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Ohio Dog Bite Laws

There are no winners when a dog attacks. If you’re a dog bite victim, few things are as traumatic as suffering a dog bite injury. As the dog’s owner, it’s heartrending to realize that your furry family member caused a serious injury. Whichever side you’re on, the aftermath of a dog attack raises questions you might not know the answers to.

In this article, we’ll explain the Ohio revised codes (laws) concerning dog bites and what they mean to you. We’ll discuss what to do if you’re attacked by a dog, who is liable for medical bills, and what sort of classifications dogs are given in Ohio.

What Happens After a Dog Attack

Nobody wants to be the victim of a dog attack, but it’s important to know what to do if one happens. Your priority should be to get to a safe place and then address your personal injury. Even if it doesn’t seem serious to you, you should seek medical attention. Dog bite injuries carry a high risk of infection, so a trip to the emergency room is a good idea.

Ohio requires that a victim file a dog bite report within 24 hours to a health commissioner or animal control. You should gather contact information from the dog’s owner and find out if it has the required vaccinations. Get copies of bills for any medical treatment you receive, as they’ll be covered by the dog owner's insurance company.

The county will quarantine the dog to watch for rabies symptoms and start an investigation into the dog bite case. The case evaluation determines whether or not the dog will be given a classification.

Dog Bite Liability in Ohio

Ohio dog bite laws follow a strict liability doctrine. This means that if your dog bites someone without justification, you are liable for damages. In most dog bite cases, the victim doesn’t need to prove negligence. In the eyes of Ohio dog bite statutes, it’s your dog and your responsibility to keep them from harming others. For example, you’re expected to keep your dog under control while off your property, such as with a leash.

In some states, the “one-bite rule” allows owners to escape liability if their dog hasn’t bitten anyone before as they were unaware of the animal’s potential aggressive behavior. This common law does not apply in Ohio. Aside from certain specific defenses, if your dog injures someone you’re liable for medical expenses and can be sued in civil court.

Most homeowners’ insurance policies cover dog bite injuries, but check yours to be sure. It’s natural to be overwhelmed in a situation like this, so if you have questions or need legal advice, consider reaching out to a dog bite attorney who specializes in defending dogs like yours.

Ohio Dog Classifications: Nuisance, Dangerous, and Vicious

Ohio dog bite laws have classifications for dogs that are considered a danger to public health. These classifications carry increased restrictions and responsibilities for the dog’s owner, including the potential of facing fines and both misdemeanor and felony charges.

Police dogs are not subject to classification in Ohio.

Nuisance Dogs

The least onerous of classifications is for a nuisance dog. A dog is considered a nuisance when:

  • It is at large while off the dog owner’s property

  • It chases or menaces a person

  • It attempts to bite a person

Nuisance dogs may face mandatory behavioral training at the expense of the dog owner.

Dangerous Dogs

Ohio considers a dog to be a dangerous dog if it is guilty of any of the following:

  • Causing an injury that is not serious or lethal

  • Killing another dog

  • Three or more instances of being at large while off the dog owner’s property

Some of the requirements for the owner of a dangerous dog include:

  • Keeping the dog in a secure pen or locked fenced-in area

  • Obtaining a special tag identifying the dog as dangerous, which is worn at all times

  • When the dog is not penned, either a six-foot leash or a muzzle must be used

  • Getting special liability insurance for dog attacks

If the dog’s owner moves or the ownership of the dog changes, animal control authorities in both locations must be alerted.

Viscious Dogs

The most serious dog classification in Ohio is a vicious dog. A vicious dog has, without provocation, either seriously injured or killed a person. If a vicious dog kills again, the dog’s owner faces a felony of the fourth degree.

Ohio Dog Bite Laws Overview

Although an attorney can best handle the interpretation of a statute, a plain language guide to the statutes can be a useful introduction to the law. The chart below provides a concise overview of Ohio dog bite laws.

Ohio Dog Bite Laws

Ohio Revised Statutes:

  • Section 955.28 (civil liability)

  • Section 955.11 (definitions)

  • Section 955.261 (removal of a dog that has bitten a person)

  • Section 955.99 (penalties)

Possible Defenses for a Dog Bite



A dog will not be considered a dangerous dog if the dog bite victim:

  • Was committing or attempting to commit a crime that was not a minor misdemeanor

  • Was trespassing

  • Provoked the dog by teasing, tormenting, or abusing it

Possible Damages

Typical Damages:

  • Medical expenses

  • Property damage

  • Lost wages

  • Non-economic losses, including compensation for pain and suffering, scarring, or psychological damage

Punitive Damages

The awarding of punitive damages is unlikely unless you prove the owner of the dog was guilty of egregious negligence

How Long Do I Have To File a Lawsuit in Ohio?

The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit in a dog bite case in Ohio is six years. It begins running from the date that the dog bite occurred. As a strict liability case, this differs from the usual two-year statute of limitations on negligence cases.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Important Questions About Dog Bites in Ohio

While the details differ in every dog bite claim, there is often common ground to be found. Below are some helpful answers to situations that turn up in dog bite cases.

A dog bit me and the doctor said it was a level two bite. Is that serious?

All dog bite injuries should be taken seriously and given medical attention. Dog bite victim injuries range from minor scratches to disfigurement and muscle tears. When determining the severity of both the wound and the animal’s aggression, medical professionals use a dog bite scale that provides a universal standard.

A level two rating is relatively minor, but if the skin was broken make sure at the very least you clean it thoroughly with warm water and soap.

Is it always my dog’s fault if she bites someone?

There are extenuating circumstances that will remove fault from your dog in a dog bite attack, and relieve you of liability as well. Your dog’s aggressive behavior is justified if one of the following influenced the attack:

  • The dog bite victim was trespassing

  • The dog bite victim was committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense

  • The dog bite victim was teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog, or had a history of doing so in the past

These are subject to conditions. For example, a door-to-door salesman is not considered a trespasser, nor is a postal carrier.

How long do I have to file a dog bite lawsuit in Ohio?

While the statute of limitations on most personal injury claims in Ohio is two years, you have up to six years from the date of the dog attack to file a lawsuit in a dog bite claim.

If you were a minor when bitten, you have six years from the date of your 18th birthday.

Ohio Dog Bite Laws: Related Resources

Questions About Ohio Dog Bite Laws? Get Answers From an Attorney

There are few things more terrifying than being the victim of a dog bite attack. After seeking medical attention, it’s important to secure compensation for your injuries. Consider speaking with a dog bite lawyer to make sure you have knowledgeable representation on your side.

If you’re the owner of a dog that’s bitten someone, having an advocate in your corner to fight for your furry friend can make a huge difference. A personal injury attorney specializing in dog bite defense can help get your canine companion out of the doghouse and back home with you and your loved ones.

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