The woman claimed that the dog’s owner was responsible for the bite. (Photo: REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli)
A recent Ontario Court of Appeal case could have long-lasting implications on dog walkers and owners.
A woman who was in a relationship with a man who owned a nine-year old dog with health problems, offered to walk his dog for him. During the course of the walk, the dog suffered a seizure, slipped on ice and fell into a ditch. When the dog walker tried to retrieve him, she fell and collided with the dog. The dog bit her and she lost part of her right thumb.
After the incident, she sued the dog owner for her injury under the Dog Owners Liability Act.
She claimed that the owner was responsible for the bite, because the morning of the walk the owner failed to give the dog food and his medications. The lower court had partially sided with the dog walker in that it found the dog walker was entitled to compensation for her injury.
The owner appealed and asked that the case be dismissed. The whole case rested on the question whether the dog walker was considered in possession of and an owner of the dog at the time she was walking him.
If found to be an owner of a dog, that person doesn’t have the right to compensation under the act. Only a “non-owner” has the right to sue for compensation for a dog attack.
The appeal court found that that the definition of the word “owner” should include a person “who is in physical possession and control over a dog just before it bites or attacks another person or animal.”
As the court considered the woman to be in possession and control of the dog, she was considered an owner at the time of the walk and therefore can’t sue for compensation. The court dismissed the case.
However, this case has wider implications than a dog walker not being able to sue the owner of the dog.
As the court has expanded the definition of “owner,” that could put dog walkers in danger of being sued if a dog in their possession bites another person.