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Information on The Dog Owners' Liability Act and Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005


Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005 — Highlights

  • On October 26, 2004 the Ontario government introduced Bill 132 to amend the Dog Owners' Liability Act (DOLA), with related amendments to the Animals for Research Act (ARA).
  • Bill 132 was passed by the Legislative Assembly as the Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005 on March 1, 2005. It received Royal Assent on March 9, 2005.
  • The legislation bans pit bulls in Ontario, places restrictions on existing pit bulls, and toughens the penalties for the owners of any dog that poses a danger to the public.
  • Ontario's pit bull ban took effect on August 29, 2005.
  • All dog owners must comply with the amended requirements of DOLA and other provisions of law.
  • Pit bull owners may keep their existing dogs, as long as they comply with certain requirements.
  • The recent amendments to DOLA also contain tough new penalties for the owners of all potentially dangerous dogs, regardless of breed or type.
  • Regulations made under the DOLA, as amended, came into effect on August 29, 2005. These regulations set out pit bull controls in detail. The regulations can be found at http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca
  • The information below is provided to aid understanding of the legislation and does not constitute legal advice.

Transition Period

  • The act received Royal Assent on March 9, 2005. However, the effective date of August 29, 2005, was set to allow municipalities time to ensure that the legislation is applied effectively.
  • This transition period allowed all dog owners to familiarize themselves with the existing and new requirements of DOLA that apply to ALL dogs.
  • Those who currently own pit bulls have until October 28, 2005 to comply with the new law by ensuring their dogs are spayed or neutered, and are muzzled and leashed while in public (see below: <%= toc04 %> ).

Pit Bulls

  • The amendments to DOLA will prohibit individuals from owning, breeding, transferring, importing or abandoning pit bulls. Training a pit bull to fight or allowing a pit bull to stray are also prohibited.
  • There are exceptions to the restrictions on ownership, transfer and importing in the case of "grandfathered" pit bulls (see below: <%= toc04 %> ).

"Grandfathered" or Restricted Pit Bulls

  • Individuals who already own pit bulls will be able to keep them, provided they comply with requirements set out in the amendments and the regulations.
  • Pit bulls kept legally after the ban will be known as "grandfathered" or restricted pit bulls.
  • In order for a pit bull to qualify as a "grandfathered" or restricted pit bull, it must be:
    • Owned by an Ontario resident on August 29, 2005., or
    • Born in Ontario within 90 days after August 29, 2005.

Grandfathered/Restricted Pit Bulls — Owners' Responsibilities

  • Pit bull owners are required to ensure their pit bulls are in compliance with the amendments and regulations.
  • The full text of the regulations can be found on the e-laws website. The text below summarizes certain key elements of the regulations and is not authoritative.
  • By October 28, 2005, pit bull owners will have to have their pit bulls leashed and muzzled in public and comply with sterilization requirements.
  • The regulations stipulate that restricted pit bulls be muzzled and leashed unless the dogs are on their owners' enclosed property or on enclosed property occupied by another person who consents to the pit bull being without a muzzle or leash.
  • Among other specific requirements, a leash may be a maximum of 1.8 metres long.
  • Muzzles should be humane, but strong enough and well-fitted enough to prevent the pit bull from biting, without interfering with the breathing, panting, or vision of the pit bull or with the pit bull's ability to drink.
  • All pit bulls must be sterilized by October 28, 2005.
  • If this would require a pit bull to be sterilized before it reaches 36-weeks of age, the owner may wait until the dog reaches that age to have it sterilized.
  • There are limited exemptions to the sterilization requirement if, in the written opinion of a veterinarian, a pit bull is physically unfit to be anaesthetized because of old age or infirmity. See the regulations for further details.

Dog Owners' Liability Act (DOLA) Proceedings

  • This section describes DOLA proceedings as they existed before amendments to the legislation became effective on August 29, 2005.
  • The amendments to the legislation make some changes to the Part IX proceedings and the offence proceedings. Those changes are discussed in subsequent sections.
  • Civil Proceedings
    • If a dog bites you, you may bring a civil action against the dog's owner for damages.
    • The Act states that the owner of a dog is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack and that liability does not depend on the owner's fault, negligence or knowledge of the propensity of the dog to bite or attack.
  • Proceedings under Part IX of the Provincial Offences Act (Part IX Orders or Part IX Proceedings)
    • DOLA provides that any individual can start a court proceeding under Part IX of the Provincial Offences Act (POA).
    • In these proceedings, an individual can seek a court order related to a dog.
    • These orders can provide for destruction of the dog or require that the dog's owner take certain measures in relation to the dog such as requiring that the dog be muzzled or leashed.
  • Offence Proceedings under Part III of the Provincial Offences Act (Offence Proceedings)
    • Violations of various Ontario statutes, including DOLA, constitute provincial offences and may be prosecuted under the Provincial Offences Act.
    • After charges are laid, a Crown attorney presents the case in court.

Part IX Proceedings and Pit Bulls

  • In Part IX proceedings, an individual may seek a court order in relation to a dog (see above: <%= toc06 %> ).
  • Where a court is convinced that a pit bull has bitten or attacked or posed a menace in a Part IX proceeding, a mandatory destruction order must be issued.
  • Where a pit bull owner is found to have contravened a provision of the DOLA, the regulations, or a court order in relation to the pit bull, a mandatory destruction order must be issued in a Part IX proceeding.

Pit Bull Ban — Exceptions for Dog Shows and Flyball Tournaments

  • There are limited exceptions to certain requirements of the pit bull ban to allow the participation of pit bulls in dog shows and flyball tournaments.
  • "Dog shows" and "flyball tournaments" are defined in the regulations. See e-laws for more information.
  • Dog shows must be sanctioned, in writing, by one or more of the following dog registries: Canadian Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, American Kennel Club or American Dog Breeders Association.
  • Flyball tournaments must be sanctioned, in writing, by the North American Flyball Association.
  • There are different exceptions for restricted Ontario pit bulls and pit bulls not owned by Ontario residents.
  • Details of these limited exceptions are set out in the regulations.
  • None of these exceptions permit breeding of pit bulls, under any circumstances.

Importing Pit Bulls

  • It is against the law to bring pit bulls into Ontario, even for a short visit.
  • There are no exceptions made for:
    • Tourists
    • People moving to Ontario, or
    • Military personnel being transferred to Ontario postings.
  • The law does allow certain pit bulls into Ontario for recognized dog shows under limited circumstances (see above: Pit Bull Ban — Exceptions for Dog Shows and Flyball Tournaments).
  • If you leave Ontario with a restricted pit bull (one that was legally owned after the ban was implemented), you can return with that pit bull within three months of your departure. But after three months, that pit bull will not be allowed back in Ontario.
  • If, on August 29, 2005, you were a legal resident of Ontario who owned a pit bull, but you were not in Ontario on that day, you will have been allowed to bring your pit bull back to Ontario within three months of August 29, 2005. After three months that pit bull will not have been allowed back in Ontario.

Acquiring Restricted Pit Bulls

  • Pit bulls kept legally after the ban will be known as "grandfathered" or restricted pit bulls.
  • A person who owned one or more pit bulls on August 29, 2005 will be able to acquire more restricted pit bulls so long as the effect would not be to leave the person with more pit bulls than he or she owned on August 29, 2005.
  • Pounds and humane societies are able to adopt out restricted pit bulls, provided that the transfer of the pit bull to a new owner would not lead to a violation of the restrictions on acquisition.

All Dangerous Dogs

  • The amendments to DOLA contained in the Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005 came into effect on August 29, 2005.
  • For court proceedings taking place after August 29, 2005, regarding events that took place before that date, the law will apply as it existed before August 29, 2005.
  • Expanded Part IX Proceedings: It is now possible to commence Part IX proceedings where it is alleged that:
    • A dog has bitten or attacked
    • The dog has behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals
    • An owner did not exercise reasonable precautions to prevent a dog from biting or attacking or posing a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals
    • An existing order has been breached.
  • Part IX Orders: In Part IX proceedings arising after August 29, 2005, the existing legislation and amendments will provide that if a court finds that a dog has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal or that the dog's behaviour constitutes a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals, the court may make the following orders if satisfied that they are necessary for protection of the public:
    • Destruction order
    • Order that dog owner take specified control measures
    • Order prohibiting further dog ownership for a specified period of time.
  • Control Measures: The existing legislation and amendments provide some examples of the sort of Part IX orders that the courts may make in cases arising after August 29, 2005.
    Examples include:
    • Confinement of dog to owner's property
    • Restraint of dog by leash and/or muzzle
    • Posting of warning signs.
  • Mandatory Sterilization: Any dog subject to a Part IX Order (other than a destruction order) must be spayed or neutered within 30 days of the order or within a different period of time, if the court specifies one.
  • Expanded Offence Proceedings: It is an offence to contravene any provision of the DOLA or the regulations or any order made under the DOLA or regulations.
    Specific offences will include:
    • Failing to exercise reasonable precautions to prevent a dog from biting or attacking a person or domestic animal.
    • Failing to exercise reasonable precautions to prevent a dog from behaving in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals.
  • Penalties for Offences: Penalties in DOLA offence proceedings will be as follows:
    • $10,000 fine ($60,000 for corporations); and/or
    • Six months imprisonment; and/or
    • In addition to any other penalties, the court will be able to make restitution orders requiring convicted persons to make compensation or restitution to victims.

New Powers for Animal Control Personnel

  • The amendments to DOLA provide that police officers, special constables, First Nations Constables, auxiliary police, municipal law enforcement officers, OSPCA inspectors and OSPCA agents are all designated as peace officers for the purposes of DOLA.
  • Designated peace officers will be able to obtain warrants to seize a dog from a particular location where it is not desirable in the interests of public safety that the dog be so located.
  • In exigent circumstances, designated peace officers will have a right of entry without warrant. Exigent circumstances include circumstances where there are reasonable grounds to believe that entry without warrant is necessary to prevent imminent bodily harm or death to any person or domestic animal.
  • There are also provisions for seizure in public places.

Municipal Pounds

  • The definition of pound for the purposes of DOLA and the Animals for Research Act (ARA), will be "premises that are used for the detention, maintenance or disposal of dogs or cats that have been impounded pursuant to a by-law of a municipality or the Dog Owners' Liability Act, but does not include any premises, or part thereof, that are not used by any person or body of persons, including the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or any society affiliated therewith, for the detention, maintenance or disposal of dogs or cats so impounded."
  • Pounds will be able to keep and adopt out any number of restricted pit bulls so long as they are kept in accordance with the DOLA and any regulations.
  • Animal shelters and facilities that are not pounds will have the same status as any other pit bull owners. They will be able to own, acquire and, transfer restricted pit bulls in accordance with the requirements.
  • Only pounds and ARA registered research facilities will be legally able to own or acquire prohibited pit bulls.
  • Amendments to the ARA provide a system for dealing with such pit bulls including sending prohibited pit bulls (i.e., pit bulls that are not "restricted" or grandfathered) out of Ontario.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Now that the amendments are law, do I have to send my pit bull out of Ontario or have it euthanized?

No. Owners of pit bulls may keep their pit bulls, provided they keep them in compliance with the requirements of the new legislation and any regulations made under it. The new legislation will take effect on August 29, 2005.

2. Is my dog a pit bull?

Under the amendments to DOLA, pit bull is defined as:

  • A pit bull terrier
  • A Staffordshire bull terrier
  • An American Staffordshire terrier
  • An American pit bull terrier
  • A dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics substantially similar to any of those dogs.

3. Who decides whether or not a dog is a pit bull?

The amendments provide that in a Part IX proceeding the onus of proving that the dog is not a pit bull will lie with the owner of the dog. In offence proceedings, the amendments provide that the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, a veterinarian's certificate attesting that a dog is a pit bull is evidence of that fact. Part IX proceedings and offence proceedings are heard before the Ontario Court of Justice.

4. What sort of documentation do I need to travel with my pit bull?

The amendments do not deal with customs documentation regarding shipping of dogs to Canada from foreign jurisdictions and dogs that are in transit destined for other countries. The legislation bans pit bulls and their importation into Ontario. It is the responsibility of an owner to show that a pit bull is not being imported into Ontario in contravention of the ban.

5. What if I am just passing through Ontario with my pit bull?

You will be in contravention of the law if you are found to have imported a pit bull into the province. Your pit bull may be subject to seizure and you may be subject to a fine and/or jail time. Please note that exceptions exist for Ontario residents who are out of the province with their pit bulls for less than three months. Limited exceptions also exist for individuals coming to Ontario for purposes of participating in recognized dog shows and flyball tournaments.

6. Do I have to have my pit bull muzzled and leashed?

Regulations provide that pit bull owners must comply with leash and muzzle requirements by October 28, 2005. Municipal by-laws may have such requirements prior to October 28, 2005. Check with your local municipality for further information.

7. What if I want to complain about a dog? Who do I contact?

Municipalities are responsible for animal control and you should generally contact your local animal control or by-law enforcement office in relation to animal control issues. In emergency situations, the police should be contacted. Please note that after October 28, 2005, owners of existing pit bulls must ensure that their dogs are sterilized and that they are muzzled and leashed while walking them in public.

8. Do I have to register my pit bull?

There is no provincial plan for dog registration as animal control is a municipal responsibility. You should license and register your dog in compliance with requirements set by your local municipality.

9. I am being harassed when walking in public with my pit bull. What should I do?

The Ontario government's amendments to DOLA are designed to make all Ontarians safer. The fact that the government has chosen to ban pit bulls is no justification for harassment of pit bulls owners or cruelty to animals. Pit bull owners are allowed to keep their dogs and walk them in public, as long as they obey the law as it applies to all dog owners. However, pit bull owners walking their dogs in public after October 28, 2005, must comply with certain requirements, such as keeping the dog muzzled and on leash.
Pit bull owners who are subject to harassment that may constitute criminal activity and/or fear for their safety should contact the police.

10. Our municipality already has a pit bull ban in place (or is thinking of implementing one) with no grandfather clause. Do the new amendments mean that pit bull owners can bring their dogs into our community regardless of our by-law?

No. The new section 11 of DOLA will provide that if there is a conflict between the provincial requirements and a municipal by-law, the more restrictive provisions in relation to pit bulls will prevail.


Further Information