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Today in the legislature I had the great pleasure of introducing Denis Canuel. Denis runs a professional gardening business here on southern Vancouver Island. He was the recent victim of a vicious dog attack featured in the Saanich News.

Later in the afternoon I introduced my private member’s Bill M212 — Animal Liability Act, 2016. Based on similar legislation in Manitoba, this Bill will ensure that owners of animals are held liable for the actions of their animals. Below I reproduce the text and video of my introduction of the Bill. I append our media release at the end.

Text of my Introduction

A. Weaver: I move introduction of the Animal Liability Act, 2016.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to be introducing a bill intituled the Animal Liability Act. Earlier this year a number of vicious dog attacks occurred in the Lower Mainland. Over the years, British Columbians have called on B.C. legislators to act.

According to the Canada Safety Council, more than 460,000 dog bites occur in Canada each year. Just last week, there was a case of unprovoked dog attack reported in Saanich, an attack that nearly left an individual without his employment for years to come. In this case, the dog was a repeat offender.

Here in B.C., we do not have adequate laws that ensure owners are liable for the actions of their animals. Indeed, we only have liability being imposed on the basis of scienter doctrine, negligence or, in some cases, the occupier’s liability act.

This bill would ensure that owners are liable for any damages resulting from harm that the animals cause to a person or property. This bill, based on similar legislation that exists in Manitoba, is designed to ensure that owners of animals take their ownership seriously and are held responsible for the actions of their pets.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Motion approved.

Bill M212, Animal Liability Act, 2016 introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Video of my Introduction


Media Release

Media Release: April 6, 2016
Andrew Weaver – Legislation needed to ensure responsible pet ownership in B.C.
For Immediate Release

Victoria B.C. – Today Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, tabled legislation that would ensure pet owners are held responsible for the actions of their animals.

“Thousands of people are bitten by dogs in B.C. each year,” says Weaver. “While provinces like Ontario and Manitoba have enacted legislation to ensure that public safety is put first, BC is falling behind. We need appropriate measures in place to hold the owners of dangerous pets to account.”

Weaver introduced the Animal Liability Act, 2016, which is modeled on Manitoba’s legislation, to make owners directly liable for any damages caused by their pets. The Bill would not apply to damages caused by livestock.

“As it currently stands, when someone gets bitten by a dog the options available for legal recourse hinge on the dog having a previous history of violence. That’s simply not enough,” says Weaver. “This legislation does not affect the vast majority of caring, responsible pet owners. It targets negligent pet owners who are not appropriately socializing, training, or restraining their animals in public places.”

“In most instances I would expect this legislation to be used in situations where an irresponsible owner fails to take appropriate precautions and their violent dog attacks someone. If someone happened to have a particularly aggressive cougar, llama or emu and they let it run around biting people, however, it would certainly apply,” Weaver added. “We need clear liability legislation so that owners are required to ensure their pets behave safely and are held to account if their pet does behave in a dangerous manner.”

Media Contact
Mat Wright – Press Secretary Andrew Weaver MLA
1 250 216 3382


  1. Chris Lalonde-
    August 19, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    Please make sure this goes through! We need this!

    I am a runner and I get chased by dogs constantly. I get looked at by dog owners like it’s my fault! We need more accountability!

    • August 19, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      Funny you should mention this. My son went for a run today and came back with a dog bite from a German Shepherd that was off leash when it shouldn’t have been. Irresponsible owners need to be held accountable.

  2. Karen Stiewe-
    April 14, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Is this Legislation in addition to OR in replacement of BC’s existing Dangerous Dog legislation, the Community Charter, Section 49? Section 49 is in dire need of amendment and I have submitted a proposal for reform of that law just recently. Please advise.

    • April 14, 2016 at 3:01 pm

      It is in addition to section 49 of the Community Charter. The bill deals specifically with liability.

      • Karen Stiewe-
        April 18, 2016 at 10:39 am

        Manitoba has no legislation like BC’s Community Charter, Section 49 “Special Powers in relation to Dangerous Dogs”. To add another bill in relation to dogs is overwhelmingly onerous. The Provincial Gov’t has already given local gov’ts very broad powers to regulate dogs. Many local Bylaws provide for fines up to $5,000.00. It is becoming increasingly “dangerous” to even own a dog in this Province. And many Bylaws are in direct conflict with provincial and supreme court rulings in Section 49 cases and cannot be outlawed until they are challenged in court and declared “ultra vires”. In my opinion, this bill will do nothing to address the real goal of reducing dog bite incidents. That goal can only be achieved with education of both dogs and handlers. Section 12, c, d and e should exclude dogs unless this bill replaces the Community Charter, Section 49. Under Section 49, Judges have determined that the dog’s past history IS an important consideration in determining the fate of the dog. This bill needs to be reviewed in conjunction with a review of Section 49. Many citizens, including myself have sent proposals for reform of that legislation, including petitions, a letter of support from the BCSPCA CEO and a provincial comparison showing BC’s Dangerous Dog Act is one of the worst in Canada because it is so vague. While I understand the intent is to compensate a victim, that compensation should be decided in court by a Judge dependent on the severity of the injury.

        • April 18, 2016 at 12:53 pm

          Agree. That is why we only took a portion from it. The issue of liability is not dealt with under Section 49. That is what my bill deals with. The two can exist side by side. Have a look at this An overview of dog liability in British Columbia

            . The legislation takes the burden of proof off the victim and puts it on the owner.
          • Karen Stiewe-
            April 19, 2016 at 6:07 pm

            I voted for this Party and have even contributed financial support. However, I am strongly opposed to this bill! In my opinion it is completely contradictory to what this Party stands for. You might better support a change in Section 49 legislation rather than introduce new legislation that is unaware of the financial and psychological distress cased by existing Legislation (Section 49) and that does nothing to correct the problem – dog bites. I would like to ask you and your supporters if they have ever heard of “The Community Charter, Section 49” and the Special Powers that legislation has given to Animal Control Authorities. I think if you ask your supporters, you will find that maybe one in a hundred are aware of it although they may have heard about various protests about the cruel long term confinement of dogs pending a Judge’s decision – sometimes up to 2 years. How many dog owners do you think will be aware of this new Act and accordingly become responsible dog owners as a result? I think you know the answer. This bill will only create additional court backlogs and the cruel confinement of dogs for dog guardians who wish to defend themselves just as in the case of Section 49. A further waste of our BC tax dollars. You are apparently unaware of the tremendous hardship that Section 49 has already placed on dog owners and their dogs. I do have some recommendations and I will send them to you.

          • April 19, 2016 at 7:43 pm

            Actually, your interpretation is incorrect. Section 49 does not address the issue of liability. It talks about municipal processes. The fact is, my bill would reduce, not increase, section 49 incidences as it deals with liability. This will not increase but rather reduce court cases. The fact is, when you know there are consequences for your actions you take steps appropriately. Knowing you are liable for your pets behaviour would suggest more responsibility in ownership. Please also see this:

  3. Carrie-
    April 11, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Is the term “property” in the Bill intended to apply to a person’s dog or cat? If so, then the term should be defined to include animals so that there is no judicial wrangling as to whether or not the legislation applies to attacks on dogs/cats as well as to people.

    I would like to request that the legislation provide for higher penalties when the attack, injury, or damage occurs to a guide dog or service dog. Judges should be directed to consider this to be an aggravating factor and award higher damages when the dog is providing a vital function to the owner with a disability. The Guide Dog and Service Dog Act has failed to incorporate penalties for attacks on guide dogs and service dogs. This Bill provides an opportunity to address this gap.

    I am also wondering if you considered an insurance regime, requiring dog owners to obtain insurance when they purchase a dog licence so that the insurance can pay out claims. Many, if not most, dog owners (and likely irresponsible ones) will be judgement proof and unable to pay the damages awarded by the court.

  4. April 8, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Hello Mr. Weaver
    We lost our dog to a Pitt Bull last September in Pitt Meadows. You would have seen the TV coverage on our Buttons who was a Therapy Dog in the Ridge Meadows area. I have been working with the City of Pitt Meadows to get the bylaw changed. I am looking for something that will identify these dog owners, so that if they move then the dog’s history follows them. The owners need to be made responsible for their dogs actions, they need heavy, heavy fines, need to pay the vet bills. If they kill or attack a human, must be put down. The person that dog attacked our dog unprovoked, did not get a fine not did he have to pay the vet bills. The dog is still alive after 2 indicates, he was suppose to be tied up and have a muzzles, both where not in place. . Thursday night I got a message that a dog in PoCo was attacked from a Pitt Bull (2nd incident), no reason. I had quite the talk with Natasha. Today I read in the Maple Ridge News that Lori Huberman dog was attacked unprovoked while at Hayes Lake, last Saturday. Tuesday young girl attacked by a Pitt Bull in Surrey. When will it end! If me or my husband can help in any way to change the laws, please lets do it. These dog owners need to have extensive training if they want to own these dogs. I know owners who have lovely Pitt Bulls it’s all about ownership.
    Thank you

    • April 8, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      We will be in touch. Thank you. Andrew

      • Rhys Thompson-
        April 9, 2016 at 8:48 pm

        Mr. Weaver, is this legislation intended to be discriminatory against pitbulls? And if so, what about those of us (and our dogs) who have been victims of aggressive dogs, including labs, boxers, golden retrievers and smaller breeds that are also aggressive?

        Also, please name the PhD animal behaviourists/psychologists who have participated in drafting this legislation so that I can be in contact. I think those of us who have studied this recognize that most dog bites would be eradicated if people payed attention to their dogs’ behaviours before the dog lashed out, instead of focusing on the injuries incurred as a result of that bite.

        Also, what about small aggressive breeds that goad and harass larger breed dogs, thus causing problems themselves? And what about Animal Control agencies that don’t seem to care about poorly behaved small breed dogs that can wander around the streets, unattended and unleashed, while larger breed dogs would never be permitted to do so?

        For the record, I’m all for any legislation that is much better written than the current legislation. Having said that, when one begins to use this type of legislation to discriminate against certain breeds, and/or dogs of a certain size, that’s when other issues can arise. The CAUSE of the aggression needs to be explored and mitigated, and not the outcome. If that is done properly, dog bites of ALL breeds will be greatly diminished.

        • April 9, 2016 at 10:20 pm

          There is nothing in the legislation that is breed specific. The legislation is based on legislation that exists in Manitoba and has been in place there for years. If you read through the article, you will see I actually link to the bill. It is neither animal nor breed specific.

          • Rhys Thompson-
            April 10, 2016 at 7:29 am

            That’s wonderful to hear, Dr. Weaver! I think it’s very important for individuals reading this to recognize that you are NOT a proponent of BSL, nor will you be attempting to legislate that. Discriminatory legislation creates a two-tiered system, holding certain breeds to a higher standard while allowing other, more “family-friendly” breeds to run amok at will. As well, the media perpetuates this two-tired discriminatory practice, and that also needs to end.

            I would definitely support legislation to hold owners of aggressive dogs (of ANY breed) liable, so I’m pleased to hear that your legislation has nothing whatsoever to do with breed. The statements made by other commenters seemed to muddy the waters regarding that, so thank you for clarifying that for us all.

        • Charronne Johnston-
          June 23, 2016 at 9:57 am

          I agree with this posting. We have what is called a part pit bull, but she could be Boston terrier lab. She is hugely patient and tolerant of annoying other dogs. There are some, whose embarrassed owners stand and shrug while their fur brats chase her (annoyingly so), heave themselves at her, bite her ears, steal her ball. She does her best to avoid, ignore, or move away from them. When we can, we take her and our other dogs and leave the immediate area, often with the annoyance following along quite gleefully. So every now and then, when she’s had enough she will turn and flatten them to the ground, much growling, shrieking from the pest dog. Then she walks away from them, leaving nary a mark. It’s the same behaviour an adult dog has with an annoying pup, to teach dog manners. Those who know her never worry, they tell me they hope their dog will learn some manners. Those not familiar with the dog park and all its regulars just look and freak at ‘unprovoked viscous dog attack’, till the regulars calm them down
          When I used to take one of my previous dogs to a west Van dog park, the only one of all the hundreds who frequented that place who wore a muzzle was a chihuahua. An ankle biter of the worst kind. It’s owner muzzled it not because of the damage it might inflict, but because she was afraid that sooner or later one of the rotweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds and such who frequently visited there would sooner or later loose patience with having needle sharp teeth sunk into their legs and ears and give it a good shake.

  5. Chris Blomskog-
    April 7, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Thank you for your reply and very interesting reading. I do agree that part of the problem is identifying Pit bull types, especially when they are being mixed with Chihuahuas, tiny terriers and Daschunds to create dangerous Pocket bullies like BC’s Islandsedgebullies.com as under temperament they say “persistent fighter if provoked”.

    That is why I prefer a combination of Ontario’s BSL with Mandatory microchipping & sterilization on Pit bulls with Breeding Permits for good health, temperament, and living conditions on all dog breeds. Some places like New York and Germany have included mandatory muzzling on all dogs over 40 pounds between 8 AM – 8 PM which is good too.

    My wife and I trained dogs in Vancouver for 20 years and never had an incident because we used panting muzzles on any Potentially dangerous dogs as per DaxtonsFriends.com . We generally did not take on Pit bulls or Rottweilers because our Commercial Insurance Policy excluded these breeds even in 2001.

    In the past few years we have seen dangerous dogs roaming our young children’s playgrounds without leashes, even at their Elementary School at lunch hour; even though there are red-line signs prohibiting all dogs. Two were 100 pound Pitbulls and one Rottweiler. These wealthy people think they are “above the law” and didn’t care about the measly $150 fine. So what we need is prohibiting laws with minimum $300 fines enforced and Calgary’s Mandatory licensing. There if the owner has 3 off-leash infractions, their dog is removed from the owner. I agree that we need these Laws Provincially and perhaps even Nationally as per NationalPitbullVictimAwareness.org

  6. Chris Blomskog-
    April 7, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    I think its a step backwards because BC already eliminated the one bite allowamce in 2000. If they were adopting Ontario’s BSL that would be a Step Forward. Their Veterinarians have a legal obligation to ID and report all Pitbulls for microchipping and sterilization. So they have had a 92% decrease in maulings: serious bites requiring reconstructive surgery; since 2005!

  7. Chris Blomskog-
    April 7, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Maulings are not mere bites and Pit bulls are not ordinary pets and should have specific laws such as double leashes, microchips, and proper containment accordingly.

    I agree as per this article that BC has fallen behind Ontario and Manitoba with protection legislation, but I don’t understand how this Bill is an improvement? Isn’t it the law already to leash all dogs in public? One thing I like in our Coquitlam City law is that “the leash must be suitable for the size of the dog”. Still that wouldn’t have helped the man sent to Hospital in Coquitlam or this 9 year old girl in Surrey because they both were mauled by Pit bulls on or near the owner’s property. Denise, Cynologist


    • April 7, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      These are by-laws which are quite different from provincial laws.

    • James-
      April 10, 2016 at 11:01 am

      Sorry, Chris, but you’re wrong. Any dog improperly trained or socialized can inflict a great deal of damage. As pit bulls, staffies and other dogs that get mistaken for ‘pit bulls’ are often trained to be guard or attack dogs, they are disproportionately targeted in the media.

      Breed Specific Laws don’t work when they’ve been tried elsewhere – the incidents don’t go down. Why? Because it’s the wrong solution to a broader problem. Owners should absolutely be held accountable for any pets’ actions, and resulting damages, but targeting breeds isn’t the answer.

  8. Denis Canuel-
    April 7, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Mr. Weaver,

    I wish to thank you for taking action in this matter.

    I hope more political leaders at all levels of government would follow your example and get actively involved in matters of public safety.

    Best regards,

    Denis Canuel

  9. Logan Cadwallader-
    April 7, 2016 at 9:17 am

    While I understand the need for such a legislation there seems to be missing from it the various components required to hold pet owners responsible (for the record I am a Dog owner), The major flaw is this does not address the cause – Bad Pet owners who do not train or pay to train their pets appropriately, or those who abuse their pets (whether physically or through neglect, thus causing the dog to have social issues.). Yes hold them responsible, but making this a cash grab fixes nothing, as past acts in Manitoba have shown. Make these owner pay for damages, also for the retraining and rehabilitation of the dog, thus teaching both the dog and the owner. If it is not possible to do so then we need a registered offenders list Nationally to ensure this person does not again get another pet thus putting the public at risk. It is really a shame that the member had not reached out to the various local agencies for advice and support to properly construct a bill that would both help protect the public as well as instructing owners about proper Dog training and etiquette.

    • Allison-
      April 8, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      Logan, yours is the most logical response. Help people and dogs learn first before imposing a penalty. I personally was bitten 3 times as a child by 3 different dogs. They were not life threatening bites and I was not permanently physically or mentally damaged, how would the fine have helped? All the punishment does is keep people from adopting rescues.

    • Dana Whaley-
      April 10, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      I want to thank you for not targeting specific breeds. I wonder if you had a chance to read the recent reports out of Toronto? 10 years after the ban of “pitbull” type breeds dog bites have gone up. I can’t help but interprete this information to mean that the bad dog owners have moved on to other breeds and the cycle continues.
      While I do think that owners need to be held accountable for the actions of their dogs I would like to see a more preventative approach in tandem with this legislation. People of all demographics are bringing dogs of all breeds into their homes without any understanding of dog behaviour or a real willingness to raise/rehabilitate these animals. I do not want to see the companionship of animals restricted to those who could pay for training and licensing but I would like to see behaviour testing implemented into the annual licensing.
      Thank you for your constructive engagement on this issue.

    • Brit-
      April 10, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      As a responsible bully breed owner I feel I can support this bill as it isn’t breed specific. I’d just like to mention that as usual I’m a bit disappointed in something that could be used as a helpful tool as usual has been turned discriminatory towards pitties in the comments.

    • Annette-
      April 10, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      I am happy to hear about your approach to responsible dog ownership. Owners do need to be held accountable for thier dogs actions. Too many times I have walked my dog on leash as per municipal bylaws and seen owners who think they have thier dog under control who do not. Education is key.
      I am the proud owner of a certified Therapy dog who has received her CGN (Canine good neighbour certificate) and also Pre-cd level of the Canadian Kennel Clubs obedience trials. Weekly we visit in the local hospital to the joy of patients and staff.
      She is a rescue. S
      he is an American Pitbull
      We need to get away from thinking that every bite come from a bully breed type dog.
      There are many other dog breeds that have higher bite statistics than American pitbull terriers. We need to focus on responsible ownership of any breed.
      I applaud your efforts in bringing this to legislature.