New Dog Owners Liability Act (plus Pit Bull Ban)

Bill 132 and the Pit Bull ban become law

The amendments to the Dog Owners' Liability Act (DOLA) introduced earlier in 2005 by the Ontario government through Bill 132, will take effect province-wide on August 29, 2005. The amendments include broader powers to deal with dangerous dogs in general, as well as a ban on pit bulls and restrictions on existing pit bulls.

The Ontario government has announced that it will allow a 60-day transition period to phase-in the restrictions on pit bulls. It is during this period that pit bull owners will be given time to comply with the requirements set out in the Act and the accompanying Ontario Regulation 157/05, and that municipalities and other enforcement agencies identified in the newly amended Act will prepare to enforce it and the regulations, as directed by the provincial government.

The amendments will prohibit anyone from owning, breeding, transferring, importing, fighting or abandoning pit bulls in Ontario. The definition of a pit bull under the Act includes: pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier or a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to any of the aforementioned dogs.

For Ontario residents who currently own a pit bull, the new legislation contains a "grandfathering" clause, which will allow existing pit bulls to remain in Ontario provided that the owner can prove that the pit bull was in Ontario prior to August 29, 2005 or born within 90 days of August 29. Pit bull owners must also comply with the regulations under the Dog Owners' Liability Act by October 28, 2005.

The most effective way to ensure proof of ownership is for dog owners to have their dog registered or licensed with the municipality prior to August 29, 2005. Pet registration/licensing provides a means by which any pet can be identified and returned home safely if it becomes lost. The local municipality may be contacted to obtain information on how to register or license pets.

Regulations for Restricted "Grandfathered" Pit Bulls:

The regulations stipulate that effective October 28, 2005, restricted pit bulls must be leashed and muzzled in public, and spayed or neutered. The onus of proof that a dog is not a pit bull, or that it is a restricted or "grandfathered" pit bull, will lie with the owner of the dog.

Effective August 29, 2005, in a Court proceeding, if a pit bull owner is found to have contravened a provision of the Dog Owners' Liability Act or their dog has bitten, attacked or posed a menace to public safety, a mandatory destruction order will be issued by the Court.

Given that the requirements under the regulations take effect later than the sections of the Act that would require the destruction of a pit bull that has bitten, attacked or posed a menace to public safety, owners of pit bulls might consider compliance with the regulations commencing August 29, 2005 rather than risk the possibility of a bite/attack/menace incident and the resultant mandatory destruction order.

Amendments regarding all Dogs and Dog Owners

Charges can be brought against any dog owner whose dog has bitten or attacked or behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals or where the dog owner did not exercise reasonable precautions to prevent a dog from doing any of the aforementioned.

Changes to the Penalties under the Dog Owners' Liability Act include:

$10,000 fine and or six months in jail (previously $2000 and no jail time)

$60,000 fine for corporations (previously no distinction for corporations)

The court may also make restitution orders requiring convicted persons to make compensation to the victims.

Other changes to the Act include prohibiting the ownership of dogs to convicted persons for specified periods of time, increased enforcement powers for a variety of enforcement agencies and more.

To view the amended Dog Owners' Liability Act, click on:
http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/regs/english/elaws_regs_050157_e.htm

To view Ontario Regulation 157/05, click on:
http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/regs/english/elaws_regs_050157_e.htm

For general information on the new Act and regulations, visit the Ministry of the Attorney General's web site at:
http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/dola-pubsfty/dola-pubsfty.asp

Contact: Christine Hartig, 613-580-2424, ext. 25629