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Dog in mountain with owner

Top Questions About Dog Bites in BC Answered

Dog bites are serious incidents that can cause severe injuries, emotional trauma, and lasting scars. Do you know who is responsible if a dog bites you or your loved one in BC? On the other hand, what happens if your dog bites someone in BC?

When you think of a dog bite, the geographical location of the incident probably does not come to mind right away, but in Canada, it should, as provinces and municipalities have different laws and local bylaws that dictate how they deal with a dog bite incident.

Here is what you need to know about dog bites in BC.

Dog Bite Laws in BC

In BC, there are three ways for a pet owner to be responsible for a personal injury caused by a dog:

1. The Legal Concept Known as “Scienter”

Also known as the “one free bite rule” in BC. This legal concept holds an owner responsible if they knew of the dog’s propensity to be aggressive. The injured person must prove that at the time of the attack: (i) the defendant was the owner or keeper of the dog; (ii) the dog had manifested a propensity or tendency to cause the type of harm that happened, and (iii) the dog’s owner knew of that propensity. If those three elements are established, the dog owner is liable regardless of whether they were negligent.

2. Negligence

The injured person must prove that the dog’s owner knew or ought to have known that the dog was likely to create a risk of injury and that the dog’s owner failed to take reasonable care to prevent such an injury.

3. Occupier’s Liability Under the Occupier’s Liability Act

Section 1 of the Occupier’s Liability Act defines an “occupier” as a person who is in physical possession of or has responsibility and control over the place where an incident occurred. Under section 3 of the Occupier’s Liability Act, an occupier must take reasonable care to ensure that others on the property are reasonably safe from harm. The injured person would have to prove both that the property owner knew or ought to have known that the dog was likely to be a risk and that the owner failed to take reasonable steps to prevent that risk.

Is It Always The Dog Owner’s Fault?

Not necessarily. It will only be the dog owner’s fault if the injured person can prove liability on one or more of the three legal bases discussed above (scienter, negligence, or occupier’s liability). Fault may also rest with someone other than the dog’s owner, such as a person taking care of the dog, a person walking the dog, or the person/business who owns the property where the injury occurred. The injured person may bear some responsibility for their injuries. For example, if they ignored a “beware of dog” sign, failed to take reasonable steps to protect their own safety, or provoked the dog. The court can apportion liability based on the degree to which a person’s conduct caused or contributed to the injury (e.g., 50/50, 85/15).

What Charges Can The Dog Owner Face? 

In addition to facing a personal injury lawsuit (which can result in an award of damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, future wage loss, and out of pocket expenses), a dog owner may be sued for property damage caused by their dog or forced to pay fines imposed under local bylaws. A dog owner can also face criminal charges, such as assault if it was an intentional dog attack, or criminal negligence causing bodily harm if the dog owner failed to control a dog with a vicious propensity.

What Would Happen to The Dog?

Animal control officers can seize a dog if it has injured a person. What happens to the dog depends on a number of factors, including the severity of the attack and whether the dog poses a risk to public safety. While it is rare, it is possible for a dog to be destroyed (for example, if designated a dangerous dog under the Vancouver Charter or under the Community Charter that applies in most BC municipalities other than Vancouver.

Contact Us for Advice

If a dog has bitten you or your dog has bitten someone, you should talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer about your rights and legal options. We are here to help. Please contact Simpson Thomas & Associates by calling us at 604-243-5825 or filling out our online form to request your free initial consultation.

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