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The big bad wolf…dog? Wolf hybrid and wolfdog laws in Ohio

Move over Pitbulls. The wolf hybrid, more recently known as the “wolfdog,” has become one of the most controversial canines in Ohio. A wolfdog is produced by breeding a domestic dog with a wolf. Once mixed, the wolf characteristics carry down through many generations of breeding. This produces categories of wolf “content.” Generally, wolfdogs can be categorized as high content, medium content, or low content depending on the percentage of wolf genes/characteristics they possess.

In the past, the term “wolf hybrid” was commonly used to refer to these animals. The term “hybrid” refers to a cross of different species. Wolf-dog crosses are technically not hybrid animals because dogs have been reclassified as Canis lupus familiaris, a subspecies the wolf, Canis lupus. Although the terms “wolf hybrid,” “hybrid wolf,” and “hybrid dog” are still used, the term wolfdog is more accurate and now preferred.

Wolfdogs are not classified as exotic animals in Ohio.
Ohio Revised Code Section 935.01(C)(2) specifically excludes hybrid wolves from the definition of “dangerous wild animal.” This definition was created as part of Ohio’s exotic animal ban, which was signed into law by Governor John Kasich in June 2012. Wolfdogs are generally treated as ordinary dogs for purposes of registration, etc. Wolfdogs can be declared a nuisance, dangerous, or vicious just like any other dog pursuant to O.R.C. Sections 955.11/955.22/955.222.

Wolfdogs are legal in most Ohio cities.

So, what’s the big deal?
Proponents claim wolfdogs make great companions. Wolfdogs are hailed for their superior intelligence, self-awareness, and loyalty.

Opponents argue that wolfdogs are dangerous and unpredictable. They argue that you can’t take the “wild” out of a wolfdog.

More poignantly, opponents claim wolfdogs present a health hazard because there is no rabies vaccine specifically approved by the USDA for use in wolves or hybrids. This means that even if a wolfdog is duly vaccinated, most health departments will consider the wolfdog a rabies risk. A wolfdog involved in a scratch or bite incident could be confiscated and euthanized for rabies testing, even if the wolfdog is up to date on its rabies vaccination.

Even though USDA Code of Federal Regulations Title 9 (CFR9), Section 113.209 indicates that rabies vaccines are tested and approved according to species, no vaccine has been “officially” approved yet. This places wolfdogs in serious danger of euthanasia in the event of a bite or scratch incident.

Further, it’s no secret that some pet owners claim their pet is part wolf even when no proof of that heredity exists. Pet owners usually don’t realize the consequences of making such a claim. Due to the state of rabies vaccine approval, claiming a dog is “part wolf,” acts or looks “like a wolf,” or even “howls like a wolf” can put a pet in grave danger in the event of a bite or scratch.

Our office has handled complaints from cities and health departments about rabies incidents. We have been successful at overturning euthanasia orders for these dogs. We have also battled claims that wolfdogs are inherently dangerous or vicious.

In most cases, education about these animals is severely lacking. To learn more about wolfdogs, please visit our friends My Pack of Wolves Sanctuary, a wolfdog rescue, sanctuary, and educational outlet located in Ohio.

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Attorney discussion on Guardian ad Litem work in Medina

One of our attorneys, Janis Zachman, was a guest on Mary Kovach’s Family Forum last month. The discussion centered on Guardian ad Litem work. Janis has acted as a Guardian ad Litem for over 18 years. She has also been selected to participate in the Ohio Supreme Court’s Domestic Relations Summit initiative in 2013-14. Areas of interest will include domestic violence, pro se litigants, case management, and high conflict cases involving children.

You can watch the forum via this link:
October Medina Family Forum: Guardian ad Litem

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Dogs bite! When can you recover for a dog bite in Ohio?

In Ohio, there are two means of recovery for those who have suffered from a dog bite, attack, mauling, or other injury to themselves or their property (including their pets!).

(1) State Statute
Under Ohio’s state statutes, specifically Section 955.28(B) of the Ohio Revised Code, a dog’s owner, keeper, and/or harborer is strictly liable for any harm the dog causes unless the person who suffered the injury was:
-committing or attempting to commit criminal trespass or another criminal offense other than a minor misdemeanor on the property of the owner, keeper, or harborer;
-committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense other than a minor misdemeanor against any person; or
-teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog on the owner’s, keeper’s, or harborer’s property.

Further, the statute does not limit recovery to injury from just dog bites–recovery can be sought for any injury to a person or property that is caused by the dog (subject to the above exceptions).

(2) Common Law
Under common law, dogs essentially get “one free bite.” The injured person needs to prove that the dog’s owner knew the dog was vicious and that the owner was negligent in handling/keeping the dog. Thus, common law claims can be far more difficult to prove.

Fortunately, injured parties can pursue a case under either or both laws.

One major difference is that common law allows the injured party to recover money for “punitive damages” (money awarded to “punish” the dog owner) as well as compensation for injuries.

If an injured party pursues a case only under Ohio’s statutory law, the party cannot recover punitive damages.

Generally, noting the exceptions above, a person damaged by a dog bite is entitled to full compensation for their injuries under either theory. Compensation includes both payment medical bills, lost wages, related out-of-pocket expenses and scarring, “pain and suffering,” etc.

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Barberton man convicted of starving dogs

State v. Mark Grizer, a case we prosecuted for the Humane Society of Greater Akron was resolved today.  Grizer was convicted of two counts of companion animal cruelty for allowing two of his dogs to become emaciated.  The animals were found in filthy conditions.  Grizer surrendered the dogs, who have been rehabilitated and are both doing well in their new homes.

Dog photo Grizer

As a part of the sentence in this case, the Magistrate at the Barberton Municipal Court prohibited Grizer from possessing animals of any kind indefinitely.  This means that

Grizer will be unable to possess animals for life, unless the Court orders otherwise at a later date.  Grizer must also submit to random inspections for 5 years to make sure that he has no animals.  He must also repay the Humane Society for veterinary costs.  If he violates the terms of his sentence, Grizer faces up to 90 days in jail, a $100 fine and court costs.

 

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Cleveland man convicted of neglecting dogs

State v. Joseph Salett, a case we prosecuted for the Cleveland APL. Salett was found guilty of companion animal cruelty for failing to provide adequate food or water to two dogs, who were both Body Condition Score 2.

Salett was sentenced to 90 days in jail, which may be imposed if he fails to complete 3 years probation. During that time, Salett is prohibited from keeping, owning or possessing in his home any animals, and is subject to random inspections. He must complete a humane education course, and must pay $500 in restitution.Skinny dog

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Geauga Humane Society tracks down horse neglect offenders living in Kansas

State v. Jessica Barclay; State v. Kelly Barclay
Two cases we prosecuted for the Geauga County Humane Society. Both were found guilty of three counts of animal cruelty after an investigation of neglect of 6 horses. The Humane Society successfully pursued this case despite the fact that the Defendants moved to Kansas.

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Defendant in starved horse case serves jail time

Update on State v. Antoinette Kuenzer, a case we prosecuted for the Medina County SPCA in the Medina Municipal Court.

Kuenzer was recently sentenced on her conviction for animal cruelty for starving two horses.

Kuenzer was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Kuenzer served 28 days. 62 days were suspended contingent upon successful completion of 5 years’ probation. During probation, she must submit to random drug screening, and is prohibited from owning possessing or living at a residence with animals. She is also subject to random, unannounced inspections.Photo 2

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Puppy nursed to health by cat, criminal case resolved.

State v. Jose Cintron, a case we prosecuted for the Cleveland Animal Protective League. This case received some earlier news coverage because the mother was in poor condition, and the puppy was nursed back to health by a cat. Both animals made a full recovery.

The Defendant was found guilty today of animal neglect in the Cleveland Municipal Court. He is prohibited from possessing animals for three years, and is subject to random inspections. He is required to pay $450 in restitution. A violation of these terms may result in a 90 day jail term.

Mother-cat-with-pit-bull

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WCPN 90.3 Hosts Discussion on Goddard’s Law

Today Mike McIntyre of WCPN 90.3’s program The Sound of Ideas hosted a discussion on Goddard’s Law, Ohio H.B. 274. Attorney J. Jeffrey Holland, who drafted the initial Bill, was a featured guest.

Courtesy of WCPN 90.3, this program can be heard using the player below.

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Goddard’s Law Summary – Ohio Animal Cruelty Bill

Here is a summary of proposed Ohio House Bill 274: Holland & Muirden’s Summary of Goddard’s Law

“M” stands for misdemeanor.
“F” stands for felony.

In the state of Ohio, misdemeanors and felonies are categorized by degrees. Punishments for each degree are limited by Ohio law.

A felony of the fifth degree carries a maximum prison sentence of 6-12 months with a maximum fine of $2,500.

For a misdemeanor of the first degree, the highest degree of misdemeanor violation, offenders are not to serve more than six months in jail with a maximum fine of $1,000.

A second degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a maximum fine of $750.

If passed, Ohio’s most serious animal cruelty crimes will be a felony on a first offense. Please write or call your Ohio Representative and Ohio State Senators and let them know that you want this law to pass.

House Bill No. 274 (aka “Goddard’s Law”; Introduced 9/30/13)
Sponsors: Representatives Bill Patmon (D-10) and Barbara Sears (R-47)
Cosponsors: Representatives Barnes, Cera, Lundy
Current Status: Introduced in the Ohio House on 9/30; Assigned to House Judiciary Committee on 10/1

Summary: To amend sections 959.131, 959.132, and 959.99 of the Revised Code to revise provisions and penalties regarding treatment of companion animals and to revise the definition of “companion animal” in the Offenses Relating to Domestic Animals Law.

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