A "dangerous animal" is one that:
- without provocation and in a vicious manner, approached a person or domestic animal in an apparent attitude or attack;
- is known to attack without provocation;
- has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal without provocation; and
- is owned primarily for the purpose of fighting or is trained for fighting.
An animal will not be declared dangerous if the actions occurred while the animal was:
- performing police work; or
- working as a guard animal on commercial property, securely enclosed by a fence to prevent the animal's escape and children entering.
The legislation defines the term "owner" to mean any of the following:
- a person who keeps, possesses or harbours an animal;
- the person responsible for the custody of a minor if the minor is the owner of an animal; and
- the parent of a minor living at home, who owns an animal.
Each of these individuals is considered the owner of the animal and is subject to liability and penalty provisions if a provincial court judge or a qualified justice of the peace declares the animal dangerous.
If an animal attacks a person or domestic animal while under the temporary care of a veterinarian, a humane society, or animal shelter, the temporary caregiver is exempt from liability as an owner unless there was negligence.
Cities may pass a bylaw respecting dangerous animals. Peace officers or designated officers have the ability to take limited action to deal with dangerous animals found on premises other than private dwellings.
Northern municipalities have specific authority to declare any animal or class or classes of animal to be dangerous. Legislative provisions within The Northern Municipalities Act, 2010 respecting dangerous dogs may meet local needs. (View sample northern bylaw for Dangerous Dogs.)
In southern municipalities, excluding cities, control of dangerous animals is addressed within The Municipalities Act. Municipalities may pass bylaws to supplement legislated provisions.
The following situations are offences under the legislation and may result in a fine and/or imprisonment:
- Owning an animal that attacks, bites, injures or kills a person or domestic animal without provocation;
- Not complying with a court order specifying conditions for keeping a dangerous animal; and
- Owning an animal for purposes of animal fighting or training and encouraging an animal to make unprovoked attacks on people or domestic animal.
Contact your municipal office to report a dangerous animal. Your municipality may have policies to you to report incidents involving animals which are alleged to be dangerous.
If your municipality does not have these types of policies, you may want to consider filing a report with law enforcement officials or consulting with a solicitor.
Complaints about alleged dangerous animals must be heard by a provincial court judge or a qualified justice of the peace.
Once a complaint has been made, the animal owner is served notice of a hearing. If the owner does not appear at the hearing, the court may proceed without the owner.
A person found guilty of any of the above offences may face:
- a fine of up to $10,000;
- imprisonment for up to six months; and
- an order for destruction of the animal.
The court may issue an order stating the terms under which the owner must keep the animal. For example, the owner may be required to:
- keep the animal in the house or outside in a locked enclosure of specific dimensions and construction. If the owner removes the animal from the enclosure, it must be securely leashed and humanely muzzled and kept under the owner's control and supervision;
- obtain and keep in effect a minimum of $300,000 liability insurance to cover damage or injury by the animal;
- display a sign on the property visible from the street, warning of the presence of a dangerous animal;
- comply with provisions of federal legislation regarding the control of rabies vaccinations for the animal; and
- notify a municipality if a dangerous animal is moved into that municipality.
In some cases, the court may order that a dangerous animal be tattooed, spayed/neutered.
The decision of the justice of the peace or the provincial court judge may be appealed within seven days.
If a peace officer or an officer designated by the municipality has grounds for believing that an animal is dangerous or has been ordered destroyed, the officer may, under certain circumstances, enter the premises to search for the animal and impound it. If the animal has been ordered destroyed, the officer may deliver the animal to the person appointed to destroy it.