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Judge challenges law on "dangerous" dogs

People in Columbus have a duty to properly maintain their property. Part of keeping their property safe may mean repairing dangers and performing regular maintenance as well as making sure people are protected from any unruly animals.

A new Ohio law, effective as of May 22 of this year, removes the automatic "vicious" label for pit bulls, but allows any dog to be labeled dangerous, even for small incidents. However, an Ohio judge's recent ruling may raise more questions about the new law.

An Ohio woman was told that her dog would be labeled as "dangerous" after the animal bit a young boy's ankle. However, a judge held that animal control workers did not prove that the small bichon frise met the standards for being labeled a "dangerous" dog and that the owner should not have to pay extra insurance for the animal.

Regardless of whether one's dog is labeled dangerous or not, owners have a legal duty to keep their premises safe for those passing by or for any visitors. If a dog injures another person and the owner is aware that the dog is unsafe, then the owner may be held liable. Labels, like the ones suggested in the Ohio law, may provide additional evidence for an injured party seeking to recover damages.

The new law in Ohio provides the definition of a "dangerous dog" as a dog that has killed another dog, injured a person without provocation or has run away three or more times. The "vicious" designation remains for a dog that has killed or seriously injured someone. A third designation for "nuisance" is applied to dogs that approach someone in a menacing way, off its own property, without provocation.

Once labeled, dog owners are required to follow different rules depending on the label received, including special tags and installing fences. Owners may also be required to purchase liability insurance for their dogs.

Source: Dayton Daily News, "Judge: Ohio dog accused of biting not 'dangerous'," Associated Press, June 26, 2012

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