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The Dog Owners' Liability Act of Ontario

Residents in Ontario may benefit from reviewing the amendments made to the Dog Owners' Liability Act in 2005. The Ontario Legislative Assembly amended the definition of "pit bull" to include an American pit bull terrier, an American Staffordshire terrier, a Staffordshire bull terrier, a pit bull terrier or any dog that resembles the physical characteristics of the aforementioned breeds.

In order to determine if a dog is included under one of these breeds, courts refer to the standards established by the American Dog Breeders Association, the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club or the Canadian Kennel Club. The dog's owner may be subject to legal action if it attacks another domestic animal or person, or presents a menace to domestic animals or people. The owner may also be considered liable if reasonable precautions are not taken to prevent the dog from attacking others or posing a menace to safety.

The amendments made to the act also focus on upholding public safety and establishing reasonable precautions to include posting warning signs, utilizing a leash and muzzle or other means that may be ordered by the court. Owners may be required to neuter or spay the animal within 30 days of receiving a court order. If the dog is alleged to be a pit bull, the onus is on the owner to prove the dog is not a pit bull.

Restricted pit bull ownership is only permitted if the owner already possessed the dog, or the dog was born within three months of the Amendment Act being implemented in 2005. Otherwise, there is a ban against owning, breeding, transferring ownership, importing or training pit bulls. With assistance from legal counsel, victims may be able to recover restitution for brain injuries and other medical damages related to a dog attack.

Source: e-laws.gov.on.ca, "An Act to amend the Dog Owners’ Liability Act to increase public safety in relation to dogs, including pit bulls, and to make related amendments to the Animals for Research Act", July 30, 2014

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