner of a biting dog to “take the measures specified in the order for the more effective control of the dog or for purposes of public safety.” Because of the vague wording, this means in practice that if a dog has bitten someone, a court can make all sorts of unusual orders in the name of “public safety,” even to the point of declaring the owner ineligible to own a dog for a period of time. In a recent case, R. v. Brenhouse [2004] O.J. No. 4818, the owner of two unruly dogs not only was told that the dogs would have to be destroyed, but that she would be prohibited from owning a dog for five years after that. (The court found her unfit to own a dog, in part, because she had ignored a previous order to take precautions to prevent those dogs from hurting anyone.) The order was upheld on appeal. So it appears that it is sometimes possible to make sure that a negligent dog owner will not buy another, equally uncontrolled dog.

Conclusion

The dog bite laws in Ontario are clear. Owners of dogs who bite will in the overwhelming majority of cases be liable to the victim for damages.

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