Dog bites and Dangerous Dog Appeals

By Suzana Gartner & Daniel Fin

For thousands of years, dogs have been considered as man’s best friend as they provide lots of affection and love for their families. Although they are a large source of happiness for many, they can be a huge responsibility. In fact, sometimes they can cause a lot of frustration for their legal human owners/guardians when they bite another human or domestic animal. In some extreme cases, dogs have caused permanent physical and emotional damage and even caused the death of another domestic animal.

The best strategy is to pre-emptively prevent your dog from biting in the first place by understanding their behaviour and triggers. However, sometimes this is not possible. In Ontario, dog bites are governed by the Dog Owners’ Liability Act (“DOLA”). It dictates that when a dog attacks or bites another person or domestic animal, the owner of the biting-dog is strictly liable. A strict liability offence does not consider the fault of the individual, in this case the dog-owner. In other words, it does not matter whether the owner was negligent or even whether the owner had knowledge of their dog’s predisposition to biting. A dog owner in Ontario is held liable under DOLA if their dog bites or attacks another person or domestic animal.

When a dog bites, there is a possibility of two concurrent proceedings against the dog-owner. One may arise by the municipality (city). Another may arise by the alleged victim of the bite or attack. There is the possibility that these legal suits result in dangerous dog orders which specify mandatory conditions to be followed by the owner of the dog who allegedly bit the victim or the victim’s domestic animal. A typical condition that may be required from a dangerous dog order is a mandatory muzzle requirement which specifies that while the dog is in public or anywhere off the owner’s property, the dog must wear a muzzle. In some cases, the alleged biting or attacking-dog is seized pending the completion of proceedings and kept from their loving family. Also, in some situations, particularly against specific dog breeds, the city may order the destruction of the biting-dog which results in the dog being put down.

It is advisable that a dog owner whose dog has bit or attacked another person or domestic animal contact a lawyer who specializes in dog bite cases. Hiring an animal lawyer with experience in this field can improve the chances of settling out of court without the need of resorting to litigation if the case can settle out of court. The team at Gartner & Associates Animal Law strongly oppose breed specific legislation and destruction orders and has successfully defended many dog owners and their dogs against seizure and from destruction orders under the DOLA.

The DOLA is strict in terms of dog owner responsibility. It specifies that dog owners must take reasonable precautions to prevent their dog from biting or attacking other individuals or domestic animals. Some precautions involve the following: fencing yards, leashing dogs while outside the property, and putting their dog through training classes. Under the DOLA, if it is determined that the dog owner did not exercise reasonable precautions, they will likely be held liable and be required to pay large fines by the city and pay the opposing side in monetary damages. Although a strict liability offence, contributory negligence plays a role the victim may have very well contributed to their own injuries by acting in an unreasonable manner. The courts will recognize unreasonable behaviour on behalf of an alleged victim as a mitigating factor when assessing damages to be paid by the alleged attacking-dog’s owner. If a dog owner believes that the alleged victim was acting unreasonable, it is advisable for them to contact an animal lawyer who specializes in dog bite cases. In some situations, it is impossible to determine that a dog bit the victim when there were two or more dogs involved. Contacting a lawyer who specializes in animal law and specializes in dog bite cases maximizes protection for dog owners and their dogs. The lawyers at Gartner & Associates have successfully rescinded many dangerous dog orders under the DOLA.

To find out more about dog bites and learn more about the law surrounding them, you can contact Gartner & Associates can answer your legal questions. They can be reached at (416) 836-9971 or by email at reception@animallawyers.ca. With many years of experience specializing in dog bites, the staff at Gartner & Associates have successfully represented many clients whose dogs have been accused of biting under the DOLA.

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