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4 Myths and Misconceptions About Dog Bite Laws in Ohio

Aggressive Shiba inu dog bite someone in public park

In the last few decades, the role that dogs play in our lives has undergone a massive transformation. Today, dogs aren’t just simple pets but cherished family members—walk around any major city in the country, and you’ll find dogs in strollers, dressed in the latest pet fashion, and joining their owners at restaurants and parks. 

Unfortunately, with more dogs roaming leash-free in public spaces than ever, there has been a noticeable increase in dog bite accidents. In Ohio, dog bites comprise 75% of the 20,000 annual animal bite and exposure incidents investigated by local health departments.

Being bitten by a dog is often a painful, terrifying, and traumatizing experience. Meanwhile, if your dog has bitten someone, the aftermath can be filled with confusion and anxiety—after all, nobody wants their dog taken away. In this guide, we’ll dispel some of the most common myths and misconceptions about dog bite laws in Ohio so you can better understand your rights and responsibilities.

Myth #1: You Can Only Sue If the Dog Has Bitten Someone Before

One of the biggest misconceptions about dog bite laws in Ohio is that a dog must have a history of aggression or previous bites for the victim to sue the owner. (Some people refer to this as the “one free bite” rule—the mistaken belief that every dog gets a “free pass” for the first bite.)

However, dog bite laws in Ohio do not require a victim to prove that a dog has previously bitten someone or shown aggressive behavior. Under Ohio’s “strict liability” statute regarding dog bites, dog owners are responsible for all damages caused by their dogs, regardless of their prior behavior. Victims do not need to prove negligence or that the owner knew the dog could be violent.

This law reflects an understanding that all dogs, regardless of their past, have the potential to cause harm if not properly managed.

Myth #2: You Cannot Sue If the Dog Was Provoked

Even the most well-trained dog may behave unexpectedly if provoked, whether it’s by a curious toddler or a jogger passing too close for comfort. Given this, the myth persists that the victim cannot claim damages if a dog was provoked.

While provocation can indeed influence a case, dog bite laws in Ohio examine the degree of provocation and whether the victim’s actions were enough to justify the dog’s response. This assessment is particularly relevant in cases involving children who might not understand that their actions—such as pulling a dog’s tail—can be provocative. 

In such situations, dog bite laws in Ohio still expect owners to take reasonable steps to prevent bites, such as warning the child or restraining the dog.

Myth #3: If a Dog Bites a Trespasser, the Owner Is Always Protected

Another common misconception is that dog owners are always shielded from liability if their dog bites someone who is trespassing. While it’s true that dog owners are more protected when their dog bites someone who is trespassing, this isn’t a universal rule—the key factor here is the nature of the trespassing.

Dog bite laws in Ohio require owners to ensure their dogs do not pose a danger, even to unexpected visitors, under certain conditions. For example, if a child wanders onto a property without understanding they are trespassing, the court may still find the dog owner liable for any injuries caused by the dog. Ohio law protects solicitors (such as door-to-door salesmen) in a similar way. 

That said, if someone were intentionally trespassing or attempting to commit a crime on the owner’s property, the owner would not be liable for injuries caused by their dog.

Myth #4: The Law Only Applies to Dog Bites

The term “dog bite” might imply that the laws only apply when a dog’s teeth make contact with skin, but Ohio’s dog bite laws cover a broader range of behaviors. If a dog knocks someone over or causes an accident, victims’ injuries also fall under these laws. 

In general, Ohio law recognizes that dogs can cause harm in various ways and provides avenues for victims to seek compensation for all types of injuries caused by dogs.

Understanding Your Rights After a Dog Bite

Dog bite incidents can be traumatic and confusing, and trying to understand your legal rights as a victim or responsibilities as a pet owner can exacerbate the emotional toll of the accident. 

If you or someone you know is dealing with the aftermath of a dog bite, it’s important to consult with an experienced attorney specializing in dog bite cases. Our team at Slater & Zurz is here to help. Not only do we bring decades of experience in successfully managing these complex cases, but we also operate on a contingency, meaning you only pay if you are awarded compensation for your claim.

Reach out at 330-762-0700 for a free consultation today.