Landlords can be held liable in dog attacks

KY Landlord dogs reax

NEWPORT, KY (FOX19) - It's a question of liability.

Should landlords in Kentucky be responsible if their tenants' dogs bit people? The state supreme court says yes.

The court issued its opinion following a lawsuit a Newport family.  The family sued after their child, wearing a lion costume, was mauled by a boxer in July of 2009.

The court ruled the dog was too far from the rental property for the landlord to be liable in that case.

Supporters of this new law say it will help make the public safer.

Opponents say they know of no other cases where the landlord is treated as though he or she owns the tenant's pet.

Charles Tassell with the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association, which represents about 1,000 apartment owners in Northern Kentucky says the high court ruling has sent a chill through the ranks of their members. "The main reaction we're getting from landlords at this point is quite frankly they're saying we're not going to allow dogs," said Tassell.

Tassell also says the ruling goes too far. "Honestly I think this is an over reach in the sense that this is a precedent that favors trial attorneys rather than the public interest," he said.

In our commitment to balanced news FOX19 talked with Bryan Allen who sued the landlord and the dog's owner. Allen says the ruling does serve the public interest. "We just want our neighborhoods protected and kids to be safe and to be able to run and play in costumes, you know, to do what they want and be able to enjoy themselves as children instead of being terrified by running... loose dogs and stuff," said Allen.

Allen's attorney Michael O'Hara says the ruling is a good start, but doesn't go far enough because landlord is only held liable when the dog is on the property. He also says landlords should worry about the public safety rather than the affect on their business.  "It may be bad for business...sometimes safety is... and you need to make a conscious decision when you go into business what's more important to you the almighty dollar or the safety of the people in your community."

Because the dog attack occurred across the street from this property the landlord was found not liable, but Bryan Fuller says he wonders where you set boundaries on a loose dog.

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