It is possible to be charged with a criminal offence in Ontario if your dog bites or attacks someone. The Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA), first enacted in 1990, makes dog owners potentially liable for damages caused by a bite or an attack, sought by the plaintiff through civil proceedings. As well, pursuant to DOLA dog owners can face provincial offence charges.
Individuals convicted under DOLA and its regulations or for contravening an order made under the law are liable to a maximum fine of $10,000 or jail for up to six months, or both. Dog owners can also face penalties for owning prohibited breeds, specifically pit bulls and other similar breeds.
According to DOLA “pit bull” includes a pit bull terrier, a Staffordshire bull terrier, an American Staffordshire terrier, an American pit bull terrier, and a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to those of dogs referred to in any of clauses (a) to (d); (“pit-bull”). Pit bulls and other related breeds have been prohibited since 2005.
This law is quite controversial as many people believe aggression in dogs is not breed-specific and that banning pit bulls is unduly discriminatory. Under DOLA pit bulls and other related breeds can be ordered to be put down.
What are Criminal Offences That Dog Owners Can Face?
Dog owners can also be criminally charged under the Criminal Code of Canada. Historically, dog owners in Ontario have been charged and convicted of criminal negligence and criminal negligence causing bodily harm in relation to incidents of dog bites and/or attacks.
Criminal negligence, as defined in section 219 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, implies that every individual is criminally negligent who, in doing anything or in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons. Furthermore, duty, as used in this section, means a duty imposed by law.
Causing Bodily Harm by Criminal Negligence
According to the law, anyone who, by criminal negligence, causes bodily harm to another person is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years. Also, there are defences available to individuals facing criminal negligence charges.
Legal Review By:
Criminal Defence Lawyer (B.A., L.L.B.)
Jonathan Pyzer, B.A., L.L.B, distinguished McGill University and University of Western Ontario alumnus, is a dedicated criminal defence lawyer throughout Ontario. Co-founder of Kostman & Pyzer, Barristers, he focuses on defending individual rights.