Step 0 (for owners and guardians). Know and protect your dog
Easy enough to say: but it’s best to prevent problems before they happen.
It’s on the owner or guardian to know if they’re taking care of a dangerous breed. Find out about your pup’s past to see if they’ve been aggressive before. Educate yourself on your municipality’s local bylaws. And make sure your dog has the right gear: proper enclosure, leash, muzzle, etc., to keep the public protected.
Step 1. Get information
After the dog attack, stay at the scene. The parties should exchange information. Take photographs of what happened. Jot down notes of the details — relying on your memory after the fact can be tricky.
Step 2. After the attack, call the municipality
Let the local municipality know what happened. Google them for contact information. In Vancouver, you can call 604-873-7000.
Use the notes you’ve prepared and provide contact information for the other parties. An animal control officer will review the file and follow up.
If you were responsible for the dog at the time, you should be prepared to pay a fine. There may be other consequences depending on how severe the attack was or if the dog has had similar complaints in the past.
Step 3. Consider your legal options
As a victim, the financial fall-out from a dog attack can be complex. There are the obvious expenses of hospital visits or medication. But there can be other costs, like the inability to work (either short or long term), or mental trauma. A legal professional can tell you what costs may be recoverable, and who you should file a claim against.
If you’re the owner or person responsible for the pet, a lawyer can outline the risk you will have to compensate the victim, and how much.
Seeing a lawyer sounds like it would be expensive. But some initial consultations are free. Often (as the injured party) you can strike a deal with your lawyer to pay nothing up front — they’ll just take a percentage of whatever damages you’re awarded. And there are options for low-cost or even free advice.
Plus, lawyers aren’t the only option. Have you heard of mediation? It’s less formal than court, faster, and generally cheaper than hiring a lawyer.
Otherwise, you can attempt to resolve the issue without a lawyer. You can discuss it in person with the dog owner or person responsible, or send them a letter that outlines your concerns.