British Columbia

Dog owner owes $1K after off-leash Bibi bites Muffin

Dog owners beware — you can be on the hook for any veterinary bills if your pet runs off and bites another dog, as one B.C. woman recently found out.

Civil Resolution Tribunal ruled the biting dog’s owner was negligent and must pay vet bill for injured pooch

Bibi's owner was ordered to pay $870 for the vet, $6 in interest and $125 in tribunal fees. (Stefan Malloch/Shutterstock)

When a dog bites, it's often the dog's owner that gets bitten — financially, as one B.C. owner recently found out.

Shahab Malek-Afzali says she had let her dog, Bibi, out in the unfenced front yard to play with her children while she unpacked some groceries inside in May, the Civil Resolution Tribunal heard. 

Meanwhile, a second dog named Muffin was on-leash and out for a stroll in the North Vancouver neighbourhood. The friend of its owner, Julie Walker, was walking Muffin down the residential street.   

"Bibi came onto public property and bit Muffin on the behind, without provocation," wrote tribunal member Julie K. Gibson in the decision this week.

"The issue in this dispute is whether [Bibi's owner] is responsible for Muffin's injury and, if so, what is the appropriate remedy?"

The answer is a resounding yes, the tribunal ruled, and the remedy is paying the full veterinary costs for the stitches — all $870. Plus interest and the tribunal fees.

"Leaving Bibi unleashed and without adult supervision in a yard open to the street was not reasonable," Gibson wrote, noting the dog had bitten a neighbour's pet in the past.  

"This failure to keep Bibi reasonably leashed or supervised was the cause of the bite."

In B.C., there are three ways a pet owner can be held liable for their animal's behaviour:

  • Negligence, as was found in this case, applies when the owner should have known the pet is likely to cause injury and didn't take care to prevent it. 
  • "Occupier's liability" is when the injury takes place on the pet owner's property, and refers to the duty to ensure those who enter your premises are reasonably safe. 
  • "Scienter" requires proof that the pet has a tendency of causing harm that the owner knows about.  

Malek-Afazli has 30 days to pay back the vet bill and other costs, which amounted to just over $1,000.  

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