HERGOTT: Owner’s responsibility of unleashed pets

HERGOTT: Owner’s responsibility of unleashed pets

Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer based in West Kelowna

“One might think it reasonable that pet owners should simply be responsible for personal injury or property damage caused by their pets.”

That common sense notion was expressed by the Honourable Judge Ted Gouge in Carr v. Johnston, 2016 BCPC 181 before he started reviewing our outdated laws.

The unleashed pet in that case had jumped up and against a car, causing paint damage costing $1,529.72 to repair.

That’s one end of a spectrum. The other end is the unleashed pet that ripped apart the face of a 76 year old Osoyoos woman on April 7, 2020.

The most common damage I hear about is an off leash dog attacking a smaller, leashed one, the leashed dog sometimes dying even after hundreds of dollars of vet bills.

No owner intends for their dog to cause harm.

It’s a matter of risk.

An owner has complete control over the risk that their dog ownership will cause harm.

The starting point is the choice of dog. Dogs come in all sizes, breeds and temperaments. Owning a larger, more rambunctious or more aggressive dog poses a higher risk than a smaller, more docile one.

And the owner has complete control over how much time and effort is put into training and socializing their pet. The more highly trained and socialized, the less risk that a dog will jump up on a car or attack another dog or a person.

Most importantly, an owner has complete control over their dog’s opportunity to cause harm.

A properly restrained dog cannot jump up on a car or person. And cannot attack. A muzzled dog cannot bite.

How could the law work any other way, than for a dog owner to simply be responsible for personal injury or property damage caused by their pet?

When it comes to an attack, that’s the law in Ontario. The Dog Owners’ Liability Act section 2(1), says simply: “The owner of a dog is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack by the dog on another person or domestic animal”.

The legislation has common sense exceptions. For example, you cannot claim against an owner if you are bitten while committing a criminal offence on the owner’s property!

But in British Columbia, we are stuck with outdated laws we inherited from English courts.

The outdated law does not hold a dog owner accountable unless the victim can prove that the owner was aware of the dangerous disposition of their particular pet.

In most situations, that’s a practical impossibility.

You’re on a walk with your properly leashed puppy. A large, unleashed dog attacks, tearing your puppy apart. The unleashed dog’s owner says: “My dog has never behaved like that before”. How could you possibly prove them wrong?

And why should you have to?

They had 100 percent control of the risk their dog ownership posed to you and others around them.

They could have chosen a smaller, more docile pet. They could have chosen to spend more time and energy training and socialising their dog. They could have simply kept their dog on a leash.

Even if they were a model dog owner. Even if they had absolutely no idea that their dog would behave that way. They chose to take the risk and had complete control over managing it. Shouldn’t they be ones paying your vet bills?

Would you sign a petition to update our laws like Ontario has?

Missed last week’s column?

HERGOTT: Accountability of being a pet owner

About Paul Hergott, Personal Injury Lawyer:

Paul began practicing law in 1995 in a general litigation practice. Of the various areas of litigation, he became most drawn to and passionate about pursuing fair compensation for personal injury victims, which has gradually became his exclusive area of practice. Paul’s practice is restricted to acting only for the injured victim, never for ICBC nor for other insurance companies.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hergottlaw/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/personalinjurylawfirm/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hergott_law?lang=en

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/HlawCanada

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

dog attack

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Numbers of new COVID-19 cases for the week of Feb. 14 to 20 appear to be trending down for all local health areas in the North Okanagan-Shuswap. (BC Centre for Disease Control map)
Colours on COVID-19 map getting lighter for North Okanagan-Shuswap

Number of new weekly cases reported by BC Centre for Disease Control drop throughout region

Major renovations are planned for the Centennial Outdoor Rink in Vernon. - Photo submitted
$695K grant to get Vernon rink ready for next season

Provincial funding will go toward replacing chiller at Centennial Outdoor Rink

BC49 logo
$75K lotto ticket sold in Vernon

Check your tickets, someone is winning big through the BC/49

Pivot Rx is a new downtown Vernon pharmacy that aims to combine face-to-face care with the latest technological offerings in pharmaceutical care. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
New Vernon pharmacy takes ‘old-school’ approach to cutting-edge care

Pivot Rx has set up shop downtown in a building formerly home to MacKay’s Prescriptions for 40 years

Armstrong’s Jesse Crowe, shown at the home of golf, St. Andrew’s in Scotland, has been named the Royal York Golf Course’s director of golf operations. (Facebook photo)
Armstrong golf pro soars to home course position

Jesse Crowe becomes director of golf operations at Royal York Golf Course

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Royal LePage Place, along with the adjacent Jim Lind Arena are the two ice arenas operated by the City of West Kelowna..—Image credit: contributed
$442,200 to replace aging ammonia chiller at West Kelowna arena

West Kelowna is the recipient of a provincial grant to replace the ammonia chiller

The husband wife team of Brett Turner and Olivia Fobert are the bakers and makers behind Joy Road Catering who are opening up a pop up bakeshop this May in the former Craft Kitchen. (Facebook)
Pop-up bakeshop opening in downtown Penticton

Joy Road Catering’s Bakeshop will be offering breads, pastries, lunch bowls and a marketplace

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Smoke dissipates as fire crews respond to smoke that was billowing from a residential building in the 400 block of Fourth Avenue SE in Salmon Arm about 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
Residents displaced following Salmon Arm apartment fire

Crews were called to the scene at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24

A chocolate banana cream pie, similar to the smaller version pictured, baked by the Shuswap Pie Company’s Tovah Shantz, fetched $5,000 in this year’s Heritage Week pie auction fundraiser for R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum. (Shuswap Pie Company photo)
Made-in-Shuswap pie fetches $5,000 in fundraiser

Heritage Week pie auction raises $51,500 for R.J. Haney Heritage Village & Museum

Highway 5 pictured at Zopkios Southbound, Feb. 25 morning. (DriveBC)
Winter storm warning issued for Coquihalla, Highway 3

Up to 30 cm of snow expected by Friday (Feb. 26) morning

Students from Summerland’s Okanagan College often posed for photographs on the Big Rock. The rock was on the northern slope of Giant’s Head Mountain. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Big Rock had been deposited during last ice age

Rock was once a prominent feature on Giant’s Head Mountain

Most Read