Dog bite claims in Ohio- who is responsible?
Ohio law imposes strict liability upon an owner, keeper, or harborer of the dog. This guide defines these terms.
Who can be held liable for a dog bite in Ohio?In order to recover damages under R.C. 955.28(B), a plaintiff must prove all three of the following: (1) that the defendant was an owner, keeper, or harborer of the dog; (2) that the actions of the dog were the proximate cause of the damages claimed; and (3) the monetary amount of the damages.
Who is the dog's owner?The dog's owner is the person to whom the dog belongs. Garrard v. McComas, 5 Ohio App.3d 179, 182, 450 N.E.2d 730 (10th Dist. 1982).
Who is a harborer of the dog?A harborer "has possession and control of the premises where the dog lives, and silently [or expressly] acquiesces to the dog's presence." Flint v. Holbrook, 80 Ohio App.3d 21, 25, 608 N.E.2d 809 (2nd Dist. 1992).
Who is a keeper of the dog?A keeper has physical charge or care of the dog. Johnson v. Allonas, 116 Ohio App.3d 447, 449 (1996). Ohio courts have found a person to be the keeper of a dog even when the physical charge or care of the dog is only for a short time. In Johnson, a person became a "keeper" when she voluntarily took a dog outside on a leash. By holding the leash, she exerted "physical charge of care of the dog at the time of the accident." Id. at 449. A kennel worker was found to be a keeper when the worker was bitten while cleaning the dog's cage. Khamis v. Everson, 88 Ohio App.3d 220, 227, 623 N.E.2d 683 (2nd Dist. 1993). An employee at a pet grooming facility was also considered to be the dog's keeper when she approached the dog specifically to help control him and to secure him in the bathtub while he was getting groomed. Lewis v. Chovan, 10th Dist. No. 05AP-1159, 2006-Ohio-3100. In Marin v. Frick, 11th Dist. No. 2003-G-2531, 2004-Ohio-5642, a person was considered to be a keeper merely by holding a dog's leash while the owner briefly went inside to answer the phone and use the restroom.