Own a dog? Fostering a dog? You NEED to read this!

Thank you to our first guest blogger, friend of the firm and Senior Assistant City Attorney  for the City of Columbus, Isaac Rinsky.

Mr. Rinsky is assigned to the Franklin County Environmental Court and has some great, easy to read info and tips for dog owners.

Imagine venturing out for a walk with your big snow boots and hat with your excited and cooped up dog.  All of a sudden, you see another adventurer walking towards you with their faithful canine companion.  As they approach, you realize that their dog is much bigger than yours.  You also realize that their dog is not on a leash. Several thoughts enter your head. Shouldn’t their dog be on a leash? What if their dog runs towards me and my dog?  What if their dog attacks me and my dog?

These are thoughts that undoubtedly all dog owners/walkers have pondered.

Before we address those questions, should we not first consider:  Who is responsible for the dog?

Many a distempered citizen has appeared in the Franklin County Environmental Court, just waiting for their chance to exclaim, “I am not the owner of that dog!”  What they fail to realize, and what is consolingly whispered to them, is that the Ohio Revised Code holds owners, keepers, or harborers of dogs responsible for many dog related offenses.  Some common examples of harboring or keeping a dog include: (1) Walking the dog, (2) Dog sitting, (3) Living in the same house with the dog, (4) Picking up the dog at the pound.  These are just a few common examples.  So before you agree to take care of a dog for a friend or pick it up at the pound, make sure to confirm that the dog is licensed and vaccinated.  If that dog gets loose while it is within your control, you may be held responsible.

Do you have to have your dog on a leash in Columbus? 

If you are on your own property, you must keep your dog confined to that property.

If your dog is a female and is in heat, then you must keep the dog on a leash if you leave your property. Otherwise, no leash required.

However, if you decide not to restrain your fur baby, here are some things to consider.  You or some other person must maintain reasonable control over your dog at all times.  So, if you are walking your dog without a leash, you better make sure he/she is well trained and will respond to verbal commands.

What if a dog attacks me or my dog?

If a dog is attacking you, you may have the right to injure or kill that dog.  If a dog is attacking your dog, you most likely cannot kill that dog. See O.R.C. 955.28(A).

If you are bit by a dog, or a dog kills your dog, then the owner, keeper, or harborer of the offending dog can be criminally liable.  If, after an investigation by Franklin County Animal Control, it is determined that a dog caused physical harm to a person, or that it killed another dog, the owner, keeper, or harborer of the dog can be charged with a fourth degree misdemeanor. The offending dog can also be designated as dangerous.

If a dog is designated as dangerous, this designation can be appealed within ten days.  The court will then determine whether there is sufficient evidence to show that the dog, without provocation, either caused injury (other than serious injury or death) to a person, or killed another dog. “Without Provocation” means that the dog was not teased, tormented, or abused by a person, or that the dog was not coming to the aid or defense of a person who was not engaged in illegal or criminal activity and who was not using the dog as a means of carrying out such activity.

If poor Fluffy is designated as dangerous, it does not mean she will be put down.  She can still live to a ripe old age barking at the sky and stealing hot dogs off the table.  You will have to register her as dangerous, have her fixed, microchipped, and she will have to wear a special collar to identify her as “dangerous”.  You also will have to confine her in a more secure manner than before.  See O.R.C. 955.22(D).

If, heaven forbid, Fluffy causes serious physical harm to a person, then the court may order her to take a forever nap.  Euthanasia is not required in this scenario, but if it is not ordered, the person responsible will have to obtain liability insurance for Fluffy that equals or exceeds $100,000.

What if Buddy got loose despite my best efforts to keep him contained in my yard?

Unfortunately, many courts in Ohio have held that dog confinement offenses are strict liability. This includes jailable offenses for confinement of dogs.  If Buddy picked the lock on your gate, or jumped over an impossibly high fence while you were at work, you could still be on the hook for his delinquency.

Hopefully this information will assist you and your furry friend this season.  Make sure your dog is registered, vaccinated, and under your control or confined to your yard at all times.  If not, you might find yourself talking to a Deputy from Franklin County Animal Control.  And they may ask you, “Who let the dogs out?”

Questions? Call us! 614.745.2001

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