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Have you ever been out for a walk and encountered an aggressive dog? While we never like to think of it, the reality is that a dog can and, in some cases, may bite. This can be especially true when a dog feels threatened. No stranger to the realities of dog bite injuries, Diamond and Diamond’s own Zev Bergman offers the answers to some of the most common questions you may have regarding dog bites in Canada.
How Common Are Dog Bites in Canada?
While there’s no denying that our four-legged canine friends are adorable, it can be easy to forget that they’re still animals with sharp teeth and powerful jaws. Even the smallest ones can inflict serious injury. Most dog bites occur in the park, on the sidewalk, or in a public place, so it’s important always to exercise caution when dealing with unfamiliar dogs.
According to the most recent Canadian study on dog bites, three-quarters of all dog bites happen to children under the age of 10. This demographic also sees the highest percentage of dog bite-related emergency treatment.
“I’ve been a lawyer for 20 years and a dad for 12. I’ve seen a lot of severe, life-altering dog bites happen to beautiful, happy children. When my daughter was little, there was no way I would let her face near a dog. Now that she’s older, we spend time around dogs, but safety is always a priority,” shares Bergman, partner at Diamond and Diamond.
What to Do If You’ve Been Bitten by a Dog
After a dog has bitten you or a loved one, the shock of the injury might kick in and cloud your judgment. These encounters can be hectic and scary, particularly if the injury is severe, but it’s important to keep a level head and immediately do the following:
- The first thing you should do is collect the identity and personal address of the dog owner. This information can be very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain after the fact, so it’s crucial to get it at the moment. If the dog owner is refusing to give you this information, we recommend calling the police at the scene of the injury. It’s crucial to obtain this information from the get-go because without identifying information, you would not be able to pursue legal action against the owner and receive compensation for your injury.
- Document the event and your injury – either write a note or record a voice note outlining the sequence of events. Take pictures of your injury immediately.
- Seek medical care.
After your injury has been seen by a medical professional, be sure to take the following actions:
- Call a personal injury lawyer to see what your options are.
- Continue to document the progression of your injury with pictures, and notes on pain, mobility, etc.
Can the Injured Party Be Held Liable for Provoking a Dog?
In Ontario, liability around dog bites is set out in the Dog Owners’ Liability Act. The Act states that dog bites fall under the standard of strict liability, meaning that the owner of the dog (or if the dog is in the possession of a minor, the guardian of the said minor) is liable for any injuries resulting from the dog, regardless of whether the owner was aware that the dog had the propensity to bite.
“A person’s dog is their responsibility – always. Even if their dog has never hurt a fly – if the dog snaps and injures someone, the owner is to be held liable,” says Bergman of Diamond and Diamond.
While the owner of the dog is liable in all situations, the damages awarded might be reduced if the injured party is found to have caused or contributed to the damages. For instance, if the injured party hurts a dog, taunts a dog, or takes an action that could reasonably be assumed to provoke a dog, this might result in a reduction in damages.
Dog bites can be serious, and safety around dogs should never be taken lightly. Respecting dogs’ boundaries, paying attention to body language, and always asking a dog’s owner before touching them are important. Teaching children how to play safely and respectfully with dogs is of the utmost importance. A quick warning bite that would be minor for an adult could cause a lifelong injury to a small child.
About Jeremy Diamond
Jeremy Diamond is a lawyer and member of both Ontario and Florida Bars. Jeremy practices in the area of Plaintiff personal injury litigation. Click here to learn more about Jeremy Diamond.