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Pet owners not responsible for dinner party dog bite, B.C. Supreme Court rules

Guest sought damages after being bit on forehead and cheek by friends’ rescue dog
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The B.C. Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit Feb. 1, which was filed by a Vancouver woman who sought damages over a 2017 dog biting incident. (Black Press Media file photo)

A Vancouver woman who sued her friends after being bitten in the face by their rescue dog at a 2017 dinner party had her case dismissed by the B.C. Supreme Court earlier this month.

Justice Maria Morellato ruled Feb. 1 that roommates Erin Berry and Sophie Anderson took numerous steps to train their dog “Bones” and that they couldn’t have known he would attack their friend Linda Evans on the night of the incident.

Berry and Anderson got Bones from a rescue organization in the spring of 2017. The year-and-a-half old mixed breed dog was originally from Thailand and was missing one of its front legs.

The roommates admitted that they did face some issues with Bones leading up to the dinner party incident, including him nipping friends’ ankles during a trip to the Sunshine Coast, nipping someone’s shoes at a softball game, nipping other dogs at the dog park, biting another dog’s ear during that dog’s birthday party, and biting Berry’s father over a “cheese toasty sandwich.”

In response, Berry and Anderson said they took Bones to two trainers and a veterinarian to get help, which they said improved his behaviour. They also stopped taking Bones to dog parks and had an appointment booked with a behaviourist when the dinner party bite happened.

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On Nov. 11, 2017, Berry and Anderson had a small group of friends over for dinner. All the friends testified that the evening went well, and that they had no concerns about Bones’ behaviour.

One friend said, “He was a perfect angel. He was so good.”

When the friends got up to leave though, Evans went over to give Bones a belly rub goodbye and he suddenly jumped up and bit her in the face.

“I just – I just jerked backwards, like, really quickly. I just put my hands right up to my face…There was, like, the feeling of blood and then I kind of took them down to look, and that’s when I knew this was bad,” Evans testified.

A later hospital discharge record said Evans sustained a 3-inch C-shaped cut to her forehead and 2-inch cut to the left side of her face.

Berry and Anderson said they consulted with experts on what to do and decided to euthanize Bones as a result.

In a text to the two the day after the bite, Evans said there was no one to blame and that she took responsibility for her own actions. In her lawsuit filed years later though, Evans claimed Berry and Anderson should have been aware that Bones had a propensity towards violence and that they didn’t take reasonable care to prevent Evans’ injury.

In her Feb. 1 ruling, Morellato disagreed. She said the evidence didn’t suggest Bones had a propensity toward violence and that Berry and Anderson had taken numerous steps to train their dog to behave better.

Morellato dismissed Evans’ claim.

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@janeskrypnek
jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca

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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media after starting as a community reporter in Greater Victoria.
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