March 11, 2016Filed Under: Canadian Law

Who’s responsible in a dog attack?

Who’s responsible in a dog attack?

Whether a dog is cute or ferocious depends on your point of view. As a dog owner, it’s hard to believe that anyone could possibly be afraid of such a gentle being. Surely my dog would never hurt anyone. But not everyone sees dogs the same way and behaviour that you understand as friendly or playful may be perceived as aggression by someone who is not so familiar with dogs. And if someone gets hurt because of your dog’s behavior you are going to be held responsible.

Tan dog running in the park.
Photo by Robee via CC BY-ND 2.0

The Dog Owner’s Liability Act makes every owner responsible for the damages their dog causes from a bite or attack. But what is an ‘attack’? And from who’s point of view? If your dog runs up to someone barking, and that person steps back startled and falls and gets injured, this may well be considered an attack. Even if your dog was just going to say hello, and even if your dog never touched the person.

As owners, we need to be sensitive to the fact that others do not always see things the same way we do, nor does everyone understand our dog’s behaviour. Sometimes this means we have to keep them on a leash or otherwise controlled, even if they are not really a threat to anyone. We can also protect both ourselves and others by purchasing tenant’s or homeowners insurance, which usually includes insurance if we, or our pets, are found to be responsible for someone else’s injuries.

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