Casual Legal: Dangerous dog applications

By Sean Ward
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider

A recent decision from the Court of King’s Bench highlights that many municipalities have been following the wrong process when seeking orders under the Dangerous Dogs Act (the “DDA”).

The case dealt with three dogs that attacked and killed an elderly woman. The municipality commenced an action in the Court of King’s Bench by way of Originating Application that sought to have the dogs declared dangerous and humanely euthanized pursuant to the DDA. The owner of the dogs brought an application to have the claim struck on the basis that the Court of King’s Bench had no jurisdiction to hear matters under the DDA.

The justice hearing the matter noted that there were few reported decisions dealing with the DDA, but that it seemed to be common practice for municipalities to bring such applications in the Court of King’s Bench. Nevertheless, the Justice went on to conclude that he had no jurisdiction to hear applications under the DDA.

The legislation refers to the ability of a “justice” to make orders relating to dangerous dogs. Based on the provisions of the Interpretation Act and the Provincial Offences Procedures Act, a “justice” must mean a justice of the peace or a judge of the Provincial Court. As such, the Court of King’s Bench could not hear the application, even in circumstances where the respondents had essentially accepted that jurisdiction earlier in the process.

That Justice stayed the application, allowing the parties to transfer the matter to Provincial Court. In this case, the Justice was sympathetic to the municipality given the lack of judicial guidance on the issue and the past practice of obtaining such orders in the Court of King’s Bench.

However, in light of this decision, future attempts to bring such orders in the Court of King’s Bench may be dismissed with costs being awarded against the municipality. It is important to note that any applications under the DDA should be commenced in Provincial Court. There may be circumstances where issues dealing with dangerous dogs can be dealt with through enforcement orders or other remedies under the Municipal Government Act, but to the extent a municipality seeks an order under the DDA, those applications can only be heard in Provincial Court.

To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] (email) to reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] (email) to speak to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.