Feb 14, 2013

Who is liable if a dog running loose bites me or a family member?

Greetings! I have a rental property next to me that is only partially fenced. It is wide open down both sides of the lot with an opening on my side along my drive and back yard. The tenants have dogs which they leave out to run and do their duties unleashed in the back yard. My question is, if one of these dogs (God Forbid) come after me or one of my family members either knocking us down or bites one of us can the landlord be liable as well as the tenant? Thank You! Chris From Sandusky

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.


The Mailbag is a daily feature on SanduskyRegister.com. Every weekday at noon, we will post one question-and-answer from a resident. To ask a question, send a letter to The Mailbag at 314 W. Market St., or e-mail mailbag@sanduskyregister.com. Please include your first name and a location in the e-mail, e.g. “John from Decatur Street."



the pet owner would be held liable. hopefully, they have renters insurance.


Carry a gun, if one attacks, shoot it in its face. My new neighbors have a rottweiler that appears to be mean. I take my .40 outside evrytime, it approaches me........hollow point between the eyes.


Cue the "kill the puppies" music!


People are so ignorant! Shoot the dog~What about the ignorant "humans"? They are the ones to blame for the way they train. If they can't teach their kids right from wrong how would a dog know any better? It's just ok to go out and shoot the innocent when they know no better~time to make the "humans" responsible!


if a dog attacks, no matter what the breed, i would shoot it and i wouldn't lose a bit of sleep over it. i do not condone animal abuse but i value a persons life more than any animal.

thinkagain's picture

amen baby!!


so we (and i say we, as in we in general) are to allow the dog to bite then because, it just doesn't know better??? yeh that makes sense...maybe we should shake our finger at it and say no bad dog, you dont know better as it is mauling our arm???


Animal haters just do NOT GET IT. It is a humans responsibility for the way they care for/train/teach their pets. Human responsibility~get it? If you own an animals take care of it! Don't train it to attack people. I'm sure you would not lose a minutes sleep MIKEY~you are just a hater period~it's quite obvious~it always has been in ALL of your posts.


Animal haters just do NOT GET IT. It is a humans responsibility for the way they care for/train/teach their pets. Human responsibility~get it? If you own an animals take care of it! Don't train it to attack people. I'm sure you would not lose a minutes sleep MIKEY~you are just a hater period~it's quite obvious~it always has been in ALL of your posts.


go hug a tree..


Ok, I'm not an animal hater, but I agree with those who say shoot the dog. Yes, it matters how the owner trains the dog, but if the owner is not around and the dog attacks...I believe in self defense. I'm sure the family that owned the Rottweiler that attacked and killed their 3-month old child never taught, or thought their dog was aggressive. Bottom line, if the dog is putting a person in a life or death situation...kill the dog...by any means! Call it animal cruelty if you like, but I'm going to be the survivor!!


Many shoot happy people~maybe we do need to get more guns off of the streets


Owners need to be more responsible with their dogs. I have a Rottweiler that I have had since she was a puppy she is the biggest baby ever but she is not a big fan of strangers. If people don't know her they would think she is mean because she growls and barks at strangers and I'm glad she does that because at least I know she will protect me if someone ever tries to come after me. So maybe the Rottweiler is just guarding it's territory because that is what dogs are suppose to do so don't automatically think that it's an aggressive dog. I can also understand if that dog comes onto your property and tries to harm you or your family then you have to do what you have to do to protect yourself.

he said she said

I would say to report the animals running loose on your property to the police first (video tape it because they will sure be gone by the time the police get there). That way you have documented that the dogs are running amok and the owners are put on notice.

After that, I would say yes, shoot it. I have come up against dogs that the owner could not control. The dogs probably have never been to the vet, are not licensed and have had no training.


When I'm walking around town, dogs sometimes bark at me from houses, backyards, or porches. I have no problem with that. They are, after all, doing a great job of acting as an alarm system for the owners if nothing else! Where I have the problem is with the LOOSE dogs. You never know whether or not a dog is friendly, especially when you're a stranger to that dog!

I love animals and I suppose a certain someone here would be happy to tell me to go hug a tree, too. But if a loose dog comes running at me, I can't promise not to take defensive action, either!

Do I blame the dog? Of course not! I blame an irresponsible owner who (and never mind the LAW here) risks a pet's life because they can't be bothered to care for it properly. But just because I don't blame the dog doesn't mean it isn't the dog who does the damage and who may have to pay a pretty hefty price accordingly!


I think, in Ohio at least, landlords must be sued along with the tenant in any type of dispute, whether it be regarding an animal or other situation. I know this because a family tried to sue my husband due to a rock shooting through a lawnmower and hitting the guy in his neck. First of all, it was probably faked but while researching our liability, I found out that the landlord would have to be included in the suit as we were renters. Since the money-hungry guy had the same landlord, he decided to drop the suit. I doubt he would have won since he would have been hard-pressed to prove that the rock traveled across the street, hit his apt. bldg. and then hit him in the neck or that my husband was negligent.