Dear Barb – The Bite of the Law

Dear Barb:

I was at my friends’ house the other day and another friend came to visit with her dog. I’m not sure what kind of dog it was, some kind of terrier cross and weighed about 45 pounds. I’m always a little leery of dogs I don’t know, so I asked if he was friendly. The owner said he was, so I began petting him and initially he seemed fine. Of a sudden I heard the dog growl and he snapped at me, biting my hand and drawing blood. The owner pulled the dog back, then went and sat down. My other friend came to see how I was, while the dog’s owner continued to sit with the dog, not offering any explanation or apology. I was upset and said to her “I thought you said he was friendly?” She turned to me and said he usually is, then grabbed the dog’s leash and walked out the door. I can’t believe someone would be so nonchalant about their dog biting someone, to not even say they are sorry or see if I was okay! The bite was not serious, but if it was a child that the dog had bit it could have been serious. Is there any place I can report this and make the owner do something about their dog so that someone else doesn’t have to go through a similar experience? Thanks, Sarah.

Hey Sarah:

Thank you for your question. Dog bites are definitely a concern in Canada. In 2014, 32% of households in Canada owned at least one dog and there were over 500,000 dog bites reported. Most likely there are many more that are not reported. I assume you took the proper precautions and cleaned out the bite and confirmed that the dog is up to date on its vaccinations. These are things you should do if a dog bites you, first, call your local public health department, as well as the local Animal services in your area and report the dog bite. This could be the Humane Society, SPCA or Animal Care and control. Provide the name and address of the owner if possible. Liability laws differ from one province to the other, but under common law, liability depends on whether the owner knew that the dog could be dangerous, due to a history of aggressive behaviour. If there was no reason to believe the dog would be dangerous then the owner will probably not be liable. However, if the dog has a history of aggressive behaviour or the owner has cause to believe the dog may be dangerous and the dog bites someone, the owner is liable.

These laws may change depending on the province of occurrence and the situation. Owners will be dealt with accordingly. Likely the owner of the dog that bit you will face some consequences and may have to muzzle their dog in the future. You are doing the right thing in reporting this incident and as you say, hopefully prevent someone else from having to go through this experience. Thanks for your question Sarah and hope you are on the mend.

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