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Dogs are most often docile, friendly creatures. However, sometimes a defensive, scared, or poorly trained dog may attack. It is important to know what to do if you’ve been attacked by a dog.

Immediate Actions to Take

If you are out in public and have been attacked or bitten by a dog, the first step is to try to de-escalate the situation to avoid further injury. Try to stay calm, and slowly back away from the animal. If you have serious injuries or are bleeding, and someone else is around, let them know that you need help. If someone has witnessed the attack, politely ask if you may have their contact information. Ask them if they would be kind enough to record the details of what they saw.

If the owner is with the dog, seek the person’s name and contact information. If they refuse to provide this, record as many details as you can about the person’s and dog’s identity. It may be wise to take photographs. If the dog is loose, without an owner, again, try to take photographs and record any identifying characteristics.

If you’ve been injured by a dog, you should let your local Humane Society, the police, or both, know about the incident. Depending on where you live, the easiest course of action is typically to call the police and ask for advice about who should be notified. For example, in Toronto, the police will likely advise you to contact Toronto Animal Services and/or Toronto Public Health, who may ask you to file a report or provide information about the incident. The police may want to charge or fine the owner or make an order that the animal is quarantined or muzzled for a period of time, in the interest of public safety.

Who Can be Held Liable?

According to the Dog Owner’s Liability Act, a dog owner is liable for damages caused by his or her dog, even if that owner isn’t negligent or at fault for causing the dog to attack or bite, and even if the dog has never shown any violent tendencies in the past. However, the liability of an owner will be reduced by any amount that you are found at fault for causing or contributing to your damages. If a dog owner owns a house, the owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy will often provide coverage for damages caused by dogs or other pets. If a dog owner has no homeowner’s insurance and otherwise has few assets, it may not make sense to bring a civil claim.

Reporting the incident to the police may also result in charges being laid against the owner under Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA) and/or the Provincial Offences Act (POA). According to the DOLA, the police may choose to lay charges against an owner of a dog where:

  • The dog has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal;
  • The dog has behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals; or
  • The owner did not exercise reasonable precautions to prevent the dog from either (i) biting or attacking a person or domestic animal, or (ii) behaving in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals.

Under the DOLA and the POA, the Ontario Court of Justice may order that the dog be put down, or alternatively, that measures be taken to protect the public, including:

  • Confining the dog to its owner’s property.
  • Restraining the dog by means of a leash.
  • Restraining the dog by means of a muzzle.
  • Posting warning signs.

The owner may also be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 per offense.

How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help?

If you have been bitten by a dog and want to understand whether compensation may be available to you, speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer. A lawyer can walk you through your case, advise you on the likelihood of collecting compensation, and prepare the documents necessary to commence a civil claim. Additionally, a lawyer may help you effectively communicate with the police and have charges laid against the owner. A conviction can help provide the groundwork for a successful civil claim.

Like in another personal injury case, you may seek damages for pain and suffering, any loss of income as a result of missing work due to your injuries, and expenses associated with necessary medical treatments. Your lawyer can help you explore the facts of your case and determine the best avenue by which to seek compensation for your injuries, if possible.

Get Help from Miskin Law, Personal Injury Lawyers of Peterborough and Whitby

The lawyers of Miskin Law deals with all kinds of personal injury law claims, including dog attacks or bites. Our law offices are in Peterborough and Whitby and we also serve clients in Toronto. If you have been injured, contact our personal injury lawyers.

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