Caught in a Dog Attack? Here’s What the Law Says You Can Do

Dog aggression is an unanticipated problem many people face yearly, causing pain, suffering, and financial hardship. Tragically, dog attacks do happen occasionally in Canada. Statistics show that some dog breeds are more aggressive than others, yet all dogs can harm if not properly trained or managed. 

Victims of dog attacks can suffer physical, emotional, and legal harm. To guarantee personal safety and access to justice, it is important to understand the legal rights and choices accessible to victims. 

Dog attack victims in Canada are protected by laws that hold dog owners liable. However, the judicial system is complicated, and victims need help from a personal injury attorney to assert their rights.

Legal Principles Regarding Dog Attacks

Dog attack liability rules differ by province and territory in Canada. However, the main idea is that people can sue dog owners if their dogs hurt someone. These statutes are usually part of tort law, more especially the concept of negligence. The general idea of making dog owners responsible for assaults is the same everywhere, although the details could change from one jurisdiction to another. 

Dog Owners and Strict Liability

People who own dogs are subject to strict liability, which means they can be held responsible for any harm their dogs cause, even if they weren’t paying attention or knew their dog was aggressive. This legal principle stresses the significance of careful pet ownership by guaranteeing that those hurt in dog attacks receive just compensation.

What You Should Do Right Away Following a Dog Attack

Get Medical Help

  • Assessing and treating attack injuries should be prioritized.
  • Puncture wounds and scrapes can cause infections, so get them checked by a doctor.
  • Emergency medical intervention is needed for serious wounds and fractures to avoid complications and ensure correct treatment.
  • Seeking medical attention also documents injuries, which might be useful in court.

Notify the Proper Authorities

  • Documenting the incident requires contacting local authorities such as animal control or the police.
  • Reported attacks help authorities identify dangerous dogs and enforce leash restrictions to protect the public.
  • It also helps build a record of the incident, which is helpful if legal action is required.
  • Authorities may advise victims on the next measures or link them to assistance options.

Collect Proof

  • Early evidence collection after personal injury accidents can strengthen a legal case and show liability.
  • Verified eyewitness statements are crucial because they give third-party perspectives on what happened and can support the victim’s story.
  • Photos of injuries, damaged clothing, or the attack site can support negligence or misconduct accusations.
  • Obtaining contact information from witnesses is necessary to assist in additional investigations or legal actions.
  • Preserve medical records of injuries and post-incident communications with the dog owner.

Am I legally allowed to defend myself against a dog attack?

Canadians can defend themselves from dog attacks if their actions are reasonable and proportionate to the dog’s threat. Canadian law allows people to use reasonable force to defend themselves from imminent harm.

  1. The conditions must justify force. Humans may use reasonable force to defend themselves if a dog aggressively attacks and threatens significant damage or death. To halt the attack, you may push the dog away, use an object to deter it, or even hit it.
  2. Force must match the threat. A dog acting aggressively but not attacking may not warrant severe action. Additionally, people should not physically attack a dog unless in immediate danger.
  3. Canadian law differentiates self-defence from retaliation. Using force out of anger or vengeance is not legally allowed, but self-defence is acceptable when it is required to protect oneself from harm.

What constitutes reasonable force in self-defence against a dog?

What constitutes reasonable self-defence against a dog attack in Canada depends on the circumstances. Factors that determine reasonable force include:

  • Immediacy of danger. Using force to defend oneself is likely justified if the dog attacks or threatens.
  • Threat severity. The seriousness of the dog’s threat may determine justifiable force. For instance, a larger or more aggressive dog may warrant stronger force.
  • Proportionality. Use force proportional to the threat. This indicates that unnecessary force, such as using a weapon, may not be reasonable.
  • Availability of alternatives. Consider whether there were other appropriate ways to defend against the dog attack. Using force may not be necessary if there is a safe way out.
  • Intent. The motivation behind force matters too. Avoiding damage and protecting oneself must motivate self-defence, not retaliation or aggression.

Will the dog be quarantined or investigated for rabies or other diseases following the attack?

There are measures to protect public safety and assess rabies risk after a dog attack, especially if it injures someone. These protocols usually involve quarantine and investigation.


Depending on the attack’s severity and circumstances, local authorities may quarantine the dog. Jurisdictional quarantine periods vary from 10 to 14 days. The canine is closely watched for any disease or abnormal behaviour indications throughout this period. Quarantine uncovers rabid or infectious diseases in the attacked dog.

Rabies or other illness testing

If the dog appears rabid or sick, authorities may investigate. The investigation may include rabies or other disease testing for the dog if necessary. Authorities may also check the dog’s immunization records for rabies vaccination. 

What if the attack was my fault?

The victim may be at fault in some instances of dog attack negligence. This happens if the victim’s behaviour has a role in the incident. 

  • If a person ignores an obvious warning sign, such as a “beware of dog” sign in the front yard, and approaches or interacts with the dog. Their disregard for the warning notice may have caused the incident.
  • If a parent permits their child to play with a friend’s dog, especially if the dog has bitten others. They may have been negligent in not protecting their child from a known risk.
  • Loud and aggressive behaviour that incites fear in a leashed dog may result in an attack. Both parties may be responsible. The dog owner is accountable for regulating their pet, yet the victim’s provocative activities may have caused the dog’s reaction.

Such lawsuits use comparative negligence to determine each party’s fault. Judges evaluate the victim and dog owner (or other parties) to establish their share of blame. Based on the situation and precedents in previous judicial actions, each party may receive a 50/50 or 75/25 allocation of fault.

Does the dog that bites the victim face consequences?

Vancouver and other British Columbia cities allow animal control officials to remove dangerous dogs from their homes. They can then petition a special court to euthanize the dog. To prevent this, dog owners must convince the court their dog is safe for the public.

Animal control personnel may train or rehabilitate dogs based on where you live, how severe the attack was, and past issues. Before 2019, courts sometimes allowed dogs to go home with their owners if they followed safety requirements. A recent higher court ruling ruled that’s not allowed if the normal court considers the dog too unsafe. In those cases, the dog must be put down.

How would I handle the situation if a dog attacked my livestock?

People can defend their animals from stray dogs that aggressively follow or attack livestock under the BC Livestock Act. Cattle, sheep, goats, horses, pigs, and game are all considered livestock. 

What if the dog owner refuses to take responsibility for the attack?

If the dog owner denies responsibility for the attack, you may need further action to preserve your rights and seek compensation. 

Call Animal Control or the Police

Contact local animal control or law enforcement about the dog attack. They can investigate, enforce rules, and take action, including holding the dog owner responsible for their pet’s actions.

Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer

Think about consulting a lawyer who focuses on personal injury claims, particularly those involving dog bites. They can evaluate your case, explain your options, and guide you through the legal procedure. 

An experienced personal injury lawyer can negotiate with the dog owner or insurance company for fair recompense for your injuries and damages.

File a Civil Lawsuit

A civil lawsuit may be necessary if the dog owner refuses responsibility or negotiates in good faith. Like in a car accident claim, a dog attack lawsuit can seek reimbursement for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. By working with Edmonton personal injury lawyers, you can receive sound advice and have your best interests represented in court.

Join Mediation or Settlement Negotiations

It may be possible to avoid going to court altogether by resolving the disagreement through mediation or settlement talks. Your lawyer can help you negotiate a reasonable payment for your personal injury case.

Following Legal Procedures

Follow all case-related legal procedures and deadlines. Missing deadlines or court requirements could affect the amount you receive.

How to Keep Dogs from Attacking

Tips for Being a Good Pet Owner

  • Regular visits to the vet. Make sure that a vet checks on your dog’s health on a routine basis.
  • Getting enough food. Ensure your dog’s food is well-balanced and right for their size, breed, and health needs.
  • Enough exercise. Ensure your dog has enough physical action to keep its mind and body busy, which can help keep it from becoming aggressive.
  • Safe confinement. Use the right fencing or leashes to ensure your dog can’t get out and into possibly dangerous situations.
  • Doing a spay or neuter. Spaying or neutering your dog may help lower its tendency to be aggressive and roam.
  • Watching over. Always keep an eye on your dog when it interacts with new people or animals, especially kids.

Figuring out how dogs act and what they mean with their bodies 

  • Learn about your dog’s behaviour and body language to know when he or she might be scared, stressed, or attacked.
  • Know how to tell when a dog is angry by its growling, bared teeth, stiff body stance, and raised fur.
  • Teach kids and guests to stay out of the dog’s way and not do anything that could make it scared or angry.

How to train and socialize dogs correctly

  • Obedience training. Sign up for obedience classes so your dog can learn basic directions and better respond to your cues.
  • Making friends. From a young age, expose your dog to different places, people, and animals to help them become well-adjusted and less likely to act out when they don’t know what’s happening.
  • Positive reinforcement. Use treats, praise, and other forms of positive feedback to encourage good behaviour and stop bad behaviour.
  • Help from professionals. If you are having problems with your dog’s behaviour or aggression, you should get help from a qualified dog trainer or behaviourist.

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Contact a Personal Injury Law Firm After a Dog Attack

Protecting yourself and pursuing proper compensation after a dog attack requires knowing your rights and the legal implications of such an incident. Knowing how dogs behave, being a responsible pet owner, and getting your dog properly trained may all take a big chunk of the probability of dog attacks. 

But if a dog attack does happen to you, being prepared and having personal injury lawyers on your side will give you the strength to seek justice, take action, and make your community a safer place for animals and humans. Sidhu Personal Injury Lawyers Edmonton offers legal representation for your personal injury claim. From dog bites to motor vehicle accidents due to someone else’s negligence, our injury lawyers in Edmonton help achieve fair compensation.

Frequently Asked Questions

As soon as your dog attacks someone, you should get medical assistance for the victim. Tell the victim your contact information and cooperate with investigations. Consult your homeowner’s insurance or lawyer to understand your legal requirements and liability.

You should report a dog attack even if your injuries are minimal. Reporting the incident can help authorities track dangerous dogs, prevent attacks, and punish irresponsible owners. Additionally, medical care assures injury treatment and documentation.

Yes, you can be held accountable if your dog bites someone on your property, even if they were trespassing. However, state liability rules vary and may offer exceptions or defences. Liability claims require legal guidance and knowledge of personal injury law.

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