Dog Owners' Liability Act
What you need to know
You are responsible for your dog if it bites or attacks another pet or person. Rules for owning a dog in Ontario are found in the Dog Owners’ Liability Act.
You must have your dog on a leash, in a fenced-in area at all times. Dogs must be with an adult at dog parks. If your dog has runaway, it may be impounded, taken in by the City, and you may be ﬁned. It is up to you to pay all costs.
Charges may be laid against you if:
- Your dog is a danger to people or pets
- Your dog bites or attacks a person or pet
- You do not prevent your dog from being a danger to people or pets
Penalties in the Dog Owners’ Liability Act can be up to a $10,000 ﬁne and/or six months in prison.
If the Court ﬁnds that your dog bites or attacks a person or pet, for the protection of the public, it may order:
- That your dog be destroyed in the manner specified in the order; or
- That you control the dog by:
- Confining the dog to your property
- Using a leash
- Muzzling your dog while off your property
- Posting warning signs; or
- Prohibiting you from owning another dog for a specified period of time.
Any dog under one of these orders, other than the destruction order, must be spayed or neutered within 30 days of the order or a period of time specified by the Court.
If you dog has been deemed a dangerous dog by the courts you must purchase a dangerous dog license as required by the Responsible Animal Ownership By-law.
The Province of Ontario defines “pit bull” as a pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier or a dog that looks like one of these but is much smaller. If you own a pit bull you need to know about the Dog Owners’ Liability Act that does not allow anyone to own, breed, sell, import, abandon or train pit bulls to ﬁght.
Restricted pit bulls
You can keep your pit bull as a “restricted pit bull” if you can show proof that:
- it was owned by a resident of Ontario on or before August 29, 2005 or
- it was born in Ontario within 90 days after August 29, 2005.
Restricted pit bulls owners’ responsibilities
If you prove that your pit bull is a “restricted pit bull” then you must:
- Spay or neuter your dog, except where a veterinarian supplies a medical waiver.
- Muzzle your dog in public with a muzzle that is strong and ﬁts so that it cannot bite and it can still breathe, see, pant and drink.
- Keep your dog on a leash that is shorter than 1.8 metres when you are not at home.
- Keep your dog in a protected area when you are at home or at someone else’s home that lets you bring your dog.
The Court may consider the following conditions when issuing an order:
- Your dog’s past and present temperament and behaviour.
- The seriousness of the injuries caused by the bites or attacks.
- The justification of your dog's actions due to unusual circumstances.
- The unlikelihood that a similar attack will be repeated.
- Precautions taken by you to prevent similar attacks in the future.
- Your dog’s physical potential for doing harm.
- If your dog is a restricted or prohibited pit bull under the law and whether you have complied with the law.
- Any other situations that the court considers relevant.