In the wake of a vicious pit bull attack in Surrey — the leader of the B-C green party is renewing the call for a law to target problem owners… in the pocket book.
Back in April, Andrew Weaver introduced the Animal Liability Act which would automatically make owners financially liable for the actions of their pets.
“It is the owners fault and we need owners to realize that they need to be accountable for their behaviour. We’re not saying ban dogs. We’re not saying dogs should all be put down if they’re biting someone. We’re saying that if you are a dog owner, you need to know how to handle your animal. And if you don’t, there are consequences.”
Weaver says B.C. is far behind on this type of legislation. Both Ontario and Manitoba have laws on the books that put the onus on owners, regardless of the dog’s history or questions of negligence.
He says the problems are being caused by a small minority of people, and putting owners on the hook for damage caused by their pets would act as a strong deterrent.
“The fact of the matter is that those owners will think twice about having their dog off leash if they know that they’re liable for the behaviour of their animal.”
READ MORE: MLA says owners of problem pets should pay
Weaver adds that the current debate over breed specific legislation has become extremely emotional. He says B.C. could get results and avoid that conflict by shifting the focus from pets to owners.
“It’s a slippery slope, because sure there may be some breeds that dominate the cases of biting, but all dogs can bite. The reality is even with these breeds that have a propensity to do that, the cases where they do are more often than not associated with problem owners… [and] where would you draw the line? Would you say a St. Bernard because it’s really big should be put on that list?”
Weaver’s bill stalled this spring, and the legislature will not sit again until next year.
He says he plans to reintroduce the legislation at the next sitting in 2017.
- The Ontario Dog Owners Liability Act prohibits prohibits “individuals from owning, breeding, transferring, importing or abandoning pit bulls. Training a pit bull to fight or allowing a pit bull to stray are also prohibited.”
- Where a court is convinced that a pit bull has bitten or attacked or posed a menace, a mandatory destruction order must be issued.
- Existing owners of pittbulls are allowed to keep them, but under strict restrictions, including sterilization, muzzling, and being kept on a leash shorter than 1.8 meters long
- If any dog bites you, you may bring a civil action against the dog’s owner for damages.
- The owner of a dog is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack, regardless of the owner’s fault, negligence or knowledge of the propensity of the dog to bite or attack.
- An individual can also seek a court order related to a dog under the Provincial Offenses Act, providing for destruction of the dog, requiring that the dog’s owner take certain measures in relation to the dog such as requiring that the dog be muzzled or leashed.
- The court may also issue a destruction order, order an owner to take specific control measures, or ban them from owning a dog for a specific period of time.
In Manitoba, the Animal Liability Act states that:
- “The owner of an animal is liable for damages resulting from harm that the animal causes to a person or to property.”
- However, the fault of the person bringing a lawsuit is considered in how serious the damages are.
- The action, knowledge, or negligence of the owner are irrelevant to their liability.
- Livestock owners are not liable if they prove they acted responsibly, or the harm caused by their animal was an “act of god.”