Dog Bites

Dogs off-leash when and where they should not be; you have a legal problem, says Toronto dog bite lawyer

The Toronto dog bite lawyers at Verkhovets Law remind pet owners they have legal problem if they ignore the rules and let their dogs off leash where they aren’t allowed. This heightened warning arises as the City of Toronto redoubles its efforts to raise awareness of the importance of adhering to regulations in the wake of alarming incidents involving dogs running free in areas not designates as leash-free.

Our Toronto dog bite lawyers understand there has been a surge in unfortunate incidents involving unleashed dogs with pedestrians, cyclists, children, and unleashed animals. The city reports in 2022 there was a troubling 39 per cent jump in dog attacks and a 19 per cent rise in the number of confrontations between dogs and other animals. 

Mariya Verkhovets, our Toronto dog bite lawyer, notes that the law in Ontario under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act (DOLA) is crystal clear. The dog owner is strictly liable for damages to humans and other animals – though letting your dog illegally run off leash means proving negligence is a snap if something happens. (Under DOLA the owner is defined as the person who has care and control of the dog at the time of an incident.) 

Our Toronto dog bite lawyer asks: Do you really want to cover human damages and/or vet bills for another pet just for the sake of letting your pup illegally off its leash? Even if your dog is allegedly “friendly,” and has “never done that before” it doesn’t matter. Why be on the hook for damages simply because of that one decision to undo a leash?

Scary dog attacks rising: Toronto dog bite lawyer

Our Toronto dog bite lawyer knows the stats: In just the summer of 2023 a woman was left with serious injuries from a horrifying mauling by an off-leash dog, a pit-bull-mix. A boy was bitten on his lip by an off-leash dog at a schoolyard. A mother and daughter out for a walk were injured in a sudden attack by two loose dogs.

As living beings, all dogs have certain “triggers.” A trigger can be a person, an object, or a situation that makes a dog feel unsafe or even threatened. While some dogs bite from aggression, most dogs bite or attack from self-defence. If you know what your dog’s “triggers” are, you need to pay attention.

If you don’t know what your dog’s “triggers” are, and you are taking that dog off-leash in an undesignated area, that can turn out to be dangerous situation. And a big legal problem for the owner. 

Further, our Toronto dog bite lawyers note that by mid-summer 2023 the city issued 168 written warnings for bylaw violations of the off-leash law and more than 44 dangerous dog orders. In the entirety of 2022, 50 tickets for off-leash dogs were issued. 

Toronto boasts over 75 officially designated off-leash dog parks, where canine companions can frolic freely. A violation of these designated areas by allowing your dog to roam off-leash could lead to a fine of $365

But our Toronto dog bite lawyers know that enforcing this regulation presents a substantial challenge, with a staggering count of more than 1,500 parks throughout the city. Individuals finding themselves on the wrong side of the leash law often employ various strategies to evade fines. This can involve ignoring officers, hastily leashing their dogs, or even walking away from the situation. The Catch 22: many know they can’t be compelled to provide identification to a bylaw officer.

The Toronto dog bite lawyers at Verkhovets Law remind that the city has a process for reporting dog bites or attacks to Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600, or at their bite report website.

4 actions to take if you are attacked by a dog

Our Toronto dog bite lawyer advises that the city’s website lists 4 steps to take if you are bitten by a dog:

  1. Get the name, address, and phone number of the animal’s custodian.
  2. Wash the wound with soap and water for 15 minutes as soon as possible. 
  3. Then the bite area should have an antiseptic applied.
  4. Seek medical advice to evaluate your risks and best treatments in case of rabies.

Our Toronto dog bite lawyer, Mariya Verkhovets, says if your dog bites or scratches someone you should promptly provide the victim with your name, address, and phone number. This will make the Toronto Public Health follow-up easier so they can evaluate your dog’s health status and possible risk to the bitten or scratched person it bit. 

If the attack is more severe, there is a lot of blood and wounds in need of stitches, you should go to the Emergency Department of the nearest hospital right away. 

The dog may be ordered to stay in your home for 10 days for observation. 

Legal consequences even if bite happens on leash 

Our Toronto dog bite lawyers note that even if your innocent pup doesn’t instigate a dog bite incident, if there are injuries inflicted by your pooch, in self-defence or reaction during an encounter with another dog or person, you’ll pay damages. 

Even if both sides are on leash at the time and the other dog approached despite objections. That’s alarming and can get expensive. 

But there’s some relief: even though under DOLA the owner strictly must pay damages, some of the money can be recovered from whoever was at fault or negligent under the Contributory Negligence Act.  That means if the victim provoked the attack their degree of responsibility offsets (reduces) the amount the owner pays by that percentage. 

Our Toronto dog bite lawyers report, for example, that post-pandemic with more dogs out there than ever there’s been an increase in the tendency to force interaction between on-leash dogs even if one has pulled safely to the side and an owner is clearly waving the other one away. Arms stretched out extending the leash, the other owner persists in forcing their dog to approach to sniff ignoring requests not to, because theirs “is OK.” No apparent thought is put into whether yours might not be. 

Mariya Verkhovets, our Toronto dog bite lawyer, reminds that dog bite incidents can happen involving canines that are not vicious but are instead reactive, nervous, leash guarders or are rescues from the mean streets of another country that are adjusting to our world. They have a right to be walked responsibly on leash and nothing would occur if the other owner would read the body language or the verbal cues. Instead the other owners can become hostile and/or ignore the warning and force unwanted interaction.

If a fight ensues and there are injuries to the other dog and/or person you are strictly liable. However under contributory negligence rules, the other owner’s negligence in ignoring your request to keep moving will lower your damages. But it’s important to have a Toronto dog bite lawyer at Verkhovets Law assist in these unfortunate circumstances. 

This irresponsible behaviour extends to those letting their dogs off leash and approaching a nervous dog that has stepped to the side while on leash and reacts, say our Toronto dog bite lawyers.

Once again, our Toronto dog bite lawyer warns, even if both dogs are on leash, and you issue an objection to an approach, while your financial hit may be mitigated by the other owner’s thoughtless action, you will still have some financial liability. That bites.

7 tips on interacting with other dogs

The Toronto dog bite lawyers at Verkhovets Law know that understanding how to engage with dogs and interpret their interactions with each other is akin to mastering a new language. To ensure a safe time: 

  1. Mind your posture: Approach dogs while standing or squatting. It’s essential not to lean over the dog, as this can be perceived as intimidating.
  2. Let them initiate: Allow the dog to take the initiative by coming towards you, rather than the other way around. Our Toronto dog bite lawyer says this respects the dog’s comfort zone and establishes a more relaxed interaction.
  3. Eye contact etiquette: Avoid making direct eye contact with the dog, as intense staring can be interpreted as a challenge or threat.
  4. Extend a hand: Gently extend your hand toward the dog, allowing them to approach and sniff if they are comfortable. This gesture establishes a friendly connection and enables the dog to familiarize itself with your scent.
    Our Toronto dog bite lawyers say in situations where an unleashed dog approaches rapidly, you can employ the following strategies to minimize any perceived threat:
  5. Halt all movement: Immediately stop any sudden movements to avoid escalating the situation and present your side to the dog.
  6. Stand sideways: Ensure that your side is presented to the dog, advises our Toronto dog bite lawyer.
  7. Calm verbal interaction: Employ a soothing and friendly tone when speaking to the dog. This can help defuse tension and convey that you mean no harm.

Call or email our Toronto dog bite lawyers today

The Toronto dog bite lawyers at Verkhovets Law will hold negligent dog owners accountable for injuries to you, your loved ones or your pup caused by unleashed dogs. Or we can help mitigate damages if your dog is involved in a fight through no fault of their own. Call or email our experienced now to secure the compensation you deserve.


Mariya Verkhovets

Over many years of practicing personal injury law, she has helped thousands of injured Canadians. Whether by case settlement, tribunal, or a Court Order, Mariya can help you get the compensation you deserve. She advocates zealously for those whose voices frequently remain not heard. Prior to having her own practice, Mariya articled in a plaintiff-side personal injury firm, and worked there for a number of years after being admitted to the Ontario Bar. She continues to advocate for her clients and represent their interests in various courts and tribunals.