Dog Bites and Attacks

At Grigoras Law, we understand that interactions between humans and dogs can sometimes lead to unfortunate incidents. Whether you are a victim of a dog bite or attack, or a dog owner defending against such allegations, we are here to offer expert legal counsel and representation.

What are Dog Bite and Attack Claims?

Dog bite and attack claims involve situations where a person has suffered harm as a result of a dog’s bite or attack. The legal landscape governing these claims in Canada is complex, involving a mix of common law, provincial, and municipal legislation. The extent of the owner’s liability often depends on the specific circumstances of the case and the laws applicable in the region where the incident occurred.

How We Can Help

Our team at Grigoras Law has broad expertise in navigating this intricate legal framework. We represent both plaintiffs alleging a dog bite or attack, and defendants who are dog owners facing such allegations. Our approach is to thoroughly analyze all relevant details of the incident, assess the applicable laws, and craft a robust legal strategy tailored to the specific needs of our clients.

We understand the significance of terms such as “owner” and “guardian” in the context of these cases. While these terms may seem interchangeable, their legal implications can greatly influence the outcome of a case. Similarly, we are mindful of the various laws that can apply to dogs, ranging from common law and legislative approaches to animal control laws and municipal bylaws.

In cases involving “dangerous” dogs, we take into account provincial and territorial legislation on animal liability, and specific laws relating to dog bites and attacks. These laws cover a wide array of issues, including licensing, noise control, leash laws, impounding, and provisions for aggressive or dangerous dogs.

Dog Owners Liability Act (DOLA)

Our team possesses in-depth understanding of the Dog Owners Liability Act (DOLA) and its courtroom applications. Under DOLA, dog owners face strict liability for dog bites or attacks, barring few exceptions. This expertise enables us to effectively represent both claimants and defendants, ensuring everyone’s rights are duly protected.

Against Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)

We challenge laws that unfairly stereotype certain dog breeds as inherently dangerous. Instead, we firmly believe in focusing on individual dog behaviour and owner responsibility.

Compassionate Legal Representation

Grigoras Law believes in the inherent value of every life, both human and animal. Our representation in dog bite and attack cases is built on this foundational belief. If you or a loved one are involved in such a case, we promise to fight diligently on your behalf, aiming for the best possible outcome, while ensuring that all parties involved are treated fairly and compassionously.

FAQ

Disclaimer: The answers provided in this FAQ section are general in nature and should not be relied upon as formal legal advice. Each individual case is unique, and a separate analysis is required to address specific context and fact situations. For comprehensive guidance tailored to your situation, we welcome you to contact our expert team.

Based on the information provided, it seems like there could be potential for a claim under the Occupier’s Liability Act in Ontario. (Note that s. 3(1) of the Dog Owners’ Liability Act (“DOLA”) doesn’t apply to a property owner who is not the owner of the dog as the term “owner” is defined under DOLA.) The Occupier’s Liability Act suggests that the occupier of premises, in this case the person who threw the party, owes a duty of care to ensure the safety of all persons on their premises. However, a few factors would come into play when determining if the host of the party could indeed be sued for a dog bite inflicted by another guest’s dog.

The key elements for establishing liability under the Occupier’s Liability Act are:

  1. The existence of a duty of care: According to the Occupier’s Liability Act, there is an expectation for the host of the party to take reasonable care to ensure that people and their property are safe while on their premises. The host is therefore expected to foresee potential dangers and take appropriate measures to prevent harm.

  2. Breach of that duty: The host would have to have acted (or failed to act) in a way that breached their duty of care. If it can be shown that the host knew the guest’s dog posed a risk and failed to take steps to ensure the safety of the guests, then there might be a case.

  3. Causation: The breach of duty must have caused the harm. In this case, it would need to be proven that the host’s negligence directly led to the dog bite incident.

  4. Damage or injury: You would need to show that you suffered damage or injury as a result of the dog bite.

It’s also important to note the Act’s provisions related to “risks willingly assumed.” If it is found that the person bitten knowingly accepted the risk of interacting with the dog, it might limit the liability of the occupier. The occupier, however, still owes a duty not to act with reckless disregard for the presence of the person or his or her property.

Boiling it down to the essentials, while you might be able to sue the owner of the property where the party was held, this largely depends on the specific circumstances of the case. The critical issue would be whether the host knew that the dog was likely to pose a risk and whether they took reasonable steps to prevent the incident. It’s recommended to consult with a legal professional to discuss the details of the situation and to get appropriate advice.

Yes, pit bulls have been banned in Ontario since 2005 due to a provision under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA), which is a provincial statute. This ban affects the breeding, sale, and ownership of pit bull dogs. The term “pit bull” is a somewhat nebulous term generally applied to muscular, square-headed, short-haired bull breed type dogs. Various other cities in Canada also implement similar bans, stemming from a belief that these dogs are inherently dangerous.

However, there is a strong ongoing movement to overturn the Ontario pit bull ban. This includes a private member’s bill introduced into parliament in 2019 with the aim of amending breed-specific legislation (BSL) to focus on the behaviour of the dog owner, rather than stigmatizing a specific breed. The bill, having passed its second reading, proposes creating breed-neutral, owner-specific legislation. If this bill becomes law, the focus will shift from the breed of the dog to the behaviour of the owner, thus creating safer and more humane communities.

Despite the ban, there have been attempts to challenge it on constitutional grounds. For instance, Cochrane v. Ontario was a case brought forward by an owner of a restricted pit bull named Chess. The plaintiff argued that the ban was grossly disproportionate to the actual risk posed by pit bulls to public safety, making it unconstitutionally overbroad. Cochrane also argued that the law failed to provide a clear definition of pit bulls, making it unconstitutionally vague.

Cochrane further challenged a provision of the DOLA that allowed the Crown to use a veterinarian certificate as proof a dog was a pit bull. Cochrane claimed this provision violated the right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence guaranteed by section 11(d) of the Charter. The Court of Appeal disagreed with these claims, stating that the term “a pit bull terrier” was sufficiently precise and that a certificate would only be considered “proof” if left unanswered by the accused.

Ultimately, the court upheld the pit bull ban, ruling that it did not violate Charter rights. Cochrane’s request for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was denied a year later.

It’s essential to note that despite these legal rulings, many argue that Breed Specific Legislation is an ineffective solution and should be replaced with owner-specific legislation, emphasizing responsible pet ownership instead of banning specific breeds.

The term “harbour” in the context of the Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA) refers to the concept of providing refuge or shelter to a dog. However, it goes beyond mere provision of a physical location or space for the dog to stay. The idea of “harbouring” a dog encompasses a degree of control over the dog or, to put it differently, being in a position of an “owner.”

As per Section 2(1) of the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, an “owner” of a dog includes a person who possesses or harbours the dog. Therefore, even if you are not the legal owner of the dog, but you harbour the dog, you may be held liable for damages if that dog bites or attacks another person or domestic animal. But, what constitutes “harbouring” a dog isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.

To understand this in depth, we can look at the case of Purcell v. Taylor. In this case, the dog’s owner had arranged for his dog to stay at his brother’s home while he was working in the area. When the brother was away, the dog’s owner moved into the home and his dog bit a person on the opposite side of the street. The bitten person filed a case against the homeowners, arguing they should be held liable under the DOLA.

However, the judge in the case ruled that the homeowners did not “harbour” the dog, despite the dog’s presence in their home, because they did not exercise control over the dog. The dog was frequently at their home and they even provided a dog-run facility for it, but they were not in a position where they could direct or regulate the dog’s actions.

The judge’s decision indicates that in order to harbour a dog under the DOLA, a person must do more than merely provide a space for the dog to stay. They must also exercise control over the dog, essentially placing them in the position of the dog’s owner. In the absence of such control, a person cannot be deemed to “harbour” the dog and hence, cannot be held liable under the DOLA for any damage caused by the dog.

Strict liability is a legal concept in which a person is held responsible for the damages or harm caused by their actions, irrespective of their intent or level of care. This standard deviates from other areas of the law where a party’s negligence or intent has to be proven to establish liability. In a strict liability context, the focus is on the action and the resulting damage, not the care taken or precautions implemented by the individual.

When it comes to dog bites and attacks in Ontario, strict liability applies. This means that if a dog bites or attacks another person or domestic animal, the owner can be held legally responsible for that harm, regardless of whether the owner knew the dog could be dangerous or whether the owner took steps to prevent the dog from causing harm.

A case that exemplifies this is Kent (Litigation guardian of) v. Laverdiere, where a mother and child were severely mauled by the defendant’s nine mastiffs. Despite evidence showing the dogs’ general obedience and lack of prior aggressive behaviour, the judge applied the strict liability principle. It was irrelevant how well-behaved the dogs usually were or whether they had displayed aggression before. Because the dogs had caused harm, the owner was held strictly liable for the injuries suffered by the mother and child.

In essence, strict liability is a stringent legal standard designed to protect the public from inherently dangerous actions or possessions. It is applied in cases where the potential risk associated with an activity or possession, such as owning a dog, is deemed significant enough that the owner should bear complete legal responsibility for any harm caused.

The Dog Owners Liability Act, or DOLA, provides specific guidance on the matter of dog bite liability in cases of trespassing. According to Section 3(2) of the DOLA, if a person is trespassing on your property with the intent to commit a criminal act, or in the process of committing a criminal act, and they are bitten or attacked by your dog, you as the dog owner are generally not liable for the damages caused by your dog’s actions.

This is because the law considers the use of a dog for the protection of property and persons to be reasonable under such circumstances. However, there’s an important exception to this rule. If the court finds that keeping the dog on the premises was unreasonable for the purpose of protecting persons or property, then the owner can still be held liable.

This could include situations where the dog is particularly vicious or has been trained to attack, and the owner fails to take reasonable precautions to prevent such an attack, such as securing the dog when strangers are present.

It’s important to note that DOLA generally places strict liability on dog owners for damage caused by their dogs. This means that a dog owner could be held responsible for a dog bite even if they weren’t negligent and didn’t know that the dog would behave aggressively. The exception regarding trespassers intending to commit or committing a crime is quite specific and doesn’t absolve a dog owner from liability in other circumstances.

Lastly, the mere fact of trespassing doesn’t trigger this exception. The trespasser must be intending to commit or be in the act of committing a criminal act. If a person were merely trespassing without the intent to commit another crime and they were bitten, the owner could still be liable.

However, legal interpretations can vary, and each case can have unique circumstances. Therefore, it’s crucial to consult with a legal expert to understand the specifics of your situation. This answer should not be taken as legal advice but rather as a general explanation based on the provisions of DOLA. Legal situations can vary greatly and it’s always recommended to consult with a qualified legal professional for advice pertaining to your particular circumstances.

Yes, one recent case that could provide insight into damage awards in dog bite incidents is the Constantinou v. Stannard case out of Newmarket.  

In this case, the plaintiff sought damages for injuries sustained due to a dog bite. The incident occurred on December 1, 2016, when the defendant’s large dog bit the plaintiff on her hand and elbow. The plaintiff, a 60-year-old woman working part-time as a personal support worker, claimed that her ability to work was impaired due to the injuries, which included a wound to her hand and a torn rotator cuff. Additionally, the plaintiff’s enjoyment of leisure activities was negatively affected.

After a thorough examination of the presented evidence, the court ruled in favour of the plaintiff. The court found that the plaintiff had no functional limitations with her shoulder prior to the incident, and her rotator cuff injury was indeed caused by the dog bite. The injuries continued to impact the functionality of the plaintiff’s left shoulder and impeded her lifestyle, along with her family and social relationships.

In terms of damages, the court awarded the plaintiff:

  • Non-pecuniary damages: Assessed at $100,000. This type of damage is meant to compensate for pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment in life due to the injuries.

  • Past loss of income: Compensated in a total amount of $59,818. This was to cover the earnings the plaintiff missed out on due to the injury.

  • Future care costs: Awarded $197,712, which included elements like housekeeping assistance up to the age of 75, home maintenance costs, pain management aids, and the future cost of caring for pets.

  • Out-of-pocket expenses: Compensated at $21,036, covering expenses the plaintiff had already paid.

The court made no award for loss of future income as it found no real and substantial possibility that the plaintiff would continue working as a personal support worker after her 65th birthday, considering her physical challenges apart from the injury on her left shoulder.

This case demonstrates the potentially severe financial implications of dog bite incidents. However, each case is unique and the specific circumstances of each situation can greatly influence the amount of damages awarded.

Under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA), the term “owner” is not only limited to the person who is legally registered as the dog’s owner. The definition also extends to any person who possesses or harbours the dog, and if the legal owner is a minor, the person responsible for the custody of the minor is also included.

The interpretation of who is an “owner” can be broad, and various court cases, such as Wilk v. Arbour, have demonstrated this expansiveness. The court in this case ruled that anyone who was in physical possession and control of a dog immediately before it bites or injures another person or animal is considered to be like an owner. Therefore, it’s possible for there to be more than one person considered to be the dog’s owner at any given time.

Moreover, it’s essential to highlight that under section 2(2) of DOLA, if there is more than one owner of a dog, they are deemed to be “jointly and severally” liable. The concept of joint and several liability is a legal principle that allows a party to be held fully responsible for damages even if they are not the sole party at fault. This means that if multiple individuals are considered owners under DOLA, each can be held responsible for the full amount of any damages caused by the dog, regardless of their degree of control or ownership. In a practical sense, a party that has suffered harm could seek full recovery from any one of the owners. It then becomes the responsibility of the owner who paid the damages to seek contributions from the other owners, if any. This principle ensures that a party that suffers harm can recover their losses even if some of the parties involved are unable to pay.

The term “possesses” in this context refers to someone who is in physical possession and control over a dog just before it bites or attacks another person or animal. This is in alignment with the definition provided in Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th edition (2014), and also in line with existing Canadian jurisprudence.

In practical terms, this means that individuals who are in a position where they are controlling or possessing a dog, such as kennel attendants, dog groomers, or dog walkers, might have difficulty in proving negligence on the part of the dog’s legal owner if they are bitten while at work. The reason is that they themselves have a measure of control over the dog they are handling or “possessing.”

A case that illustrates this principle is Medeiros v. Petopia Ltd., where a kennel attendant was bitten on the cheek by a regularly kenneled dog. The court dismissed the case against the dog’s legal owner, finding that there was no reasonable foreseeability of the damage caused, as the dog was not known to be aggressive, and the biting was unexpected. The dog also had no prior history of biting. In making this ruling, the court cited the precedent set by the Court of Appeal in the Wilk case.

Negligence in dog-related incidents typically arises when there is foreseeability of harm and the conduct is deemed unreasonable. According to Weiler J.’s decision in Wilk v. Arbour, the owner of an animal cannot be considered negligent if the animal acts in an unexpected manner and injures someone. The owner must reasonably foresee the danger that could result in damage given the particular characteristics of the animal and the circumstances of the situation.

In conclusion, although you may not be the registered owner of the dog, you could still be held liable for its actions if you are in possession or control of the dog when it bites or attacks. However, proving negligence of the dog’s legal owner requires demonstrating that they could have reasonably foreseen the risk of harm.

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