When it comes to dog owner responsibilities and legal liability in British Columbia owners need to know that it is a strict liability test if your dog injuries a person. That means the injury claimant does not have to show that your dog has actually caused the injury; what is required is to show that the dog owner knew or ought to have known that the dog had a propensity to do that kind of harm. The onus is on the claimant to show on a balance of probabilities that the owner knew or ought to have known of the dog’s propensity for causing harm.
In this dog attack personal injury case (Gallant v. Slootweg,2014 BCSC 1579) the claimant was riding his bicycle next to the shoulder of the eastbound lane of Chilliwack Central Road in Chilliwack, BC  when all of a sudden the dog, Rocky the Doberman,  lunged at him. He frantically tried to pedal away only to be hunted down and tossed off the bike by the attacking dog.
Prior to the incident Rocky’s owners purchased and installed an electronic fence around the property attached to a collar but the  dog still would bark at passing bicycles.  After the incident the owner checked the receiver on Rocky’s collar and saw that it was not working and could not explain why the system was not working.
The law that applies to dog owners is the doctrine of scienter which states that the owner of a dog which bites another is liable if three conditions have been satisfied:

i) That the defendant was the owner of the dog;

ii) That the dog had manifested a propensity to cause the type of harm occasioned; and

iii) That the owner knew of that propensity.

 Scienter is defined as a is a long-standing doctrine of law that places strict liability on the owner of an animal that causes injury. As the judge was satisfied that all three conditions of Scienter had been met, the injury claimant was successful in establishing liability in this case.
As for damages,the claimant suffered a closed comminuted fracture of his left clavicle and fractures of his fifth and sixth ribs, which healed within 6 weeks.  the injuries suffered in this incident rendered the claimant disabled from doing any kind of physical work for three months and with 4 months he was essential able to resume all his pre-injury activities. The judge was of the opinion that an amount of $25,000  was a reasonable award for pain and suffering. The claimant lost about $13,000 in earnings.
The claimant also claimed $1,349 for the damage to his bicycle following the dog attack and was entitled to the value of the bicycle at the date of the loss which was found to be $1,050.
The injury claimant was therefore entitled to judgment against the dog owner, in the following amounts:

Pain and Suffering


Past loss of earning capacity


Out of Pocket Exprenses




Read more  about dog attacks in my article about a man stabbing a pitbull terrier. It’s always important to check with a lawyer about the facts of your case as there are exceptions to the application of doctrine of scienter not discussed in this article.
ISSUE: Should dog attack victims have to prove the dog had the propensity to do harm?
Posted by Vancouver Personal Injury Lawyer, and dog lover, Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B- serving all of BC

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