Reports of serious dog attacks on humans are making news in Ohio and getting response from residents, some who are turning to their local government for help.
There are 70 to 80 million dogs in the U.S. and more than 4.5 million dog bites each year with about 885,000 of those bite victims requiring medical attention, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Ohio Department of Health recorded 19,565 animal bites to humans in 2015 – 77.7% were dog bites. Only 383 persons actually received rabies treatment, the Department reported.
Recent Reports of Dog Attacks
On April 7 in Toledo, a neighbor shot and killed a large dog attacking a seven-year-old girl. The youngster was wounded on her face and body by the dog as she was playing in the yard at the residence of her caregiver. The animal belonged to the caregiver’s boyfriend. Its breed was not identified. The girl recovered from her physical injuries.
In Massillon, Ohio on February 27, a child was bitten in the face by a dog belonging to his 25-year-old caregiver. She faced several misdemeanor charges after she abandoned the dog following the biting incident by dropping him off in a nearby neighborhood.
In Cleveland Heights, dog laws are being reviewed after the same dog, identified as a pit bull, attacked a child on Jan, 13 and a woman on Jan. 24 in the community. A police officer shot the dog in the latter attack and a few residents pressed for a total pit bull ban in the city. But city officials emphasized any changes in the dog laws for vicious dogs in Cleveland Heights would not single out pit bulls.
In 2012 Ohio law was changed so that pit bulls are no longer automatically deemed “vicious” dogs, but are to be treated like any other dog until they commit a violent act against a person.
Vicious Dog Defined
In Ohio, a vicious dog is one that without provocation, kills or causes serious injury to any person (Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 955.11(6)(a)).
A “serious injury” is defined in the code as (ORC 955.11(A)(5)) as:
• any physical harm that carries a substantial risk of death;
• any physical harm that involves a permanent incapacity, partial or total, or a temporary substantial incapacity;
• any physical harm that involved a permanent disfigurement, or temporary, serious disfigurement;
• any physical harm that involves acute pain of a duration that results in substantial suffering or any degree of prolonged or intractable pain.
Provocation means the dog was teased, tormented or abused before it attacked. An exception is made when a dog attacks a person attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense on the property of the owner, keeper, or harborer of the dog. (A “harborer” is a person who has possession and control of the premises where the dog lives. A “keeper” is a person in physical charge or care of the dog if only temporarily. Both of these people, as well as the dog owner, can be held liable in an attack.)
The laws on vicious dogs do not apply to police dogs performing their duties.
Dangerous and Nuisance Dogs Defined
Ohio also makes two other designations concerning dogs regulating dangerous and nuisance dogs.
A “dangerous” dog is one that without provocation causes injury, other than killing or serious injury, to any person; a dog who has killed another dog; or a dog who is caught running loose three or more times.
A “nuisance” dog is a dog off the premises of its owner, harborer, or keeper who chases or approaches a person in either a menacing fashion or an apparent attitude of attack; or who has attempted to bite or otherwise endanger any person.
Legal Requirements for These Types of Dogs
If your dog is designated as one of the above, state law requires that the owner must meet certain requirements about the way the dog is kept on your property and how it is handled off the owner’s property. There are additional restrictions on ownership of very young dogs and limitation on ownership for those convicted of a felony within the past three years.
Owners of the latter dogs must:
• Supply local authorities with contact information
• Provide evidence of dog’s current rabies vaccination
• Provide proof of neutering or spaying
• Provide evidence that clearly visible signs have been posted on the property to warn about the presence of the dog
• Permanently identify the dog with a microchip and have it wear a special tag at all times
• Confine and restrain the dog on their premises
• Follow all regulations regarding the sale or giving away of the animal
• Not debark or surgically silence the dog unless a veterinarian says it is medically necessary
• Obtain liability insurance on the dog if required
Reporting a Dog Bite in Ohio
The first thing you need to do if you are a dog bite victim is to seek medical help immediately. Be sure to save receipts from your visit and if you can, get a picture of the wound or ask a friend to take one.
If you are the person bitten, or the owner of the dog, one of the parties needs to file a bite incident with the local health jurisdiction within 24 hours of the bite. A rabies exposure assessment will be done and the dog may be quarantined.
The name of the owner of the dog, any witnesses and their contact information should be provided on a report which should also include where the bite happened, how it occurred and the dog’s rabies vaccination status, if known.
If the dog did not bite you, but chased you in a menacing way making you believe that physical injury could result, you should report this to animal control authorities so they are aware of any dogs running wild and threatening the community.
Dog bite wounds should be thoroughly washed with soap and water as soon as possible after the bite and the injured area should be elevated. If a dog bite is deep enough, it can damage muscles, tendons, nerves or bones. Dog bites can also cause infections that need to be treated with antibiotics for 7 to 14 days. People with diabetes, liver disease, or illnesses that suppress the immune system may be more likely to develop an infection from a bite.
How To Get Additional Help
It is important for people to realize Ohio has laws governing those who do not take proper care of their animals or who have dogs that cause injury to people and other animals in the community. If people own vicious or dangerous dogs, they must properly confine them and restrain them. They must follow the rules on posting signs on their property warning about their dogs and obey the laws about registration and debarking.
When someone’s dog harms another person, the dog owner may be legally liable according to various laws in Ohio. If the responsible dog has already been designated a vicious, dangerous, or nuisance animal, its owner will face civil penalties and fines and could be looking at jail time.
Dog bites are serious business. More than 30 people annually in the U.S. are killed by dog attacks, according to dogsbite.com. In 2016, 16 of the 34 who died were 60 years of age or older. In that same time period, 14 children, age 9 and younger, one only 10 weeks old, also died. In 2016, 13 children, including three who were three days old, were reported killed by dogs and 9 people, aged 60 and older, also died from a dog attack.
From 2010 to 2016, seven Ohioans died from pit bull attacks including a Munroe, Ohio infant and a Youngstown baby boy. Both were three days old. Annie Williams, a 71-year-old Shaker Heights resident, was also one of those who lost her life.
If you have been injured by a dog and want to know where to get assistance, we can help with a free consultation with one of our experienced dog bite attorneys.
We make ourselves available to assist dog bite victims at all times including weekends, evenings and holidays.