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was expressed by the Honourable Judge Ted Gouge in Carr v. Johnston, 2016 BCPC 181 before he started reviewing our outdated laws.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But in British Columbia, we are stuck with outdated laws we inherited from English courts.

The outdated law does not hold a dog owner accountable unless the victim can prove that the owner was aware of the dangerous disposition of their particular pet.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

The Campbell Mountain Landfill and other landfills operated by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen will have reduced hours from December 2020 to the end of February 2021. (Contributed photo)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen landfills reduce hours for winter

Measures will take effect from December 2020 until end of February 2021

The lights are on to kick off the holiday season at the Naramata Inn. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Naramata’s Christmas light competition starts Dec. 3

Naramata Inn sparkles with 25,000 lights, local menu and wines

Construction activity is continuing in Summerland, but the value of building permits issued in October, 2020 is lower than the same month a year earlier. (Summerland Review file photo)
Summerland’s building permits worth more than $1.8M

Value of October building permits lower than same period in 2019

In past years, members of the Summerland Fire Department were present at the Summerland Festival of Lights to collect donations for the annual Toys and Toonies for Tots and Teens gift drive. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be happening, but the annual toy drive will proceed. Donations of cash or new unwrapped toys will be accepted at the Summerland Fire Hall and the Summerland CIBC branch until Dec. 10. (Summerland Review file photo)
Donations sought for Summerland’s annual toy drive

Cash and new unwrapped toys accepted until Dec. 10 for Toys and Toonies for Tots and Teens

RCMP Cpl. Cory Lepine pictured at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Meet B.C.’s only cowboy cop; a voice for the livestock industry

Cpl. Cory Lepine serves as a bridge between the law and those who make a living off the land

The Animal Food Bank is asking for donations as the pandemic continues and the holidays approach. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Okanagan Animal Food Bank in need of donations as pandemic continues

The Animal Food Bank provides food for any domestic pet in need

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

A colourful inflatable igloo is a new addition to Vernon Winter Carnival 2021, if the multi-day event can proceed amid health regulations. (Vernon Winter Carnival photo)
Vernon Winter Carnival still hoping to light up 2021 amid COVID-19

Event gets support from city in attempts to continue while navigating health regulations

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

McDonald’s at 155 Hollywood Road N in Kelowna. (Contributed)
Kelowna McDonald’s reopens after closure due to COVID-19 exposure

The restaurant shut down on Monday for a thorough cleaning and sanitization after a staff member tested positive for the virus

Landmark GRand 10 Cinemas in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
New COVID-19 protocols temporarily close Okanagan theatres

Kelowna Cineplex and Landmark 10 are part of the latest health regulations in limiting events

Product Care offers more than <a href="http://link.mediaoutreach.meltwater.com/ls/click?upn=pDYyTceU0YgTDdsd92GohdQJsmSiPFEkcB4MdMM0Qkoqb1aJA-2By5aWklKJXV6QRdyTteNjr2FccUOVLUe4t5Zw-3D-3D1ds-_KVyBcpjXADXifSWVpM8nQcAzSm9-2B6fEFnjVrTsOcu31irDHDxi5k0QTOIWCqMXUxaNbrf0yRzXSSpROCkfx3NkUtbr65Dkcw1J0by-2F-2BDdDiJGbcfhtjHWYSs66NwakeCCLYkj20e9ICIZsLcedqNZKBhsN0sGgBsInpdzsddYikUZkmQvFdxLJhakpgAA6aAJ5ScUoWR6vO9sM819vRB-2F6x7dsdfIaWa4ZgHxR4G7hauxgSJCsNI2bP5J62EFfM0aiDqRPwUPUjt7i5-2FMqpdJxrEBewnLky-2B3lE0JAmi5UsJBkJejuLOjsndZz4b7dNgbvt6KyewKuF0sxU2rpYgkAO9YAKc9STuFJd28Qn7jE0-2FqlB8HKOvpW150NHS-2BOMBcK5rkZ8YAuPqJy11k-2BgndiKB-2FWl2icAfbWtRGJPb8fM-3D" target="_blank">150 free drop-off locations</a> in B.C. (Pixabay.com)
Recycling broken or burnt string lights can reduce holiday landfill waste

In 2019, Product Care Recycling diverted more than 11.6 million light bulbs from landfills

Most Read