Ohio Supreme Court partially dumps dog law
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2004:
COLUMBUS–The Ohio Supreme Court on September 22 ruled 4-3
that the part of the Ohio law requiring restraint of “dangerous and
vicious” dogs is unconstitutional because it does not allow the
owners to contest the “dangerous and vicious” designation before they
are criminally charged.
“We find it inherently unfair that a dog owner must defy the
statutory regulations and become a criminal defendant, thereby
risking going to jail and losing her property, in order to challenge
a dog warden’s unilateral decision to classify her property,” wrote
Justice Francis Sweeney for the majority.
Janice Cowan, 50, of Mogadore, argued that her German
shepherd and two of the dog’s mixed-breed offspring were unjustly
killed after the two mixed-breed dogs mauled neighbor Margaret
Maurer, on Maurer’s property. The dogs were chained, but the
chains apparently allowed them to range beyond Cowan’s property.
Cowan was subsequently convicted of four misdemeanors for failing to
properly confine the dogs. A three-judge panel from the Ohio 11th
District Court of Appeals rejected two of Cowan’s three claims of
unjust treatment, but agreed 2-1 that Portage County violated her
right of due process.
“Cowan had a meaningful opportunity to contest the evidence
that her dogs seriously injured Margaret Maurer on October 1, 2001,”
wrote dissenting Justice Terrence O’Donnell, “and had the same due
process rights accorded to any other deendant. In other instances
of criminal prosecution,” O’Donnell continued, “the state removes
defendants from society pending trial, seizes the evidence from a
crime scene–often the home of a defendant–pursuant to a warrant
pending trial, even removes children pending trial, and otherwise
takes actions designed to preserve evidence and maintain safety and
security in society pending outcomes of trials. Requiring these dogs
to be secured pending trial is not a denial of due process, but
rather a reasonable measure designed to maintain neighborhood safety.”
Added Chief Justice Tom Moyer in a separate dissent, “The
majority leaves Ohio with statutory definitions of ‘dangerous dog’
and ‘vicious dog,’ but no requirements for confining such dogs and
no requirement that an owner of a dangerous or vicious dog obtain
insurance against liability for injury caused by such a dog. The
majority does so despite the clear mandate of the General Assembly.”
Justice Maureen O’Connor concurred with Moyer.
“Ohio is the only state to define vicious dogs by breed (pit bulls)
as well as behavior,” noted the American Dog Owners Association web
site. “The Ohio Supreme Court decision does not affect owners of pit
bulls, as pit bulls are automatically considered vicious under
The Ohio Supreme Court in 1991 upheld the part of the law
defining pit bulls as inherently vicious.