Legal doctrine of ‘scienter’ applied in dog bites dog dispute at Vancouver condo

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      A Vancouver woman has been held liable for the injuries of a dog bitten by her pet dog.

      Jenny Forst was ordered by a B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal to pay for the veterinary bills of Joshua, a Shiba Inu owned by her neighbour, Alan Rockett.

      Tribunal member Sarah Orr established that Joshua was attacked by Dudley, a Bichon owned by Forst.

      Forst denied that Dudley attacked Joshua, and made a counterclaim that Rockett kicked Dudley.

      In her reasons for decision, Orr wrote that it was undisputed that Joshua was injured and received veterinary care.

      Orr also applied the legal doctrine of ‘scienter’ in the dispute.

      Scienter is the Latin word for ‘knowledge’, and in law, it means knowing that one’s action is wrong.

      As it relates to animal ownership, the doctrine of scienter holds an owner liable for the actions of their animal if they know that the animal has a vicious propensity.

      In the case involving Rockett and Forst, the former provided the tribunal with evidence that Dudley has a “history of biting”.

      “He submitted evidence establishing that Dudley approached and bit his partner, B.P., unprovoked, on March 14, 2015,” Orr wrote.

      According to Orr, the City of Vancouver ticketed and fined Forst for “allowing Dudley to be off leash and to bite a person in breach of its bylaws”.

      Forst disputed the charges, and in October 2015, a B.C. Provincial Court “found her guilty of the charges and fined her $850”.

      Orr wrote that Rockett has established that Dudley previously showed a propensity to bite, and that Forst was aware of this before Dudley attacked Joshua on December 17, 2018.

      “Although Ms. Forst maintains that Dudley never bit Mr. Rockett’s partner, I have found the evidence shows otherwise,” Orr wrote.

      According Orr, Rockett has “established the elements of scienter, and therefore Ms. Forst is strictly liable for Dudley’s actions regardless of her own actions during the incident”.

      Rockett spent $945.46 for Joshua’s veterinary bills.

      Forst was ticketed by the city for Dudley’s attack on Joshua.

      The incident happened at the elevator area on the second floor of the Vancouver condo building.

      There were no witnesses.

      Forst is disputing the ticket, and will be appearing before a provincial court.

      “Since that trial is about whether or not Ms. Forst violated the City of Vancouver’s bylaw and Mr. Rockett’s claim in this dispute is for reimbursement of Joshua’s veterinary bills, I find it is appropriate for me to decide Mr. Rockett’s claim even though the trial for the bylaw infraction is pending,” Orr wrote.

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