I have a small dog. My dog is good natured and has never bitten or injured anyone before. If my dog bites someone unexpectedly, can I still be liable?

Simply put, yes! The law in Ontario concerning dog bites or dog attacks is clear and is governed by the Dog Owners Liability Act (DOLA).

The owner of a dog is automatically liable for damages resulting from a  bite or  attack on another person or domestic animal. It doesn’t matter if your dog has never bitten anyone before or if you were not at fault.  If your dog bites, you will be held responsible. This is referred to as “strict liability”.

There is an exception for dog owners in the DOLA.  If a dog bites or attacks a person who is committing a criminal act on your premises, the dog owner  is not responsible for the injuries incurred by that person, unless the keeping of the dog on the premises was unreasonable for the purpose of the protection of persons or property.

Dog ownership creates liability risks. Dog bites and attacks can cause serious, traumatic and even fatal injuries, exposing dog owners to significant damage claims.  Speak to your home insurer to ensure you have proper and adequate coverage for such potential claims.