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“While dogs often make wonderful companions, there are instances when their behavior takes a dangerous turn, resulting in attacks on people. Such dog attacks, especially on small children, can lead to severe injuries. This article delves into the requirements dog owners must adhere to in order to prevent such attacks and explores options available to those who have suffered injuries due to a dog attack.

Dog Bite Injuries and Prevention:
Experiencing a dog bite can be a frightening and potentially injurious ordeal. It is imperative for those injured to seek immediate medical attention, as even minor wounds can lead to infections.

Injuries resulting from dog bites can range from minor cuts and abrasions to more severe orthopedic injuries like broken bones and dislocations. In cases involving large dogs and children, injuries can be particularly devastating, potentially causing permanent scarring, disfigurement, or even amputation.

There are proactive steps individuals can take to reduce the risk of a dog attack, including avoiding unfamiliar dogs and seeking permission before interacting with a dog. Additionally, local laws are in place to help ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Legislation in Alberta Regarding Pet Ownership:
In Calgary, the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw imposes specific requirements on dog owners aimed at reducing the risk of injuries. For example, dogs cannot be left unattended while tethered and must be leashed in public unless indicated otherwise by signage. Owners are also obligated to prevent their dogs from engaging in threatening behavior, such as biting or attacking. In the event of an attack, owners must report dog bites within 24 hours, with non-compliance resulting in significant fines.

Alberta also has the Dangerous Dogs Act, which allows a judge to order the destruction of a dog if it has bitten or attempted to bite a person or is deemed dangerous and not under proper control.

Personal Injury Claims Following a Dog Bite Attack:

If a dog inflicts serious injuries upon you or your child, seeking guidance from an experienced personal injury lawyer is crucial. While the Calgary bylaw places various duties and consequences on dog owners, this doesn’t automatically translate into compensation for victims of dog attacks. Not every dog bite that causes injury entitles the victim to seek compensation from the dog’s owner.

There are several potential avenues to secure compensation following a dog bite, and collaborating with a trusted personal injury lawyer ensures you pursue the best option for your specific circumstances. One avenue involves pursuing a claim against the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy.

The Doctrine of Scienter:
Alternatively, an injured party may seek compensation from the dog owner following a dog bite under the doctrine of scienter. This doctrine allows a claim to be pursued even if the owner is not at fault for the attack.

Under this doctrine, compensation may be awarded if it can be demonstrated that the dog had previously displayed a propensity to cause harm of the same nature, and the owner was aware of this propensity. As affirmed by the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in the case of McKinlay v. Zachow:

‘The doctrine of scienter relies on a subjective examination of the dog owner’s knowledge and gives rise to strict liability based on that knowledge. Liability exists without proof of negligence for any damage caused by the animal acting in accordance with a propensity known by the owner.’

In essence, if the injured individual can establish that the owner was aware of their dog’s previous harmful behavior, they may be eligible to claim compensation for the injuries caused by the current dog bite.

Negligence on the Part of the Dog Owner:
Another potential route for an injured party to seek compensation for dog bite injuries is by alleging negligence on the part of the dog owner. This avenue requires demonstrating that the owner was at fault for the incident that resulted in the injury.

If the injury occurred on a property, the victim may have a claim against the property’s occupier under Alberta’s Occupiers’ Liability Act. This legislation places a duty on property occupiers to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of visitors. If a ‘visitor’ is attacked by a dog on the property, the ‘occupier’ may be held liable for the resulting injuries if they failed to take reasonable precautions to ensure the visitor’s safety.

Similarly, an owner may be held responsible for injuries caused by their dog under common law principles of negligence if they:

  • Knew or should have known that their dog posed a risk of injury to others.
  • Failed to take reasonable steps to prevent such injuries.