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If a Dog Bites Someone on Your Property Are You Liable?

June 17, 2019
5 mins
A woman in a yellow jacket jogs alongside her dog

"Dogs sense fear in Surrey mail carriers. Will drones ensure safer delivery for dog chew toys?"

"Vegetarian dog owner threatens lawsuit against Vancouver pizza shop. Said pepperoni pizza deliveries 'provoked and taunted' terriers."

While these dog headlines are funny, a real dog attack can be quite serious. In Canada, there are about 500,000 dog bites every year. And, if a dog bites someone on your property, you might be concerned about legal ramifications. You might ask, "Will I be sued?" Or, "Can my dog be taken from me?"

Use these tips to educate yourself on what to do if a dog attacks someone on your property.

Seek Swift Medical Attention and Contact Law Enforcement

If a dog bites someone, your initial reaction might be shock. And, if you’re the property owner that owns the dog, panic might set in as you worry if you're liable.

Stay calm and do the following:

  • Move the dog away from the person. Tie the dog up or put it in a separate room where it can’t get loose.
  • If the injuries are severe, seek medical help right away.
  • Treat the person that was bitten. Gently wash their wound with warm water and soap. If there’s bleeding, stop the bleeding with gauze or paper towels and apply pressure to the wound.
  • Avoid placing blame or admitting fault. What you say can sometimes be used against you.
  • If there were witnesses get their statements and contact information.
  • When law enforcement arrives, let them assess the situation. They will determine if the dog should be removed.
  • Contact your veterinarian for the dog’s medical records.
  • Contact your home insurance provider.

Contacting Your Home Insurance Provider

If a dog attacks someone on your property, you should start a claim with your home insurance provider as soon as possible. Here's what you can expect:

  • Explain that the dog bit someone on your property. Give any witness information.
  • An agent will start an investigation and follow-up with the injured person.
  • The injured party may contact an attorney if they have medical expenses.
  • Never give a statement to their lawyer without your attorney present.

Are You Liable if a Dog Attacks Someone?

If a dog bites someone, they can sue the owner for damages. But what if the victim provoked the attack? An owner might be able to prove the dog was provoked.

Was the Dog Provoked?

A court might be lenient with an owner if the attack was unprovoked. But, there are times when an attack is provoked.

Dogs can become provoked if:

  • Their food is taken or someone steps on their tail.
  • A stranger approaches the dog to pet them or steps on a property they are guarding.
  • Dogs are fighting and someone tries to break them up.
  • A person sprays self-defence spray on a dog.
  • The dog has rabies.

Establishing Liability

Dog laws vary by province. If a dog bites someone, there is a liability risk for owners and they can be sued. Hence, owning a dog is a big responsibility.

Establishing liability can depend on if the owner knew the dog was aggressive:

  • If there was no history of aggression in the dog, owners might not be liable.
  • If the dog has a history of aggression, owners can be held liable.
  • If the person who was bitten provoked an attack, owners may not be liable.

Dog Liability Acts by Province

Each province varies in how they address liability:

  • Ontario has a Dog Owner’s Liability Act. Owners can be held liable for dog attacks. The courts will hear if the attack was provoked or if owners did all they could to prevent an attack. Note: Pit bulls are not allowed in Ontario.
  • Alberta has a Dangerous Dogs Act where justice can take complaints about dogs that bite or dangerous dog reports.
  • Prince Edward Island has a Dog Act but it pertains to livestock.
  • Nova Scotia has an Occupiers Liability Act. Owners can be held responsible for dog injuries.

Preventing Dog Attacks

Some dog bites can be prevented and children should be taught how to play around dogs.

Training for Dogs and What to Teach Children

Dog owners may want to consider hiring a dog trainer. If there are small children in the home or neighbourhood, use dog training tips:

  • To increase tolerance with dogs and food, owners should purposely pull food or a toy away. Then give the dog a reward. Doing this repeatedly teaches the dog it's okay to have the item taken.
  • Give dogs a crate where they can rest uninterrupted. Explain to children that this area is for the dog's sleeping and rest. They shouldn't poke items in the crate to provoke the dog.
  • Children should still be taught never to take a toy or food from a dog especially with a strange dog. Additionally, teach children not to get in a dog's face or pull on its ears or tail.
  • While young children might want to climb on or step on a dog, this should not be permitted. Keep the dog in a separate area, don't allow rough play and always monitor small children around dogs.

Reducing Dog Attacks

Before dogs bite they might show these behaviours:

  • Their tale might be tucked under.
  • They may cower or lower their stance.
  • Their ears might be flattened against their head.


Because dogs can bite if provoked, owners need to closely monitor their pets. If a dog bites someone on your property, stay calm, confine the dog and treat the person. Then contact law enforcement and your home insurance provider to file a claim. Taking these steps can help to reduce your liability risks.

Ready to Find the Best Home Insurance Rates?

The best protection against financial losses from dog bites or any other household liability is a robust home insurance policy. Compare costs from the best home insurance providers in Canada today at RATESDOTCA.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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