Court Declares Part of Ohio’s Dangerous Dog Law Unconstitutional

In a landmark 4-3 decision handed down on September 22nd, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that a...

In a landmark 4-3 decision handed down on September 22nd, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that a statute penalizing owners of dangerous dogs who fail to buy liability insurance and properly confine their animals was unconstitutional. The Court held that the law (R.C. 955.22) violated a dog owner’s right to due process because it did not provide owners with an opportunity to appeal a dangerous dog determination at an administrative hearing. The ruling affirmed that since the statute imposed significant restrictions and expenses on a person’s property (in this case, their dogs), owners have a constitutional right to be heard and to defend their property.

This decision is likely to have a significant impact on all Ohio dog owners as city and state officials consider revisions to the state’s dangerous dog law in order to close this constitutional loophole. Ohio is currently the only state with a breed-specific dangerous dog statute, which automatically deems “pit bulls” vicious, and in rewriting the law, legislators could use this opportunity to target more breeds or impose additional restrictions on owners. On the positive side, the ruling opens a door for dog owners who have been attempting for many years to repeal Ohio’s breed-specific law and make other much-needed improvements to the law.

The American Kennel Club strongly supports reasonable, enforceable non-discriminatory laws designed to keep communities safe for both people and dogs, and we believe that owners should be responsible for their dogs. We support laws that:

• Establish a fair process by which specific dogs are identified as “dangerous” based on stated, measurable actions. Such a process should include the right to appeal dangerous dog determination before a municipal court or hearing board.
• Impose appropriate penalties on irresponsible owners.
• Establish a well-defined method for dealing with dogs proven to be dangerous.
• Do not single out specific breeds of dogs. Deeds, not breeds, should be addressed.

 

What You Can Do:

Ohio dog owners are strongly encouraged to contact their city, county, and state legislators and urge them to support a revised dangerous dog law that includes the points above. It is extremely important that officials hear from responsible dog owners on this issue.


• For information about local and state legislators in Ohio, visit http://ohio.gov/government.stm.
• Information packets and other materials pertaining to reasonable dangerous dog laws are available through the Canine Legislation department (doglaw@akc.org).
• For additional assistance, contact:

 

Canine Friends of Cleveland
216-556-5PET
413-812-4282 (fax)
Melanie Tierney
aegis66@earthlink.net


Ohio Valley Dog Owners
www.canismajor.com/orgs/ovdo
ovdo@canismajor.com

Interested dog owners may also wish to attend the National Animal Interest Alliance's upcoming conference on positive alternatives to breed-specific
legislation. For details, visit: http://www.naiaonline.org/body
/articles/archives/dangerousdogconfnov.htm