In Ontario, the Dog Owners’ Liability Act imposes “strict liability” on dog owners when their dog causes injury to another person or pet, taking away the requirement that the injured party prove negligence. In other words, the injured person need only prove that the dog caused the injury, not that the owner did or failed to do something that caused the injury. This applies whether the injury occurred as a result of a dog bite or a dog attack and applies to injuries caused to people or pets.
There are limits to a dog owner’s responsibility. Any wrongdoing by the injured person will be taken into consideration and can reduce or eliminate the damages payable. Also, persons injured by a dog during the commission of a crime will generally not be able to recover damages.
Strict liability applies to anyone who owns or “harbours” a dog. A person who is not the owner may be found to be “harbouring” a dog if they accept responsibility for its care and exercise a degree of control over the dog. A homeowner who allows a visitor to bring a dog to their property will generally not be seen as harbouring the dog. A dog sitter, however, will likely be seen as harbouring the dog.
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