The "Pink Panther" series of movies has provided many laughs (and quotes) in The Wilson house over the years. An exchange from "The Pink Panther Strikes Again," is a repeat favorite, particularly when one of us is being accused of not doing something (usually a household chore):
Clouseau: Does your dog bite?
Hotel Clerk: No.
Clouseau: [bowing down to pet the dog] Nice doggie.
[Dog barks and bites Clouseau in the hand]
Clouseau: I thought you said your dog did not bite!
Hotel Clerk: That is not my dog.
"Not my dog" has become code of sorts for "that wasn't my mess to clean up" (usually not a defense but still funny....).
That exchange does raise a legal question: does your dog have to bite or physically attack a person under Ohio law in order for you as an owner to be liable for the injuries Fido causes?
Not at all. Ohio has one of the more expansive dog liability statutes in the U.S. Basically, if your dog (1) chases; or (2) approaches in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of an attack; or (3) attempts to bite; or (4) endangers a person and causes injury, you are liable if you own, keep, or harbor the dog.
There are limited exceptions to this blanket rule of liability: if the injured person was (1) criminally trespassing or committing a crime on the property; or (2) teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog on the owner's/keeper's property.
This law covers a variety of situations other than a classic "dog bite." For example, if the dog rushes onto another person's property and causes someone to trip or fall, you as a dog owner are liable. Similarly, it covers situations where joggers, walkers, or bicyclists are chased by dogs and sustain injury in the process.
The message from Ohio's dog bite law is clear: You as a responsible pet owner need to keep your dog under control, restrained, and not roaming all over the place, or you will be held accountable for the harm caused.
So, if Inspector Clouseau were to ask "Does your dog bite?" in Ohio, the correct response would be: "Does not have to." Despite this, all mail carriers, UPS, and Fed Ex drivers should still have the mace handy just in case....