• Brad Keating

Ohio Dog Bite Law

Updated: Nov 13

While dogs are a human's best friend, they can be ill-tempered and pose serious dangers to people, especially if there are signs the dog is protective. Sometimes, the dog wasn't trained correctly or at all, or it might have dealt with teasing, tormenting, or abusing from the owner or the injured person.


Each year, there are over 4 million dog bites in America, with 800,000 of those dog bites requiring medical attention. The dog bite victim in Ohio is likely to have medical expenses, emotional distress, and lost wages because of this injury. On top of that, the dog's owner could be liable for the costs. It's important to understand the Ohio dog bite law so that there is no confusion for the dog owner and the victim.






Common Dog Bite Laws


Some states follow common dog bite laws, so the dog owner is liable if someone has already been injured or gets bitten by a dog once. This means that the second time a dog bites, the dog owner is liable. However, Ohio dog bite laws are different from the One-Bite Rule. Therefore, dog owners in Ohio are liable for the initial injury to the dog bite victims, regardless of whether medical attention is necessary.


Typically, the dog owners' homeowner's insurance covers the victims in relation to dog bites, which accounts for over one-third of all claims within the US. Today, the average dog bite claim is roughly $32,000.


With the common dog bite law, there aren't any consequences for the first bite, and the dog's owner has to promise to restrain the dog and train them better in the future. If someone is bitten by a dog within a common law jurisdiction, the victim must prove the dog had already tried to bite or bit someone else. It's tough to prove the dog owner knew about the previous bite or the current one. Therefore, many states, including Ohio, enact specific laws that tighten the dog bite laws within their state.



Ohio Dog Bite Laws


Ohio is a strict liability state when it comes to a dog bite. Therefore, Ohio law specifically makes the dog's owner liable for every single bite, which includes the initial one. This strict liability protects Ohio victims but can be a challenge for dog owners. Therefore, the dog owner doesn't get a free pass for the first claim.


Dangerous Dogs

In Ohio, any dog that has bitten, harmed, or attacked another person has to be registered as 'dangerous,' based on the Ohio Revised Code 955.22. There are also certain dog breeds that are most likely to bite and are considered dangerous. A dangerous dog is subjected to very serious restrictions. These dogs have to be on leashes that are less than 6 feet long unless they are hunting dogs. They must also be kept in a locked yard or cage. A dangerous dog has to be registered with the appropriate Ohio county auditor and wear a tag that designates them as aggressive.


The dog's keeper can sell a dog like this, but the purchaser must be made aware of the dog's status. On top of this, the country auditor must be informed within 10 days. If the dog owner fails to control their attack dog three times, they are required to have liability insurance to cover the damages if a dog hurts someone. It is not legal to surgically silence or debark an attack dog in Ohio; convicted felons aren't permitted to own an aggressive dog.


Dog Bite Quarantine

If a dog bites someone anywhere in Ohio, that dog has to be quarantined for 10 days, at least. After that time, it can be moved from that county. This allows the owner to observe the dog and make sure that it doesn't have rabies. If the dog does have this disease, the victim must also be treated, which adds to the pain and suffering and can affect compensation for the injured person.


Dog Bite Penalties

If a dog bites a person or the owner fails to restrain and register the dog appropriately, the penalties are usually misdemeanors. However, if the keeper fails to follow the law and regulations pertaining to attack dogs and it kills someone, the owner of the dog is guilty of a felony (fourth degree), and the court can order that the dog be put down. If the owner hasn't followed the appropriate regulations and the dog bite victims are seriously injured, this is considered a first-degree misdemeanor. Remember, Ohio has a strict liability law in place for any dog bite. Therefore, the court can decide if the dog should be put down. Finally, the owner may be required to pay fines for the personal injury case and to the county. In short, dog owners are committing a crime if their dog hurts someone, and that victim decides to file a lawsuit.




Reporting an Ohio Dog Bite


Based on Ohio law, it is the responsibility of everyone to report a dog bite. Whether it's the injured person or the dog owner, a bite incident report must be filed to the appropriate health commissioner. Do this in the local health jurisdiction wherever the bite happened. It must be done within 24 hours of the bite. At this time, the dog is quarantined, and a rabies exposure assessment is completed and noted in the case file.


The Department of Health in Ohio tracks all animal bites, including those from dogs that could include rabies exposure.


If someone is bitten by a dog in Ohio, there are some questions to consider. These include:

  • Dog's description

  • Keeper of the dog

  • Location of the incident

  • How it occurred


Typically, the most important information for the claim is the dog's rabies vaccination status. Medical attention for the injured party might be necessary if the dog had the disease. Dog bite wounds must be washed thoroughly with soap and water, and the injury should stay elevated until medical help arrives.


The victim should go to their primary care doctor unless the injury is serious. Then, a trip to a local Ohio emergency room is necessary. If the dog bite is deep, it could damage bones, nerves, tendons, and muscles. Infections are also possible in dog bite cases. Antibiotics might be required for up to two weeks, just in case. Those with liver disease, diabetes, and other immune-system illnesses could be more susceptible to develop an infection.


Who's Liable for the Behavior of the Dog in Ohio?

Remember, Ohio law is focused on strict liability for the dog owner, but three different parties could be responsible for the dog's behavior. Clearly, the owner is at fault here and could be charged with committing a crime. However, the keeper or harborer could be liable, as well. A harborer is someone who controls aspects of the dog's home. The most common example here is when a dog is owned by a minor child who lives with their parents. The child 'owns' the animal, but the harborer is one or both parents. The harborer can also be considered a landlord if the attack happened in a common area.


There is a slight difference between a harborer and a keeper. The keeper has temporary control for the dog. This could be a professional dog-walker, groomer, or a friend that's holding the leash. For example, the dog gets free of the keeper's control and causes injuries to others. Therefore, the keeper could be legally liable for any injuries that occur through negligence and other legal aspects.


Ohio Dog Bite Compensation

If a person gets bitten by a dog anywhere in Ohio, they are usually entitled to compensation directly from the dog owners. That compensation covers medical attention and expenses incurred as a direct result of the dog bite. Property damage is also covered. For example, the victim may ask for compensation in a claim for damages to their clothing and other property (phone, purse, and the contents within).


The liability statute also claims that the victim can get compensation for any lost wages if they had to miss work because the bite was severe. Non-economic losses are also something to which the victim might be entitled to. This includes pain and suffering, psychological damages, and physical scarring.


Sometimes, the person is not free to bring a claim under Ohio's specific dog bite statute, but there are other ways to get compensated for the injuries.


It's possible to bring a case to court under the common law legal theories. For example, if the victim proves that the dog owners were acting recklessly or with negligence, a case can be opened. Similarly, cases can be opened if the victim proves that the owner should have realized that a person was injured. For example, if a dog gets free in a classroom because the owner didn't hold the leash, and a child gets bitten, this is negligence. That person may win punitive damages for their injuries.


Punitive Damages for an Ohio Dog Bite

Punitive damages are different than property or medical damages. They are amounts of money intended to directly punish the owner of the dog rather than compensate for a specific loss. Therefore, it's possible to recover more compensation in cases under the common law rather than the dog bite statute in Ohio. However, the owners are still protected in common law cases by the One-Bite Rule, so victims can't recover any punitive damages under the common law if it's the first time that dog has caused injuries to another.


It's possible to pursue wrongful death claims against the dog owner, as well. The dependents, surviving spouse, and estate of the victim killed by the dog may receive compensation for that death.


However, if the person was trespassing on private property that the dog owner owns, the victim isn't entitled to compensation. Likewise, if the victim abused or tormented the dog on the property, there is no case for any attack.



Pursuing a Dog Bite Lawsuit


If injuries occurred from a dog bite, there could be a case in Ohio. It's possible to claim the compensation directly from the liability insurance of the owner. Homeowner's liability insurance usually covers dog bites. However, it's best to consult an attorney before any settlement is accepted from the insurance company. It is designed to minimize the payments to victims, and it's impossible to ask for more if enough isn't provided the first time.


Sometimes, though, the dog owner doesn't have appropriate insurance, or the fight for the injuries results in no compensation rendered. Under the attorney-client privileges, it's possible to talk to the lawyer about your situation without it getting out to others. He or she can file a legal case in court. Lawyers aren't always needed for insurance claims and settlements in Ohio. However, it's best to consult a lawyer to handle the lawsuit.


Under attorney-client privileges, the victim may discuss their injuries in-depth so that negligence can be determined. The victim may need to work directly with the law firm to consider medical expenses.


Typically, the law firm decides whether to use the Ohio laws or common laws for the case. Both may be used to hold the owner liable for all legal issues. Remember, committing a crime, even if it was the person's dog, is likely negligence on their part, and they should be held liable for the injuries of the victim. This includes medical bills and so much more.


Cases can be opened directly by the victim, but there is a strict liability as to who's at fault. The injured party may not be able to handle the legal issues at the time because of their injuries. Therefore, it's best to receive legal advice before doing much else.



Statute of Limitations for Ohio Dog Bite Cases


As with other crimes, Ohio law limits how much time a person has to bring legal claims. This doesn't account for the injury severity sustained after the attack. In Ohio, a person has six years to bring a lawsuit against the keeper, and this starts from the date of the attack/bite. Those who were minors when the incident occurred are free to wait until they turn 18 to file and still have six years to do so.



Seek Legal Advice


If a dog gets free of their owner and a person gets hurt, legal ramifications are sure to follow. The owner is liable to compensate the injured party, which can include medical bills and much more. The legal system is there to assist, and the victim can often seek legal advice for free. Ohio residents should seek medical assistance immediately and then call a lawyer when they are healthy enough to do so. With Ohio's strict liability for owners, compensation is likely to follow.

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