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A number of new Ohio laws concerning dog bites will become effective on May 21. One major change will eliminate classification of dogs as “vicious” according to breed.  Current law classifies certain breeds such as pit bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Chows as vicious dogs.  Under the new laws, dogs will be classified as vicious according to each animal’s personality and behavior.

The new laws will set out four levels of violations, the least serious of which would be having a dog running “at large,” a minor misdemeanor carrying a maximum $120 fine. In addition, another minor misdemeanor will be having a “nuisance” dog.  A “nuisance dog” is defined as a dog that approaches someone in an “aggressive” manner while not on its property.

Having a “dangerous” dog will be a first-degree misdemeanor.  A “dangerous” dog under this law is defined as a dog that injures or kills another dog, regardless of whether the dog is on or off its own property.  A first degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,500.  Owners of dangerous dogs will be required to purchase a special $50 license in addition to a regular county license.  The dog owner will also be required to post a “dangerous dog” warning sign on their property, spay or neuter the dog, and vaccinate the dog against rabies.  Any dog cited three times as being a “nuisance” dog will automatically be considered to be a dangerous dog.

The most serious level of violation will be having a “vicious” dog.  A vicious dog is defined as one that kills or seriously injures a person.  Possessing a vicious dog will be considered a felony.  If a dog is determined to be a vicious dog, the new law will require that the animal be euthanized.

In an effort to raise awareness about dog bites, the American Veterinary Medical Association will observe national dog bite prevention week May 20-26.

Source: Examiner.com, “Vicious dogs and upcoming Ohio dog laws,” Becky Chatelain, April 24, 2012.