The Act defines the owner as one who possesses or harbours a dog. If the owner of the dog is a minor, the person responsible for the minor is legally considered to be the dog owner. If you are bitten by a dog, the Ontario Dog Owner’s Act provides for damages payable to you by the dog owner.
What does the Ontario Dog Owners’ Liability Act say about a situation where a dog bites someone? Let’s have a closer look:
1. Liability for Damages Rests with the Dog Owner
If a dog bites a person or a domestic animal, its owner is held liable for damages arising therefrom. If the dog is owned by two or more people, the owners are jointly and individually held liable for damages arising from the bite.
2. Specific Offences Chargeable in Court
The specific charges brought against an offending dog owner include failure to exercise reasonable precaution to keep a dog from attacking or biting people or domestic animals. The other offence that could attract charges in court is a failure to take precautions within reason to prevent a dog from behaving in a manner that threatens the safety of people or domestic animals.
3. The Institution of Proceedings against a Dog Owner
Proceedings can be instituted against a negligent dog owner if a dog bites, attacks, or poses a threat to the safety of a person or a domestic animal. Proceedings could also be instituted if an existing order has been breached.
4. Orders Given Upon Conviction of an Offending Dog Owner
Upon conviction, the owner of the offending dog can be ordered to take certain restrictive measures to control the dog. This could include putting up warning signs, restricting the dog within its owner’s property, or restraining it with a leash and/or muzzle. They could also be prohibited from dog ownership for a specified duration. In extreme cases, the court may order for the destruction of the dog.
5. Penalties for Offences
The Ontario Dog Owners Liability Act provides for punitive penalties for owners of dogs upon conviction by a court of law. These include fines of between $10,000 and $60,000, with the higher amount being charged to corporations, as well as six months’ imprisonment. The court may also order that the owner(s) of the offending dog make restitution to victims, i.e., pay compensatory damages as the court may deem fit.
6. Dog Bite Injuries Incurred Inside an Owner’s Property
If one is bitten within a dog owner’s compound or premises, especially while planning to or committing a criminal offence, the dog owner may not be held responsible for the injuries, unless keeping the dog on the property is adjudged to be unreasonable.
7. Consideration for the Determination of a Dog Bite Case
In determining a dog bite case, a court may consider the dog’s past and present temperament and behaviour. The seriousness of the injuries may also determine a court’s orders. Other considerations include peculiar circumstances that may justify the dog’s action, assurance that a similar attack will not recur, steps taken by the dog owner to prevent similar attacks from happening in the future, the dog’s physical ability to inflict harm, or any other legitimate consideration that the court may deem reasonable.
The Ontario Dog Owner’s Liability Act seeks to ensure dog owners keep a tight leash on their dogs to ensure that they don’t inflict injuries on people and domestic animals by biting or injuring them. And in the event that a dog bites a person or a domestic animal, the Act prescribes penalties that a court may order against an offending dog’s owner. To protect yourself legally in the case of a dog bite, consult with an accident lawyer for their professional expertise.