Who is liable if a dog running loose bites me or a family member?
First, a disclaimer. The Mailbag is run by journalists, not by lawyers. We can point you to some sections of the city's code that could be helpful for you, but determining liability is something we don't have the capability or standing to determine. Also, there are criminal rules and potential civil liability that could apply to this situation. Allowing a dog to leave your property and bite someone is against the law, but it could also be grounds for a civil lawsuit. In a civil case, the complainant (person bitten by dog in this case) could name anyone they believe to be liable in the lawsuit. Who is actually liable is up to a judge to determine. There are a lot of variables that could be involved in a civil case, so we'll focus on the criminal side of things, which are spelled out with more clarity in the Sandusky codified ordinances.
You might want to take a look at sections 505.01 and 505.02 of the city's codified ordinances HERE.
Section 505.01 defines “Owner” as the keeper, handler or harborer of an animal.
Section 505.02 goes on to discuss the rules for keeping the animal from "running at large" which is prohibited under Sandusky law. This would apply to your situation.
According to the code: " (a) No person being the owner or having charge of any animal as defined in Section 505.01 shall permit such animal to run at large upon any public place, or upon any unenclosed lands, or upon the premises of another. The owner or person having charge of every animal shall at all times keep such animal either confined upon the premises of the owner or keeper, or on a leash held by and under reasonable control of some person... Whoever violates subsections (a) or (b) above is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree."
It goes on to say: "Notwithstanding the above, a violation of subsections (a) or (b) hereof shall be a misdemeanor of the second degree when such animal is found to have attacked or bitten another person either while at large, or when leashed and not on the property of its owner, keeper or harborer. If such animal is found to have attacked or bitten another domestic animal while at large, or while leashed but not under control as described in subsection (b)(2) hereof, the owner, keeper or harborer shall be subject to the penalty mentioned in subsection (d)."
So, long ordinance short, the person who owns the dogs (as defined above) cannot allow the dogs to leave their property unless they are leashed or under reasonable control. If they do, they may be guilty of a dog at large violation — a third degree misdemeanor. If the dogs leave the property and bite a person, the dog owner may be charged with a second degree misdemeanor. Charges will depend on the circumstances and an investigation by Sandusky police.
Again, this should be in no way construed as legal advice. We are simply pointing to the section of Sandusky law that might apply to your question.