Ohio Dangerous Dog – Really Might Not Be Dangerous

By: Peter R. Certo, Jr. Attorney at Law

Ohio has a relatively new "dangerous" dog statute. There is no particular breed on this list. The dangerous part is determined by the conduct of the dog, and sometimes the conduct of the owner.

In order to be classified as dangerous a dog, an animal control officer must give you notice of the classification. You are also given the opportunity to challenge the classification by asking for a hearing. In Ohio a dangerous dog is any dog which 1) caused injury to any person, 2) killed another dog, 3) was the subject of 3 violations of ORC 955.22. You should always ask for this hearing or you automatically lose.

"Killed another dog" is very straight forward, logical, and not very confusing.

"Caused injury to any person" is more problematic. Is that a bite, a scratch, someone fell because they were running away due to a deathly fear of dogs? The statute does not say. The judge gets to decide those issues. There is one potential defense in that the dog was provoked. Sort of a doggie "self defense". Of course this is not defined in the statute.

The most troublesome is the last one, "Three violations of ORC 955.22". That statute is essentially a charge against the owner for failing to confine their dog. So, if the owner lets the dog wander, and gets cited 3 times, the dog gets classified as "dangerous". This is a "strict liability" standard. It does not matter if it is the sweetest, calmest, roll-over dog in the State of Ohio. It's like California's "3 strikes and you're out" criminal law.

If your dog is classified as "dangerous" there are much more strict regulations for the confinement of that dog, more penalties if there are subsequent incidences, and major problems for the owner in obtaining and paying for "dangerous dog" insurance.

If you ever receive one of these notices do something about it, do not ignore it.