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Pet Owners Can Assert Rights

Q: My neighbor purposely injured my dog. Is there anything I can do about it?
A:
 One option you have is to bring criminal charges. If you wish to do so, you should first contact the police or dog warden in your area so that evidence can be collected. File a police report as soon as possible, and follow up with your county’s prosecutor. Inform the prosecutor that you wish to pursue criminal charges against the person(s) responsible for injuring your pet. Under current Ohio law, your case likely will be heard in your local municipal court, but the court that handles such a case may vary.   

Depending on the circumstances of your particular case, criminal charges that the state may bring against the accused may include: petty theft; animal abuse; criminal damage; and trespass. If a firearm was used to injure or kill the pet, various state and local laws may provide a basis for additional charges.

Q: If I don’t want to bring criminal charges, is there anything else I can do?
A:
 Yes. You can bring a civil legal action against the person who injured your dog, but you should know that current Ohio law considers dogs and other companion animals to be “chattel” or personal property. For this reason, you would be legally entitled to only the “replacement value” of your pet. In other words, if your dog is a mixed breed that came from the pound, you would only be entitled to the cost of purchasing a similar dog from a similar facility. Some case law suggests that owners may be entitled to other damages, such as intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress or trespass, if the person entered your property for the purpose of injuring your dog, and other such cases are now pending. Such cases do not, however, represent the majority.

Q: Is Ohio planning to increase the penalties for harming a pet?
A:
 On June 21, 2011, the Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 25, which would make animal cruelty charges a first-degree misdemeanor. Currently, animal cruelty is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. The new law would allow judges to include pets on domestic violence protection orders and order children who abuse pets to get psychiatric evaluations. The bill would also give courts more power to protect victims of domestic violence, including pets.  The bill also would make minors undergo a mandatory psychological evaluation if found guilty of abusing an animal. House Bill 25 will move to the Ohio Senate for consideration. 

Q: My dog was mistreated while boarded at a kennel. What can I do?
A:
 On June 21, 2011, the Ohio House of Representatives passed H.B. 108, which amends Ohio’s law protecting companion animals under the care of kennel owners (Ohio Revised Code 959.131 and 959.99). The law gives prosecutors the discretion to charge kennel owners with a fifth degree felony instead of simply a misdemeanor for negligent failure to provide “basic care.” Basic care includes the provision of sufficient food and water, veterinary care, and adequate shelter. The basic care requirement also prohibits kennel owners from negligently torturing, tormenting, needlessly mutilating or maiming, cruelly beating, poisoning, needlessly killing, or committing an act of cruelty against the companion animal. 

4/13/2013

This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by attorneys Joseph P. Walsh of the Sylvania firm, Lydy and Moan Ltd., and Kyle A. Silvers of Shindler, Neff, Holmes, Schlageter & Mohler, LLP in Toledo. ​​

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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