halloween trick or treating and dog bitesOctober can be a time for long walks, leaf raking or just enjoying the season’s many colors. October 31 is Halloween and that brings with it trick or treating throughout Ohio neighborhoods.

If you have a dog you may be wondering if they should be allowed to run free when others are Halloween trick or treating at your house. Or you may ask if its OK for your dog to go trick or treating with your family in your neighborhood?

What is the legal side of Halloween trick or treating if your dog bites someone who comes to your house trick or treating or if the dog bites someone while you are away from your home trick or treating?

When Children Are Trick or Treating at Your Home

It is probably best to remove your dog from trick or treat activities because strangers will be coming to your home. The dog can be placed in a room of the house with the door closed.

Provide some distraction for the dog such as a television, a radio or some other type of sound that blocks noise. Otherwise the dog may hear people coming to the door who are not coming into the house and become concerned about what is going on and whether the family is safe.

If you choose not to remove the dog from Halloween activities you may still want to consider how your dog interacts with strangers and whether the dog is likely to become excited at seeing someone’s Halloween costume. Many costumes for adults and children have glitter, fringe or are designed to make noise or glow in the dark. A costume may represent a zombie or vampire which is something that looks very different from what your pet is used to seeing.

Many costumes also change in appearance when they move. If your dog becomes excited, jumps on people or tries to chase after someone in a costume you could be liable if the dog bites someone.

When You are Trick-or-Treating Away from Your Home

Never take a dog outside your property where the dog may encounter strangers without having the dog on a leash or in a crate if you are traveling. This may sound amusing if you have a teacup Yorkie but please read on.

In Ohio there are two general types of dog-bite law. One is “strict liability” and the other is common law negligence. (This is speaking in terms of legalities concerning what could happen after a dog attacks a person.)

“Strictly liable” in this context means the dog’s owner, harborer, or keeper is liable for the injury inflicted by the dog even if the owner, harborer, or keeper did not do anything wrong. The injured person simply needs to prove your dog attacked and the attack caused that person injuries or damages. (See Ohio Revised Code (ORC), Section 955.28(B).

There are a few exceptions in Ohio dog bite law to strict liability concerning whether the dog was teased, tormented, or abused, etc.. Ohio dog bite laws involving children are also different from some other states.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that a dog bite victim can pursue claims simultaneously under both dog bite statutes and common law negligence.

In a common law action for injuries caused by a dog, the victim (plaintiff) must show:

• The defendant owned, harbored, or was the keeper of the dog
• The dog was vicious or dangerous
• The defendant knew this
• The dog was kept in a negligent manner after the defendant knew of the dog’s vicious or dangerous nature

An example of a local dog bite case illustrates the potential cost of a dog bite claim for a defendant or the defendant’s insurer:

An eight-year-old boy had the tip of his nose bitten off by a dog. His medical bills totaled $8,000 at the time the case was settled. He was disfigured by the attack and experienced considerable pain and suffering. His family was awarded $230,000 for his injuries.

There is no amount of money that can compensate for permanent disfigurement or other injuries caused by a dog attack especially if it is your child or other loved one who was disfigured. Yes, accidents do happen but a dog attack is not considered an accident under current Ohio law. People have the right to seek damages when something tragic happens to them, their child, an elderly parent or spouse.

If you have experienced a dog attack in your family you will likely want to consult with an Ohio attorney who knows dog bite law. At the Ohio law firm of Slater & Zurz LLP you will find an attorney with this type of knowledge to assist you. Please call 1-888-534-4850 and ask for a dog bite attorney or send a website message.