Depending on the province in which the attacks occur, two factors may influence your culpability. Unlike Ontario, some provinces have what is commonly known as the one-bite rule, wherein the owner of the dog is not responsible for a dog who has never been violent before, but is entirely responsible if their animal is known to be dangerous.
The second factor that some provinces consider is whether the dog could be perceived as having been provoked into the attack. This is particularly necessary when the dog attacks someone who is attempting to harm their owner, in which case the act could be seen as a form of self-defence by proxy, and therefore neither dog nor owner would be liable.
In Ontario, however, the law places strict liability for dog’s actions on their owners. According to the Dog Owner’s Liability Act, all damages and injuries are the legal and financial responsibility of the owner, regardless if they were aware that the animal had a propensity or history of violence. This liability extends to whoever is in control of the dog at the time, even if that person is not the owner. This rule can extend to friends and family of the owner, or even dog walkers, if they do not attempt to intervene or otherwise control the animal.
Most standard home insurance policies include “third party liability” coverage which means that the insurance company will likely respond to the claim if your dog harms someone. As a dog owner, it is important that you read your home insurance policy carefully and that you understand what coverage you are paying for. If your dog does harm someone, it is important that you to notify your insurance company right away.
Everyone should be aware of the potential legal and financial ramifications of pet ownership, particularly when it comes to dogs, as the amount of harm they are able to inflict on humans can be severe, and potentially causing long term health problems.