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Understanding Strict Liability For Animal Attacks

While pets can make great companions for many people, they can also pose a danger because they are, after all, animals.  All pets, from common pets such as dogs and cats, to more exotic pets like bears and monkeys, can cause serious injuries if they attack.  When exotic animals attack, the law treats the situation differently from when a more traditional domestic animal (except dogs) attacks.

Because of the dangerous nature of exotic animals, the law holds the owners of such animals to a higher standard when someone gets injured.  The owners are held to a strict liability standard.  This generally means that the owner is liable for any property damage or injuries caused by the exotic animal.  Under strict liability, the owner may even be found guilty despite taking steps to make sure the animal could not get out and injure others.  With a strict liability standard, the injured person does not have to prove that the owner of the pet was negligent, and that led to the plaintiff’s injuries.  This is the major hurdle to plaintiffs in most injury cases.

There are additional laws that govern the ownership of exotic animals, and under Ohio law, exotic pet owners are required to carry insurance.  This can help in paying the medical expenses of innocent parties who are injured by the animals.  Exotic pet owners are also currently required to register their pets with the state, and ensure that they are micro chipped as well.  Although these regulations were met with resistance, they were enacted to protect people from incidents such as the well-known Zanesville, Ohio release of approximately 50 exotic animals, including lions and tigers, into a residential area.

Dog Owners And Strict Liability

Note that Ohio law also holds dog owners to a strict liability standard as well, requiring the owner or keeper of a dog to pay for injuries caused by a dog, except to a trespassing victim, or someone who was in the process of committing a crime.  There are additional restrictions for who can recover under this law.  However, a person who provokes or torments the dog, and these actions results in injury, cannot rely on the law to claim compensation from the dog owner.  The law differs from other states where a dog owner with no prior knowledge that their dog is dangerous is not found automatically liable.

However, an injured person in Ohio can chose to sue a dog owner for negligence if bitten by a dog, and not rely on the strict liability law.  In this case, the plaintiff would have to prove the dog owner was aware the dog was dangerous, and the owner was negligent by not taking measures to ensure the dog did not injure the injured person.  While this is more difficult than relying on the strict liability law, it may allow the injured person to seek certain damages that may not be available if relying on the strict liability law.

Contact a Columbus Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one is injured by an animal, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to find out what options are available. Contact Columbus personal injury lawyer Ed Schottenstein of the Schottenstein Law Offices for a complimentary consultation today by calling (614) 467-8474.