|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 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.
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.
For additional assistance, please contact the Canine Legislation department
or Melanie Tierney, Canine Friends of Cleveland (email@example.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, click here.