“Beware of Dog” – Liability for Dog Attacks in Ontario and What You Need to Know


Dogs can be incredible pets. Fun-loving, loyal, and cute, it is no wonder that dogs are often described as “man’s best friend” and as members of the family by their human companions.

Unfortunately, not all dogs are well-trained and socialized. Some dogs are subjected to abuse and neglect. Whatever the catalyst may be, dog attacks are a reality in Ontario.

Injuries from dog attacks can be severe. This is particularly true when young children are involved, as they can more easily be overpowered and pinned down by a dog. However, the injuries from dog attacks are not just physical in nature. Victims of dog attacks commonly suffer from psychological injuries as well, such as PTSD and a fear of dogs. As dogs are ubiquitous in society, the psychological injuries from dog attacks can significantly interfere with one’s quality of life.

In Ontario, liability for dog attacks is governed by the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. D. 16. This legislation implements a strict liability regime for dog attacks in Ontario. That is to say, a dog owner will be liable for the injuries caused by his or her dog, without the injured person needing to prove that the owner was negligent or had knowledge of the dog’s propensity to attack (although, in some cases, compensation can be reduced if the victim of the dog attack is shown to have provoked the dog or otherwise found to have been contributorily negligent).

If you have been attacked by a dog, here are some useful steps to take afterwards.

  • Seek medical attention.
    Your health should always be your top priority.
  • Report the dog attack
    Report the attack to your local animal services department. Don’t delay! The longer you wait, the more likely it is that your memory will fade. Include as much detail as possible in your report, such as the time and date on which the dog attack occurred, the location of the attack, a description of the dog (e.g. color and breed).
  • Identify the dog owner and get their contact information
    Also make note of the dog owner’s home insurer (or rental insurer, as applicable). In Ontario, a home owner’s insurance policy will typically respond to dog attack personal injury claims.
  • Gather evidence
    Photos of your injuries, records from any hospital or doctor visits, and witness statements will be very useful to your personal injury action, should you wish to commence one. Similarly, keep detailed notes of your injuries and your recovery trajectory, as well as records of the out-of-pocket expenses you incur and time you miss from work as a result of the dog attack. If possible, gather proof of the dog’s ownership.
  • Contact a Personal Injury lawyer
    If you are unsure if you want to commence a personal injury lawsuit, talking to a lawyer is an important step that should not be forgotten. Speaking with a lawyer will educate you about your rights following a dog attack, which is important information to know regardless of your chosen approach. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the sooner he or she can start working on your claim if you do opt to litigate. Delays can be costly. Generally speaking, individuals have two years from the date of a dog attack to start a lawsuit. Waiting longer than this could potentially bar your claim.

Many victims of dog attacks like dogs, and are worried that by starting a lawsuit, the dog might be put down. Take comfort in knowing that whether or not a dog will be put down is determined by a separate proceeding from your personal injury action.

If you have been attacked by a dog, contact our team at Jasmine Daya & Co. We will meet with you to discuss the details of your case in a free consultation and give you an honest assessment of your legal options. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means that we will not be paid until you case has been resolved. Call us at 416-967-9100 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.