Dog Owners' Liability Act


Animal Services may be coming to your door!

Four young women in Animal Control uniforms pose in front of a City of Hamilton vehicle

Animal Services Licensing Officers are going door to door to educate dog owners on their responsibilities to purchase licences for their dogs.

These Officers will be in uniform and carrying City photo identification with them at all times.

Anyone may renew or purchase a licence at their door, online or in person at Hamilton Animal Services, Municipal Law Enforcement or Municipal Service Centre locations

You are responsible for your dog if it bites or attacks another pet or person. Rules for owning a dog in Ontario are found in the Dog Owners’ Liability Act.

Loose dogs

You must have your dog on a leash, in a fenced-in area at all times. Dogs must be with an adult at dog parks. If your dog has runaway, it may be impounded, taken in by the City, and you may be fined. It is up to you to pay all costs.

Dogs that bite or attack others

Charges may be laid against you if:

  • Your dog is a danger to people or pets
  • Your dog bites or attacks a person or pet
  • You do not prevent your dog from being a danger to people or pets

Penalties in the Dog Owners’ Liability Act can be up to a $10,000 fine and/or six months in prison.

If the Court finds that your dog bites or attacks a person or pet, for the protection of the public, it may order:

  • That your dog be destroyed in the manner specified in the order; or
  • That you control the dog by:
    • Confining the dog to your property
    • Using a leash
    • Muzzling your dog while off your property
    • Posting warning signs; or
    • Prohibiting you from owning another dog for a specified period of time.

Any dog under one of these orders, other than the destruction order, must be spayed or neutered within 30 days of the order or a period of time specified by the Court.

If you dog has been deemed a dangerous dog by the courts you must purchase a dangerous dog license as required by the Responsible Animal Ownership By-law.

What the Court considers when issuing orders

The Court may consider the following conditions when issuing an order:

  • Your dog’s past and present temperament and behaviour.
  • The seriousness of the injuries caused by the bites or attacks.
  • The justification of your dog's actions due to unusual circumstances.
  • The unlikelihood that a similar attack will be repeated.
  • Precautions taken by you to prevent similar attacks in the future.
  • Your dog’s physical potential for doing harm.
  • If your dog is a restricted or prohibited pit bull under the law and whether you have complied with the law.
  • Any other situations that the court considers relevant.