COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A dog suspected of posing a danger to people does not have to carry an official “dangerous dog” label under state law for prosecutors to charge an owner for violating the law, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
As long as prosecutors have evidence that the dog in question would meet the definition of the law — including previously hurting someone — they can move forward with charges and prove their case at trial, the court said in resolving conflicting opinions by two lower courts.
“Because the dangerous-dog designation turns on the dog’s past behavior, the statute provides fair warning to a dog owner that he or she may be subject to the dangerous-dog provisions” in the law, Justice Melody Stewart wrote in Tuesday’s ruling.
At issue was an attack on a Cincinnati woman in 2016 by an American pit bull whose owner let it off its leash after seeing a stray dog ahead and wanting protection, according to court records.
The woman, who was trying to protect her Chinese Crested Dog, was bitten by the man’s pit bull on her hands and wrists, records say.
The man was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of failing to confine a dangerous dog. He challenged his conviction, saying his dog didn’t carry the “dangerous dog” label to begin with.
Although the court said that, in general, that label isn’t necessary to begin prosecutions, the justices ruled that in the Cincinnati case, prosecutors didn’t have enough proof that the man’s dog had posed a danger in the past.