When a Dog Bites Your Child

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When a Dog Bites Your Child

A dog attack is a terrifying experience, and, sadly, children under the age of ten are the most common victims of dog bites. Many children love dogs, but are unable to heed the warning signs from a dog who feels threatened, or who may be hostile to their advances. A dog can be a child’s best friend, but in the wrong circumstances, mixing dogs and children can be disastrous. When a dog bites a child, the damage done can be both physical and psychological, and it can be severe. In April of this year, a five-year-old Manitoba girl required surgery after she was mauled by two dogs, and in July, a one-year-old boy in Nunavut was killed in a dog attack. In the past five years, dog attacks have been responsible for eleven deaths in Canada, and of these, five were children.


Even a friendly dog may bite if it is threatened, angry, hurt, or afraid. Teach your child that teasing, shouting at, or play-fighting with a dog can be dangerous. Dogs can be protective of their owners, their toys, their puppies, or their food. They may also protect spaces, or be upset by encountering other animals. Never leave small children alone with a dog; it can be difficult for them to recognize situations that can trigger a dog attack.



Dog Bite Lawsuits in Ontario

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, children are harmed by dogs. Did you seek medical attention for your child after being bitten by a dog? Were they left with physical or emotional scars because of a dog attack? In many provinces, the victim of a dog bite (or the family of a victim) can sue the owner of the dog who attacked them. In Ontario, the Dog Owner’s Liability Act states that the person who suffered the damage does not have to prove that the dog’s owner was negligent or that the dog’s behaviour was in any way caused by the owner. Prior to this legislation, an owner who had no previous knowledge of a dog’s propensity for biting people -- the so-called “one bite” law -- could not be held responsible for the dog’s behaviour. But under the Dog Owner’s Liability Act, the only thing that must be proven is that the dog bit or attacked someone, and the owner is automatically held liable.


The amount of the compensation or damages paid depends on a number of factors, including whether or not the dog was provoked. The court may also make orders regarding the dog; it can order the dog to be destroyed, or it can order the owner to place restrictions on the dog, such as confining it to the owner’s yard, or requiring it to wear a muzzle when in public.  Some of the factors that the court will take into account include:

  1. The dog’s past and present temperament and behaviour.
  2. The seriousness of the injuries caused by the biting or attack.
  3. Unusual contributing circumstances tending to justify the dog’s action.
  4. The improbability that a similar attack will be repeated.
  5. The dog’s physical potential for inflicting harm.
  6. Precautions taken by the owner to preclude similar attacks in the future.
  7. Any other circumstances that the court considers to be relevant.

If your child has been bitten by a dog, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to find out more about your options to receive compensation.



What to Do

If your child is bitten by a dog, seek medical attention as soon as possible, or, for serious injuries call 911. If you have the opportunity before you leave the scene:

  • Get the owner’s name and contact information. If this is not possible, write down everything you can remember about the dog and the attack, such as the dog’s colour and possible breed, and the appearance of the owner. (Many times the owner will call the dog’s name, for example.)
  • Talk to any witnesses and get their contact information. Encourage them to write down what they saw, too.
  • Take pictures of the wounds.
  • Contact your local Animal Services department in your municipality to report the incident.

Once the victim has received medical aid, contact a personal injury lawyer. These professionals have experience with dog bite cases, and can help you to explore your options. Owner liability is well delineated in the Ontario Dog Owner’s Liability Act, but you will need a lawyer to help you file the appropriate papers and guide you through the process. Most personal injury law firms offer a free initial consultation, which means that you can explain your situation to a lawyer and get feedback before deciding whether or not to engage them. Choose a lawyer who has experience with cases such as yours, and who communicates well with you. 


As the saying goes: not all dogs will bite, but all dogs can bite. If your child has been the victim of a dog attack, consult with a personal injury lawyer today.