When I was an Ohio homeowner, somebody told me that if a person jumped the fence into my yard and one of my dogs bit that person, I would be held liable for damages. I kept a “Beware of Dog(s)” sign on my gate and a lock to deter people entering uninvited, but the idea of being liable for somebody else’s recklessness irked me. And what about a person who might hop the fence to engage in some sort of criminal activity – like breaking into my house? It seems unfair to a homeowner to be held liable in a case like that.
As it turns out, after 2008, I wouldn’t have been held liable for injuries to a person breaking and entering. The Ohio revised code says:
§ 955.28 Dog may be killed for certain acts; owner liable for damages. – AMENDED 2008
(A) Subject to divisions (A)(2) and (3) of section 955.261 of the Revised Code, a dog that is chasing or approaching in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, that attempts to bite or otherwise endanger, or that kills or injures a person or a dog that chases, threatens, harasses, injures, or kills livestock, poultry, other domestic animal, or other animal, that is the property of another person, except a cat or another dog, can be killed at the time of that chasing, threatening, harassment, approaching, attempt, killing, or injury. If, in attempting to kill such a dog, a person wounds it, the person is not liable to prosecution under the penal laws that punish cruelty to animals. Nothing in this section precludes a law enforcement officer from killing a dog that attacks a police dog as defined in section 2921.321 of the Revised Code.
(B) The owner, keeper, or harborer of a dog is liable in damages for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog, unless the injury, death, or loss was caused to the person or property of an individual who, at the time, was committing or attempting to commit criminal trespass or another criminal offense other than a minor misdemeanor on the property of the owner, keeper, or harborer, or was committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense other than a minor misdemeanor against any person, or was teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog on the owner’s, keeper’s, or harborer’s property. Additionally, the owner, keeper, or harborer of a dog is liable in damages for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog if the injury, death, or loss was caused to the person or property of an individual who, at the time of the injury, death, or loss, was on the property of the owner, keeper, or harborer solely for the purpose of engaging in door-to-door sales or other solicitations regardless of whether the individual was in compliance with any requirement to obtain a permit or license to engage in door-to-door sales or other solicitations established by the political subdivision in which the property of the owner, keeper, or harborer is located, provided that the person was not committing a criminal offense other than a minor misdemeanor or was not teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog.
Wow, what a jumble of words. Biting criminals – OK . Biting the Jehovah’s Witness – Liable.
Do you know the dog laws in your state? Do you know what you are liable for? Do you know if there’s a limit to how many dogs or cats you can have? Do you know if your dog is required to wear I.D. or have a license? Do you know what constitutes animal cruelty? Do you know if you can be cited for your dog barking?
The Michigan University College of Law has an Animal Legal and Historical Center website that is a great resource for dog laws searchable by state.