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There are few things more terrifying than being confronted with the snarling teeth of a vicious dog. Though the vast majority of canines are gentle family companions, some have a very dangerous temperament. All it takes is a few seconds for these animals to attack or snap at an unsuspecting human.

Dog bites often result in permanent physical and psychological scars, especially when the victims are children. Conventional wisdom used to say that some breeds were more likely than others to become vicious.

Because of their large size, strong jaws and unfortunate use in dog fighting, pit bulls have been one of the most common targets of this designation. However, most animal scientists say that the breed is not inherently dangerous. Viciousness, they say, is much more a matter of "nurture" than of "nature."

Until recently, Ohio’s dog laws had failed to keep up with changing opinions. State law categorized all pit bulls as inherently dangerous animals, regardless of their temperament or past behavior. Ohio was the only state to have such a law on its books.

This all changed with the passage of a new dog law in May 2012. Now, the state no longer defines viciousness by breed. Instead, individual dogs will be categorized based on their past behavior.

What is a "Vicious Dog"?

The new Ohio dog bite law outlines three categories of problematic canines: nuisance, dangerous and vicious. Dogs caught chasing or attempting to bite a person will be labeled as "nuisances." Dogs that do bite a person, that kill or injure another animal or that are found running loose on at least three occasions will be considered "dangerous." The designation of "vicious" is reserved for dogs that seriously injure or kill a human. There is an exception for cases where a person is attacked after attempting to trespass or otherwise commit a crime on the dog owner’s property.

The law sets strict rules that owners of these animals must follow. Owners of nuisance dogs may be ordered to get training for their animals and can be charged with misdemeanor offenses. Owners of dangerous or vicious dogs must keep the dogs locked inside or in an enclosed yard and must post signs warning of the dangerous animal. If the dogs go out in public, they must be kept on a tether no longer than six feet and must be muzzled at all times. In the most serious cases, owners can be forced to euthanize vicious dogs.

Ohio Dog Bite Lawsuits

The new law also requires owners of dangerous and vicious dogs to carry at least $100,000 in liability insurance. This requirement is designed to ensure that dog bite victims will be able to secure appropriate compensation for the harm that has been done to them.

Ohio law allows dog bite victims to bring personal injury lawsuits against the owners of the animals that harmed them. Compensable damages include medical bills, pain and suffering, and scarring and disfigurement.

An Ohio personal injury lawyer can help clients understand their rights and options after they or their children have been harmed by a dog.