The days are getting longer and spring is on the way. But springtime comes with safety challenges and risk of personal injury. Part 2 of our Springtime Safety Series focuses on dog attacks and bites.
As the weather improves in spring, more people like to take their dogs outdoors. And while we picture happy dogs with wagging tails, the reality is that more dogs out in the spring often leads to increased dog bites and attacks, or even being knocked down by an excited dog.
Dog bites and attacks may result in permanent physical and psychological harm, including scarring and risk of infection. Some dog attacks may even prove fatal. Here are some interesting statistics:
- The Humane Society of Canada estimates that someone suffers a dog bite in Canada every 60 seconds.
- A study by the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine concluded that dog bites account for “more injury-related emergency department visits than injuries associated with playgrounds, all-terrain vehicles, rollerblading or skateboards”.
The majority of dog bite incidents involve children.
In dog bite cases in Ontario, the law places “strict liability” for a dog’s actions on the owner. According to the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, all damages and injuries are the legal and financial responsibility of the owner. An owner of a dog may be liable for an attack even if the dog did not previously show a propensity to attack people.
This strict liability also applies to anyone who “harbours” a dog. A person who is not the owner may be found to be harbouring a dog if they are in physical possession and control over a dog just before a bite or attack. For example, family members, friends or even dog sitters or walkers can be seen as harbouring the dog if they were in control of the dog at the time of an attack.
Victims can sue the dog owner(s) for compensation for physical and emotional suffering, housekeeping and home maintenance assistance, medical treatment and rehabilitation, income loss and out-of-pocket expenses.
If the dog owner is a homeowner, most standard home insurance policies include “third party liability” coverage which means that the insurance company will likely respond to a claim if the homeowner’s dog harms someone.
As a dog owner, it is important to understand your home insurance policy coverage. If your dog does harm someone, it is important that you notify your insurance company immediately.
If you are injured by a dog, seek immediate medical attention to ensure you have not contracted any disease. The incident should be reported to your municipal Animal Control Services Department. It is also important to obtain the name and contact information of the owner and any witness information, as well as take photographs of the injury and of the dog itself.
So get out there and enjoy your springtime walk. Just remember that dog owners must be aware of their responsibilities and dog victims should be mindful of their legal rights in the event that such a bite or attack happens to them or a loved one.
 Wilk v. Arbour, 2017 ONCA 21