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Dog bite case sets new Ontario precedent

As many as 500,000 people are bitten by dogs every year in Canada, far and away the most common form of animal attack. Generally, dogs’ owners are considered liable for damages sustained by the victims of the attacks, even in cases where the victim provoked the animal. Now, a recent appeals court decision has expanded the definition of the word “owner,” and the ruling could have an interesting impact on the way people care for their pets. If you have suffered a serious injury as a result of a dog attack or an attack by another pet, contact a Will Davidson LLP Oakville dog bite lawyer to find out how we can help.

The case in question, Wilk v. Arbour, was a dispute between an Ontario woman and a man she was in relationship with who owned a nine-year-old dog. While the woman took the dog for a walk, the dog suffered a seizure, slipped on some ice, and fell into a ditch. She attempted to enter the ditch to retrieve the dog, but slipped and fell. She collided with the dog, which bit her. She lost part of her right thumb as a result.

The dog-walker sued the dog’s owner, who she claimed was responsible for the bite as he had not fed the dog or given the dog its medication that day. Ontario’s lower court agreed with the walker, finding that she was entitled to compensation for her injuries. The owner appealed, and asked for the case to be thrown out.

“The whole case,” FindLaw Canada’s Miriam Yosowich reports, “rested on the question [of] whether the dog walker was considered in possession of and owner of the dog at the time she was walking him.”

As we mentioned earlier, and as an experienced dog bite lawyer can tell you, dog owners are usually liable for damages caused by dog attacks, and only non-owners can be compensated for their injuries. In other words, if a person is attacked by their own dog, that person has no grounds for a personal injury claim.

The Ontario Court of Appeals found on January 13 2017 that the person who is “in physical possession and control over a dog just before it bites or attacks another person or animal” should be considered that dog’s “owner.” Based on this definition, the plaintiff was considered the dog’s owner at the time she was bitten, and was denied compensation.

This case sets an important precedent in Ontario. Dog-walkers provide an important service to pet-owners who work 9-to-5 jobs and are unable to walk their animal during the day. According to the Wilk v. Arbour ruling, people who walk dogs for a living are responsible for the aggressive behaviour of those animals. Will this lead some dog-walkers to abandon their job?

Bitten by a dog? A Will Davidson LLP dog bite lawyer can help

Dog attacks are unfortunately common in Ontario. Although most pets are well-behaved and bring great joy to their families, their owners must understand that they will be held responsible for any damages their dog causes. If you’ve been hurt by a dog, contact a Will Davidson LLP Oakville dog bite lawyer today to learn how we can help.

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