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What to do When You are Bitten by a Dog at your Neighborhood Park

“Every dog is allowed one bite,” the saying goes, and many BC citizens believe the saying sums up the province’s laws regarding dog bites. This is not true: there is no one-bite pass in the province. Find out what legal recourse you have if you are bitten by a dog in a neighborhood park and what to expect if you’re the only of a naughty puppy who has bitten someone.

What Are BC Dog Bite Laws?

The answer to this question depends on whether you are talking about criminal or regulatory laws, where the owner can be fined or jailed, or whether you are talking about civil law, where a person is injured by a dog seeks compensation for their injuries.

The old common law states that a dog owner is only liable for their dog’s behavior when they know of the dog’s propensity to bite.  This is known as the concept of “scienter”.   An injured person must prove that (1) the person was the owner of the dog, (2) the dog had shown in the past a propensity to bite, and (3) the owner knew that the dog had a propensity to bite.  Essentially, under scienter, a dog owner gets a free pass under scienter until his dog takes that first bite and the owner knows about it. This remains the law in British Columbia.

Other ways that a person injured by a dog bite can succeed in recovering compensation for their injuries are through the law of negligence, or through statutes like the Occupier’s Liability Act.

When talking about regulatory offenses, owners must control their pet and could face criminal charges if their dog bites anyone, child or adult.

Under BC law, dog owners must prevent their dog from harassing any animal or person, even when the dog is in their home or yard.

Dog owners may be fined for not having their pets under control, or fined as much as $2,000 or jailed for up to 5 years if the attack was intentional (e.g., the owner encouraged the dog to bite someone). They may be charged with criminal negligence if the dog has a past history of violence and they failed to control the dog. Penalties here range from 10 years imprisonment for injuries to life imprisonment for death via dog bite.

Advice for Dog Owners

Dog owners who are unable to control their pets, and whose dogs bite others, face serious consequences. Not only are the penalties for dog bites severe, vicious dogs can be euthanized.

Dog owners who know their dog has bitten someone before can get peace of mind when using neighborhood parks by muzzling their dog. A muzzled dog is unable to bite anyone, so using a muzzle protects you, your pet, and the general public.

Advice for Dog Bite Victims

If you get bitten by a local dog, try to remain calm. Obtain the pet owner’s contact information, and report it to the authorities.  This way, they can investigate.  There have been several instances in B.C. where pet owners have fled the area (like at a dog park or other area) without providing details, so photographing the owner, the dog, and any license plates of a vehicle that they may get into will help.  The evidence you gather during the moment can be invaluable in identifying the owner.  Without the owner’s name, the chances of succeeding in a compensation action are slim.

Take photos of the wound and of the scene of the crime.

  1. Seek medical attention immediately, since you never know if the dog is up to date with its rabies vaccine.
  2. Once your wounds have been addressed, call the local animal control officer. They will follow up with the pet owner and take appropriate action.
  3. Next, seek a consultation with an attorney who focuses on personal injury cases, including dog bite cases.

Contact BLW Lawyers Today: Personal Injury Lawyers in Vancouver

BLW lawyers have experience representing victims of dog bite injuries. An attorney will discuss what happened to you, go over the legal options, and help you take your claim to court so you can get the compensation you deserve. Contact BLW Lawyers today.

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