Owner Liability When Exotic Animals Attack - Diamond and Diamond Lawyers

Owner Liability When Exotic Animals Attack


It stands to reason that most animal attacks on humans involve dogs. The dog population across Canada exceeds 8 million. Ontario looked at the statistics about the dog breeds most frequently involved in attacks on people and amended its law pertaining to owner liability to prohibit people from owning pit bulls. This resulted in a sharp decline over the years in the pit bull population in the province. As the pit bull population declined in Ontario, the number of people possessing exotic animals, such as tigers, monkeys and alligators, has increased thanks in part to laws that make ownership of pit bulls and killer whales illegal while remaining silent about tigers and other exotic and potentially deadly animals.

Dog owner liability in Ontario

Banning pit bulls in the province drastically reduced attacks on people involving that particular breed, but it did not eliminate the risk of being bitten by other breeds of dogs. There were 767 dog bite incidents in Ontario according to the most recent statistics compiled by the government.

The Dog Owners’ Liability Act makes the owner of a dog liable for damages for injuries caused to a person attacked by the animal. A person making a claim for damages against the owner of a dog following an attack need not prove the owner knew of the dog’s propensity for biting. Ontario does not subscribe to the “one-bite rule” that relieves owners of liability unless their dogs exhibited aggressive tendencies in the past.

A person bitten by a dog may sue the owner for damages, including the following:

  • Costs associated with medical care and treatment
  • Rehabilitation, including physical and occupational therapy
  • Medication costs
  • Lost income, including anticipated future income losses or reduction
  • Pain and suffering

Depending upon the severity of the attack, a person bitten by a dog could be entitled to receive compensation for counseling required to overcome the psychological and emotional trauma.

Damages claims for exotic animal attacks

Although it is illegal to keep game wildlife or wildlife that is protected under the law, there is no uniform ban against ownership of monkeys and other types of exotic animals that could attack and injure a person. An owner of an exotic animal that attacks someone could be held legally responsible for damages under a general theory of negligence.

Unlike owners of dogs whose liability in the event of an attack is based upon the provisions of the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, owners of exotic animals in Ontario can be held liable based upon the legal principle of negligence. Venomous snakes, crocodiles and monkeys are inherently dangerous and likely to attack a person. A person owning such an animal should know from its  characteristics that it is likely to cause harm to anyone coming in contact with it regardless of how docile or tame it might appear to be.

Even though the law might not prohibit ownership of a particular species of wild or exotic animal, ownership brings with it a duty of exercise care to protect other people from being attacked. An owner failing to take reasonable precautions to protect someone from harm could be held liable for damages resulting from an attack.

Ontario personal injury lawyers

The personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond have years of experience successfully handling claims for compensation on behalf of Ontario residents. Whether you have been bitten by a dog or by an exotic animal, our lawyers have the knowledge of the law and the skills to advise you about your rights and the proper procedure for obtaining compensation for your injuries. Call the Diamond and Diamond 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now. We have offices located throughout Ontario offering free consultations and case evaluations to injury victims and their families.


What animals qualify as exotic animals?

There is currently no clearly defined list of animals that are categorized as exotic pets. But it is generally understood that tigers, monkeys, alligators, hippos, venomous snakes, and other potentially dangerous animals that are not commonly kept as pets fall into this category. The keeping of these animals is an area of the law that is still evolving. But what is sure is that if you own an animal and it hurts someone you will be held liable.

Are all exotic pets considered dangerous?

Not all exotic pets are considered dangerous. Even if you own an otherwise harmless animal that is prone to jumping up when people arrive at your home, you would be expected to contain it if you had a frail visitor. To anticipate that your pet could knock them over and take steps to prevent that kind of accident. Regardless of the kind of animal you are keeping, you are expected to make sure that they do not harm others.

What does strict liability mean when it comes to exotic pets in Canada?

In Canada, if you own a pet, exotic or otherwise you need to accept that it could harm someone and take steps to prevent this from happening. There is no one strike or one bite system that relieves you of liability like there is in other places. This strict liability rule means that the first time your pet or animal harms someone you are held fully responsible in the eyes of the law.


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