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What Are the Laws Regarding Dog Bite Liability in Ohio?

Ohio Dog Bite Law: Two Causes of Action

Over the millennia, dogs have more than earned their reputation as “man’s best friend”. When these animals are not cared for, even friendly of dogs can turn dangerous. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that dogs will bite 4.7 million people this year. Those bites will lead 800,000 Americans to seek professional medical attention. Dog owners have a legal duty to protect the public from any threats posed by their animal. When they fail to live up to that responsibility, the dog owner can is liable for a victim’s injuries.

Today our experienced Ohio dog bite attorneys discuss how the dog bite laws work in the state of Ohio:

Dog biting

Strict Liability

Section 955.28 of the Ohio Revised Code states that dog owners are ‘strictly liable’ for damages or injuries caused by their animal. This means that a Court can impose liability without a finding of ‘fault’. A victim does not always have to prove that a dog owner was negligent to seek compensation. Ohio views dogs as an inherent public safety threat. Dog owners, keepers, and harborers have heightened duties. They must take proactive steps to protect innocent people from their animal.

Common Law Negligence

Under Ohio’s common law, an injured victim can also bring a dog bite claims on the basis that the dog owner’s ‘negligence’ did actually cause the attack. In common law cases, fault becomes that main issue in the case. While proving fault is a much higher standard, it opens up the possibility of recovering additional compensation. In some limited cases, Ohio dog bite victims can recover punitive damages. These damages are not directly tied to the victim’s injuries or losses. Instead, they punish the bad actions of the defendant.

Who Is Liable for a Dog Bite Injury?

Ohio law makes it very clear that dog owners, keepers and harborers may all bear liability for an attack. In most cases, victims will pursue compensation from a dog owner. Homeowner’s insurance policy is the most common type of insurance used in dog attacks. Though, in some cases, landlords and rental companies can also be liable for an attack.

Victims Must Be Ready for Legal Defenses

Even in strict liability dog bite cases, dog owners may try to defend the claim. Under the statute, the defendant can assert three legal defenses:

  1. The victim provoked the dog;
  2. The victim was trespassing at the time of the attack; and
  3. The victim was committing a crime at the time of the attack.


If any of these legal defenses can apply to a case, then the injured victim may have difficulties recovering any compensation.

Were You Injured By a Dog in Ohio?

We can help. At Tittle & Perlmuter, our personal injury attorneys have extensive experience handling Ohio dog bite injury claims. To learn more about what we can do for you, please contact us today to request your free initial consultation. We have offices in Cleveland, Lakewood, and Elyria, and represent injured victims throughout Northeastern Ohio.