An important role model and friend of mine owns a successful, family-operated dog kennel outside Ottawa. My friend knows that health professionals regularly extol the virtues of dogs as pets in helping people’s mental health. Personally, I could not imagine our family farm without our family dog. Dogs remain a big part of hunting and property protection in Ohio.
In Ohio, every dog needs a license, and dog kennels must also be licensed. Ohio law limits the license fees to amounts sufficient to administer the dog registration/licensing process and pay for one or more county dog wardens. The fees are not supposed to be used for anything other than administration of the dog registration and protection process. In other words, dog and kennel license fees cannot be a money-maker for other government programs.
Traditionally, our society has struggled with how to handle dogs. Some dogs do very well with people or out and about without direct human supervision. Other dogs do not.
Ohio law requires that every dog should be supervised and controlled by its owner, keeper or harborer, who is responsible for the dog’s conduct. Additional duties are placed upon the dog’s owner, keeper or harborer if the dog fits in one of three categories, based upon the individual dog’s history. This classification and registration system is designed to protect dog wardens and residents with awareness of each dog’s propensity to misbehave. The system also ensures that owners, keepers and harborers of certain dogs take precautions appropriate as to individual dogs, protecting the rest of society while not unnecessarily restricting some freedom for less dangerous dogs.
“Nuisance dogs” are dogs that, without provocation, have acted in a very menacing fashion toward a person when the dog was off the property of the dog’s owner, keeper or harborer. A dog that growls with teeth protruding as it approaches an unassuming child would likely satisfy the definition of a nuisance dog.
“Dangerous dogs” have killed another dog or caused injury of any type to any person. “Vicious dogs” have either killed or seriously injured a person. Dangerous and vicious dogs must be confined on the property of the owner, keeper or harborer, unless the dog is used for hunting and is accompanied by a licensed hunter. Also, these dogs must be specially registered in the county of the owner, keeper or harborer and be implanted with microchips that provide identifying information on the dog and owner.
Police and other law enforcement dogs are obviously exempt from the requirements set forth above. Further, the actions that allow for the classification of certain dogs do not include actions that a dog has done exclusively in the context of hunting when accompanied by a licensed hunter.
Ohio no longer automatically classifies certain breeds of dogs as dangerous or vicious. However, local governments can add some additional laws to protect the community’s “health, safety and welfare” regarding interactions with dogs as long as those laws are not inconsistent with Ohio’s dog laws overall.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.