Dog bite case remanded back to municipal court

Larry Limpf

The Perrysburg Municipal Court applied an improper standard of review when it reversed a decision of the Wood County Dog Warden to designate a dog as dangerous, the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals has ruled.
The case stems from an Oct. 20, 2018 incident in which a German Shepherd owned by Ashley Lathrop, of Lake Township, went onto a neighbor’s property and began snarling and barking at a woman while she was gardening in a yard owned by her mother-in-law.
The dog returned to Lathrop’s property but the woman and her husband later decided to drive to Lathrop’s home and inform her that the dog had been on the neighboring yard and acted aggressively.
The dog bit the woman’s husband while he was standing in the driveway.
About a year later, Lathrop was served with a notice that her dog had been designated as dangerous under the Ohio Revised Code and she would be required to secure the dog on the premises and obtain liability insurance.
As allowed under the regulation, she filed a letter with the municipal court six days later contesting the designation and requesting a hearing.
A hearing before a magistrate of the municipal court was held Feb. 13, 2020 with the bite victim, his wife, dog warden and deputy dog warden testifying. Video from the Lathrop’s surveillance camera that captured the bite incident was also admitted into evidence.
The magistrate concluded the dog warden “failed to meet its burden to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the dog caused injury without provocation” and vacated the dangerous dog designation.
Three hours later, the municipal court adopted the magistrate’s decision and after a separate hearing on the dog warden’s objections, the court concluded the magistrate properly limited and interpreted the evidence and that the definition of provocation employed by the magistrate didn’t negatively impact the decision as the dog warden had claimed.
The appeals court, on hearing the dog warden’s objections, agreed that the municipal court employed a wrong standard of review of the magistrate’s decision and remanded the case back to the lower court.


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