In Vancouver a leashed pit bull was left dead this Wednesday after a man with an off leash dog pulled out a knife, apparently stabbing the Pit Bull several times to death. The man appeared to be motivated by the fact the Pit Bull had bit his dog, which was not on a leash.
The Vancouver city by law requiring dog owner’s to have their dogs on a leash is meant to prevent this type of event, and the failure to use a leash can be used as evidence of negligence in law.
To prove negligence however it is generally not enough to establish that a person breached a city by-law. To prove negligence in British Columbia you must establish three things: 1. that the person being sued owed you a duty of care, 2. their behavior fell below the appropriate standard of care, and 3. that you have suffered injury, loss or damage. The fact is, like it or not, dogs are not persons under our law so this would not be a wrongful death claim and the owner would have to established that she suffered injury.
The man that stabbed the Pit Bull has the right to defend himself and may argue that there was contributory negligent by the Pit Bull owner in that she knew or ought to have known that her dog posed a danger to other dogs in the City.
The Pit Bull owner may have a very good chance of proving a breach of a standard of care but the issue with respect to the injury, loss and damage is much more difficult. Dogs are considered property, not persons, under BC law so any claim for pain and suffering would have to be made by the owner.
Without having suffered any physical injury herself, the dog owner in this knife attack would have to established that she has suffered a psychiatric injury. The event may well have been alarming, frightening, unexpected and horrifying. However, a claim must be for actual psychiatric or emotional injury caused by (not just resulting from) the actionable conduct of the defendant.
To learn more about psychiatric injury claims read our short article about obtaining compensation for nervous shock.
Issue: Should a dog owner get compensation for the emotional trauma resulting from the wrongful death of a dog?
Posted by Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.