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When your dog assaults someone

In Ottawa, the owner of a dog can be charged when his or her dog bites a person or a domestic animal. Section 27 of the Ottawa Bylaw No. 2003-77 [Bylaw] indicates that; "No owner of a dog shall permit the dog to bite or attack without provocation a person or domestic animal"

This is a unique type of assault offence because, contrary to what we see in most criminal or quazi-criminal cases, the officer is not charging the person (or in this case the dog) who committed a certain act, but rather the owner.

On February 10, 2015, Justice Webber delivered a judgement in the Ontario Court of Justice in the case of The City of Ottawa v Rutland (non-reported), establishing the essential elements of the offence. The prosecutor had appealed the acquittal entered by the trial Justice of the Peace and Justice Webber dismissed the appeal.

Justice Webber states that firstly, the owner has to be found to have permitted the dog to bite or attack. Secondly, there has to be a bite or an attack. Thirdly, the owner must allow the bite or attack to happen in circumstances where there is no provocation.

In defining "a bite", Justice Webber agrees with the definition given in s. 1 of the Bylaw, indicating that the skin must actually be broken in order for a bite to occur. A scratch or abrasion would not be consistent with the definition which indicates the skin be punctured or broken.

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