Cleveland’s Vicious Dog Laws

SD#23 Dog PolicyAfter a long, cruel winter, spring is finally approaching! I actually saw crocuses blooming in the yard last weekend. And as the sun thaws the snow, all of us have started venturing outside—including our children and pets. As a dog bite attorney, this feels like a good time to review your local rights in the event of an encounter with a dangerous dog.

Every Ohio city has the power to add its own legislation to the state’s dog laws, and Cleveland is no exception. The current version of the city’s ordinance took effect in 2011. Cleveland’s law, which had previously targeted pit bulls, now categorizes dangerous dogs by behavior rather than breed. This stance aligns with the American Bar Association, which supports laws that hold owners accountable by strengthening leash and licensing laws as well as imposing higher fines.

Levels of threat

You don’t have to suffer an actual dog bite before you can report a dangerous animal to the authorities. With sufficient proof, Cleveland officials (Municipal Court, Animal Control Services, or Police) can categorize a dog as a threat.

Cleveland considers a dangerous dog a level-one threat dog if it has:

  • chased or approached a person in a menacing fashion without provocation
  • repeatedly exhibited a tendency to attack or threaten the safety of humans or their pets
  • been impounded by an animal control officer on three separate occasions within a 12-month period for being unrestrained or uncontrolled off its owner’s property

Cleveland deems a vicious dog a level-two threat if it has killed or caused serious injury (puncture wounds that require immediate medical assistance) to any person or domestic animal.

The law requires owners of dogs classified as level-one or level-two threats to:

  • spay or neuter the offending dog
  • post signs indicating “Level I Threat dog” or “Level II Threat dog”
  • obtain liability insurance of at least $100,000

Reporting a dangerous dog

If a dog threatens or bites you or your child, make sure to report the incident to Animal Control Services within twenty-four hours by calling 216-664-3069. Cleveland Animal Control Officers are on duty twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The city requires an owner to quarantine a dog that bit someone for at least ten days afterward; it can’t be released until a veterinarian and an animal control officer approve.

Please be careful with your health after a dog bite. My experience as a nurse taught me that dog bites (even minor ones) can cause dangerous or even life-threatening infections. That’s why I urge you to err on the side of caution when treating any dog bite wound. Unless the bite is a superficial scrape and you’re in excellent health, you should seek immediate treatment from your family doctor or the nearest hospital.

What’s next?

Not all dog bites warrant legal action—for example, your child may have roughhoused too vigorously with a friend’s puppy and received a nip on the arm in response. But if a dangerous or vicious dog has attacked you or your child, it’s important to contact a dog bite attorney before the dog harms anyone else. The dog’s owner or keeper is liable for damages unless you were trespassing, committing a crime, or tormenting the dog at the time of the attack. If you’re seeking legal aid for your dog bite case, please reach out to me for a free consultation.