Recent Blog Posts
With fall quickly approaching, now is a good time to consider whether you should lease your land for hunting. Leasing your land for hunting can be beneficial by giving you an extra source of income as well as managing wildlife populations and decreasing crop damage. However, there are some considerations to make before granting that lease to someone.
Your first concern should be whether or not you would be liable for hunting accidents on your property. You likely wouldn’t be, thanks to Ohio’s Recreational User Statute. In certain situations, Ohio’s Recreational User Statute provides immunity from legal liability for someone harmed on your property during recreational activities. The types of recreational activities included in the Recreational User Statute include: hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, hiking, swimming, operating a snowmobile, all-purpose vehicle, or four-wheel drive motor vehicle, or engaging in “other recreational pursuits.”
Under the Recreational User Statute, those who lease nonresidential property for hunting do not have any duty to keep the premises safe, do not give any promises of safety by granting permission, and do not assume responsibility or liability for injuries caused by any act of the hunters.
Next, you should consider the lease itself. To create an enforceable lease, the lease must:
- Be in writing
- Identify the land being leased by legal description, address, and acreage
- Properly name the lessor (the owner of the land) and the lessee (the person leasing the land to hunt)
- Be signed by both parties
- Be acknowledged and certified by a notary public or local official if the lease is over three years
It is also important to consider what should be included in the lease. Some terms and conditions you should consider including are:
A description of the property
- Clearly defining what property is/is not included in the lease will set clear boundaries for the lessee
A description of what activities are/are not allowed
- Fishing, camping, tree stand or duck blind construction, etc.?
Allowance or restriction of sub-leasing
- Do you want to give permission to the lessee to sub-lease or is the lease strictly between you and the lessee?
Who is allowed to hunt or access the property
- Just the lessee? Or may the lessee bring guests? Is there a limit to the number of people allowed to hunt at any given time? Do you want the lessee to ask permission to bring guests?
Amount of payment and payment dates
- How much will you charge for the lease and when do you want paid?
- When will the lease end? On a specific date and/or if a violation of the lease agreement occurs?
- Limiting the number of deer that may be killed? Requiring a certain number of female deer killed?
Landowners reserving some rights to hunt on their land
- When leasing your land for hunting, you give up your right to hunt the land yourself unless you reserve some rights to hunt for yourself
What season is the lease in effect?
- Only deer, deer and turkey, etc.
Vehicle access to the property
- Where can vehicles drive and park on your property? What vehicles are permitted – will you allow ATV’s?
- Requiring hunters to maintain liability insurance
These are important considerations to think about including in a hunting lease, but this is not an exhaustive list. You should really consider what your goal is for leasing your land for hunting. Make sure the terms and conditions you include in your lease will help accomplish those goals. While hunting lease templates can be found online, you should consult with an attorney to create a hunting lease that will satisfy the goals and needs of your particular situation.
To read Ohio’s Recreational User Statute, visit: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/1533.181
In response to the recent drinking water ban in Toledo, three senators from Ohio's Lake Erie counties have introduced SB 356 to expand and accelerate fertilizer certification legislation passed earlier this year. Senators Brown, Cafaro and Turner's proposal would add "manure" to the definition of "fertilizer" for purposes of the fertilizer certification program enacted this May in SB 150. Whether or not manure applications should fall under the fertilzer certification requirement was a point of much debate in committee hearings for SB 150, with the legislature ultimately deciding to exclude manure applications from the new certification program.
SB 356 would also significantly change the deadline for fertilizer applicators to become certified--from September 30, 2017 to December 31, 2014. This change of deadline, which appears impracticable if not impossible, would require the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to establish the regulations for the fertilizer certification program and offer certification training so that any persons desiring to apply fertilizers after December 31, 2014 could become certified through the new program. Currently, SB 150 gives ODA and fertiler applicators three years to establish the new fertilizer certification program and complete certification training.
S.B. 356 is the first of several legislative proposals we expect to see in response to Toledo's water concern. The bills will likely present different approaches to address phosphorous runoff, which many point to as the cause of the algae problem. Representative Sheehy has announced his intent to introduce legislation soon that would limit applications of manure on frozen or snow-covered ground and would expand manure storage requirements for livestock operations.
A statewide Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorous Task Force formed in 2009 issued its second report and recommendations for addressing phosphorous in Ohio waterways last October.
Fourteen years after the Ohio Legislature transferred permitting authority for confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) from the Ohio EPA to the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), a Wood County couple is challenging the transfer in federal court as a violation of the federal Clean Water Act. Larry and Vickie Askins filed the lawsuit on August 4, 2014 in the U.S. District Court Northern Division against the ODA, Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent ODA from further issuing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits to CAFOs. The lawsuit also asks the court to order that only the Ohio EPA can administer the NPDES permit program in Ohio, that the Ohio EPA violated federal law by failing to notify the U.S. EPA of the transfer of CAFO permitting authority to ODA and that the U.S. EPA violated federal law by failing to suspend Ohio’s ability to issue NPDES permits after the transfer of authority.
The Ohio Legislature passed S.B. 141 in 2000, which transferred authority to issue NPDES permits for CAFOs from Ohio EPA to ODA. The lawsuit alleges that this transfer violated the terms of a 1974 Memorandum of Agreement between the U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA, in which the U.S. EPA, which has original authority over NPDES permits, delegated its authority to the Ohio EPA for purposes of administering the NPDES program in Ohio. To date, U.S. EPA has delegated full or partial NPDES authority to 45 states.
According to the Askins lawsuit, Ohio also violated Clean Water Act regulations by not notifying the U.S. EPA of the transfer until 2006. Since the notification in 2006, the U.S. EPA still has not granted ODA the authority to administer an NPDES permit program for CAFOs, claims the lawsuit.
The lawsuit arises under the Clean Water Act’s “citizen suit” provision, which allows a citizen who has been or may be adversely affected to file a claim against someone who is violating the Clean Water Act or against an EPA Administrator that fails to perform any non-discretionary act or duty under the Clean Water Act.
While the CWA citizen suit provision grants citizens the right to enforce the law, citizens must also satisfy the “legal standing” doctrine of the U.S. Constitution’s Article III, which requires a suing party to have personally suffered actual or threatened injury that can fairly be traced to the defendant’s actions and for which the court can provide a remedy. Thus, the Askinses must be able to prove that they have suffered or will suffer particular injuries from the transfer of NPDES permit authority to ODA, from Ohio EPA’s failure to notify of the transfer and from the U.S. EPA’s failure to approve the transfer or withdraw authority, and must also show that the injunctions and orders they seek from the court will address their injuries. A review of the Askins’ complaint, however, does not indicate the injuries the couple claim to have suffered or will suffer due to the agencies' alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.
Read the complaint in Askins v Ohio Dept. of Agriculture here.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) faced harsh criticism recently when the agency inspected and issued fines to small farms engaged in grain storage activities. The farms argued that OSHA had no authority to do so because of the "small farm exemption" that limits OSHA’s authority to enforce safety regulations on small farms. This week, OSHA released a guidance memorandum that attempts to clarify how its regional administrators should interpret the small farm exemption. The agency's new guidance focuses on whether an activity on a small farm is “not related to farming operations and not necessary to gain economic value from products produced on the farm.”
The small farm exemption and OSHA's earlier interpretation
Since 1976, Congress has prohibited OSHA from using any of its funds to enforce safety regulations on "small farms," those farm operations that employ 10 or fewer employees and do not maintain a temporary labor camp. In recent years, however, the agency turned its regulatory attention to grain operations on small farms. OSHA justified its inspections and enforcement actions for grain storage activities by arguing that “post-harvest” grain storage and processing activities differ from “farming operations” and “core agricultural operations” and thus do not fit within the small farm exemption (see our earlier post). The agency withdrew this interpretation of the small farm exemption earlier this year.
OSHA’s new guidance memorandum
In its July 29, 2014 memorandum to OSHA regional administrators, the agency now states that a small farm would not be subject to OSHA enforcement if it simply stores its own grain on the farm, sells grain from the farm or grows, stores and grinds grain on the farm to feed its own livestock. These activities fit within the definition of a "farming operation" because the activities are "necessary to gain economic value from grain grown on the farm."
But the agency also explains that other types of activities on a small farm could be subject to OSHA authority. According to the agency, if a small farm engages in activities that “are not related to farming operations and are not necessary to gain economic value from products produced on the farm, those activities are not exempt from OSHA enforcement.”
The agency provides a few examples of activities on small farms that would not be exempt because they are not related to farming operations or are not necessary to gain economic value from farm products. The list includes grain-based activities, but also addresses food processing examples:
- A grain handling operation that stores and sells grain grown on other farms.
- A food processing facility for making cider from apples grown on the farm or for processing large carrots into "baby" carrots.
- Milling of grain into flour used to make baked goods.
- The agency also explains that food manufacturing operations are not exempt from OSHA enforcement activities under the appropriations rider, even if they take place on a small farm.
OSHA's new guidance memorandum on the small farm exemption is available here.
A recent decision by the Ohio Court of Appeals examines the issue of employer liability for a worker’s harmful acts. The Twelfth District Court of Appeals clarified when an employer could be liable for injuries caused by a worker’s violent behavior, whether the worker is an independent contractor or an employee.
Worker’s violent behavior leads to a lawsuit
The Spurlocks hired Mr. Hogeback to perform carpentry worker when renovating their farmhouse into a bed and breakfast. While working for the Spurlocks, Hogeback got into an altercation with an employee of a construction company that was also performing work on the Spurlock property. Mr. Jackson, who was visiting the site to inquire about work, stepped in to prevent the fight and was injured by Hogeback.
Jackson brought suit against Hogeback and also against the Spurlocks and their business, alleging assault and battery, negligence, vicarious liability and negligent hiring, supervision and retention. A jury ruled in Jackson’s favor for the claims against Hogeback, but the Butler County Court of Common Pleas granted Spurlocks’ request to release all claims against them and not allow the claims to be decided by the jury.
The case goes to the Court of Appeals
Jackson appealed the trial court’s decision in regards to the Spurlocks, arguing on appeal that the Spurlocks were vicariously responsible for Hogeback’s actions as their employee and also that the Spurlocks were directly liable for failing to exercise reasonable care in controlling Hogeback and for negligent hiring, supervision and retention of Hogeback.
The Twelfth District Court of Appeals reviewed the decision to determine whether the trial court had properly relieved the Spurlocks from liability. The court quickly narrowed its focus to the claim of negligent hiring, supervision and retention, holding that the trial court was correct in regards to all other claims against the Spurlocks.
Liability for negligent hiring, supervision and retention
A claim of negligent hiring, supervision and retention can create liability for selecting or allowing a person to work when the employer knows or should have known of the hired individual's violent or dangerous propensities. Under this theory, Jackson had to show that the Spurlocks knew or should have known of Hogeback’s violent propensities and should have foreseen the assault on Jackson.
The court of appeals dispensed with the Spurlocks’ arguments that they should not be liable under this claim because Hogeback was an independent contractor rather than an employee. Liability for negligent hiring, supervision and retention can arise regardless of whether the assailant is an employee or an independent contractor, said the court.
According to the court of appeals, a review of the court record showed that Jackson had presented evidence that the Spurlocks may have had knowledge of Hogeback’s propensity to use physical violence. Testimony that Mrs. Spurlock had stated "this has happened before," and "oh, no, not again" when she learned of the fight; that workers had complained to the Spurlocks about Hogeback’s “aggressive and rude behavior”; and that Mrs. Spurlock had attempted to arrange for the workers who complained about Hogeback to be on the property when Hogeback would not be there all pointed to a possibility that the Spurlocks may have known of and anticipated problems from Hogeback’s dangerous propensities. Given this evidence, the court of appeals concluded that the common pleas judge should have allowed the jury to render a verdict on the issue.
The court of appeals sent the case back to the common pleas court for further proceedings to determine whether there was sufficient evidence on the issue of negligent hiring, supervision and retention.
Implications for employers
We state as a general rule that employers are not usually liable for intentional, harmful acts of an employee when those acts are outside of the employee’s work responsibilities. The Hogeback v Jackson case is a reminder of exceptions to the general rule:
- A successful claim of negligent hiring, supervision and retention can result in employer liability for a worker’s bad acts, which requires proof that an employer knew or should have known about the worker’s dangerous propensities and it was foreseeable that the worker’s behaviors could lead to harm.
- Negligent hiring, supervision and retention can apply even if an independent contractor, rather than an employee, commits the harmful acts.
Employers can reduce this risk of liability by using practices and policies to help prevent the hiring and retention of a person who poses risks of harm to others:
Investigation into a potential employee or independent contractor’s background through these tools:
- Job applications that request detailed information about previous employment, reasons for leaving a job, and employer contact information.
- Reference checks with previous employers and other references.
- Background checks. See the Ohio Attorney General’s information about conducting a background check.
- Drug tests. Ohio law allows for private companies to conduct drug testing on a non-discriminatory basis. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation offers a Drug-Free Safety Program for eligible employers.
Detection of and reaction to worker behaviors:
- Monitoring for incidents of unusual, violent or dangerous behaviors.
- Encouraging employees to report dangerous behaviors in other workers.
- Policies for corrective actions to take, including termination, upon awareness of dangerous behaviors.
- Prompt enforcement of all practices and policies.
Read the Court of Appeals decision in the Jackson v. Hogeback case here.
Larry Gearhardt, OSU Extension Asst. Professor, Taxation
Ohio Governor John Kasich recently signed a bill that, among other things, increases the small business income deduction from 50 percent to 75 percent of the first $250,000 in net business income.
In an effort to grow Ohio’s economy, last year the Ohio budget bill included significant tax law changes to deliver a $2.7 billion tax cut to individuals and businesses, over the course of three years. The changes included:
- A small business tax cut that enables owners/investors to deduct from taxable income 50 percent of the first $250,000 in net business income.
- A 10 percent personal income tax cut to be phased in over three years. In 2013, Ohio tax rates were reduced by 8.5 percent.
- New assistance for lower-income Ohioans in the form of an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) equal to five percent of the amount claimed for the federal EITC.
An improving economy is generating stronger than expected state revenue, resulting in additional tax cuts. The Governor’s Mid-Biennium Review (HB 483) included the following additional tax relief:
- ADDITIONAL SMALL BUSINESS TAX CUTS – For tax year 2014, the personal income tax deduction on small business income will be increased to 75 percent of the first $250,000 in net business income. (Under current law, the deduction does not affect the school district income tax base).
- ACCELERATING THE INCOME TAX CUT – Next year’s scheduled one percent cut in income tax rates is moving up to be effective retroactive to January 1, 2014. This change will give taxpayers the full 10 percent income tax cut that was not scheduled to go into effect until January 2015.
- NEW TAX RELIEF FOR LOW-AND MIDDLE-INCOME OHIOANS – Ohio is doubling the EITC from 5 to 10 percent of the federal credit. In addition, the state is increasing the personal exemption for Ohioans earning less than $40,000 a year from $1700 to $2200, and for those with incomes between $40,000 and $80,000 a year from $1700 to $1950.
Business income is defined as income from the regular conduct of a trade or business, including gains and losses. It also includes gains and losses from liquidating a business or selling goodwill. The deduction applies only to the business income apportioned to Ohio under existing law.
The business deduction percentage reverts back to 50 percent for taxable years after 2014.
The recently enacted Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 established a new mandate to the U.S. EPA: change how EPA enforces the federal Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule against the nation’s farms. Following several years of conflict between EPA and the agricultural community, Congress intervened with a plan to reduce the SPCC rule’s impact on agriculture. The new law clarifies which farms must have certified SPCC plans that address fuel storage and spill response practices; the law also directs EPA to study and adjust the exemption levels within the next three years.
Which farms must comply with the SPCC rule?
Here is an explanation of how the new law affects SPCC rule requirements for farms. Note that the exemption level could change after EPA conducts its required study, explained below.
- Farms that must have a professionally certified SPCC plan
Farms in this category must have an SPCC plan that is certified by a professional engineer. This category includes farms that have any of the following:
- An individual aboveground tank with storage capacity over 10,000 gallons;
- An aggregate aboveground storage capacity of 20,000 gallons or more;
- A "reportable oil discharge history."
- Farms that can self-certify their SPCC plans
Farms with moderate fuel storage and no history of reportable discharges must have an SPCC plan, but the owner or operator of the farm can self-certify the plan. Farms in this category include those that:
- Have an aggregate aboveground storage capacity of 6,001 to 20,000 gallons
- And do not have a "reportable oil discharge history."
- Farms that are exempt from SPCC compliance
The EPA may not require compliance with the SPCC rule for any farm that:
- Has an aggregate aboveground storage capacity of less than 6,000 gallons.
Changes to aggregate capacity calculations will affect SPCC's reach
The new law also changes which fuel storage containers a farm must include when calculating its aggregate fuel storage capacity. This change could significantly impact whether a farm falls into the exempt, self-certified or professionally certified plan category. Previously, the SPCC rule required a farm to include any storage container of 50 gallons or more in its aggregate capacity calculation. Under the new law, a farm may now exclude these fuel storage containers from its calculation of capacity:
- All containers on separate parcels that have a capacity of 1,000 gallons or less;
- All containers holding animal feed ingredients approved for use in livestock feed by the Commissioner of Food and Drugs.
EPA must study discharge risks
The SPCC compliance requirements could change after the EPA completes the mandated study. The law requires EPA to consult with the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a study within the next year to determine the amount that is appropriate for an SPCC rule exemption, based on whether there is significant risk of an oil discharge to water. Within 18 months of completing the study, the EPA may adjust the SPCC exemption level to not more than 6,000 gallons and not less than 2,500 gallons. This provision gives EPA an opportunity to lower the exemption beneath the current 6,000 gallon minimum if the agency can prove that there is significant risk of oil discharges on farms with fuel storage capacity between 2,500 and 6,000 aggregate gallons.
What is the SPCC rule compliance date for farms?
Surprisingly, the new law does not remove the uncertainty surrounding the deadline for a farm to comply with the SPCC rule. Maneuverings by Congress prevented EPA from enforcing the original May 13, 2013 compliance deadline until September 24, 2013. After that date, a letter from several members of Congress advised the EPA Administrator not to enforce the rule at all until Congress enacted new legislation that would exempt most farms from the rule. With the new law in place, will the EPA now enforce SPCC plan requirements against a farm? If so, then a farm that is subject to the rule could face penalties for non-compliance if it has an oil discharge and does not have its SPCC plan in place. Given that possibility, farms that fall under the new SPCC requirements should act quickly to develop their SPCC plans.
A few definitions from the SPCC rule, unchanged by the recent legislation, are helpful to understanding the rule’s application.
- Farm means a facility on a tract of land devoted to the production of crops or raising of animals, including fish, which produced and sold or normally would have produced and sold $1,000 or more of agricultural products during a year.
- Oil means oil of any kind or in any form, including, but not limited to: fats, oils, or greases of animal, fish, or marine mammal origin; vegetable oils, including oils from seeds, nuts, fruits, or kernels; and, other oils and greases, including petroleum, fuel oil, sludge, synthetic oils, mineral oils, oil refuse, or oil mixed with wastes other than dredged spoil.
- Reportable oil discharge history means either a single oil discharge over 1,000 gallons or two oil discharges that each exceeded 42 gallons and that occurred within any 12-month period in the 3 years prior to the farm’s required SPCC certification date.
For more on the SPCC rule, see the EPA's SPCC page.
Hunting laws don't often reach our highest court, but the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to review one man's challenge to an unlawful hunting action by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The case resulted in a fine of $27,851 against Huron County hunter Arlie Risner for the unlawful taking of an antlered white-tailed deer.
The case began in 2011, when ODNR charged Risner with “taking a white-tailed deer from the lands of another without first obtaining written permission from the landowner or an authorized agent in violation of R.C. 1533.17.” The Norwalk Municipal Court fined Risner $200 plus court costs and ordered forfeiture of the meat, which ODNR had seized from a processor. Risner also had to reimburse ODNR $90 for meat processing costs. The court later ordered Risner to turn over the deer's antler rack also, which he had taken to a taxidermist.
A few months following the court hearing, ODNR advised Risner that he also owed the state $27,851.33 as restitution for the value of the deer and that his hunting license was suspended until he paid the amount. ODNR based its claim on Ohio Revised Code section 1531.201, which states:
“(B) The chief of the division of wildlife or the chief's authorized representative may bring a civil action to recover possession of or the restitution value of any wild animal held, taken, bought, sold, or possessed in violation of this chapter or Chapter 1533 of the Revised Code or any division rule against any person who held, took, bought, sold, or possessed the wild animal.”
$27,851 for killing a deer?
ODNR's claim for $27,851 in restitution derived from ORC 1531.201, which contains a formula for calculating the minimum restitution value of an illegally taken antlered white-tailed deer. The formula determines the deer's value based on its the size. The law also includes additionall provisions for exceptionally large deer, stating that a convicted violator who takes a deer with a gross score of more than 125 inches "shall pay an additional restitution value that is calculated using the following formula: Additional restitution value = ((gross score - 100)2 x $1.65)."
The deer Risner killed exceeded the 125 gross score limit, with a 20-point rack and a gross score of 228 inches. ODNR thus used the additional formula to determine Risner's restitution, which escalated the demanded payment to over $27,000.
Challenges by both parties
Risner refused to pay ODNR’s restitution order and the agency began enforcement proceedings in court. Risner argued that the fee violated his constitutional rights and that ODNR could not seek restitution because the agency had already chosen its remedy of seizing the deer meat and antlers. The Huron County Court of Common Pleas avoided the constitutional issues but agreed with Risner that the plain language of ORC 1531.201 prevented further restitution because ODNR had already been awarded possession of the deer and antlers in prior court proceedings. Both Risner and the Huron County court focused on the “or” in the statute’s language, which states that ODNR “may bring a civil action to recover possession of or the restitution value of…” an animal. The "or" set up a choice either one remedy or the other, according Risner and to the common pleas court.
ODNR appealed the decision to Ohio’s Sixth District Court of Appeals. The appeals court disagreed with the lower court. The court unanimously concluded that ODNR did in fact have authority to recover the restitution value for the deer. “The statute, on its face, does not restrict ODNR from bringing a civil action to recover the restitution value if wildlife officers have already seized parts of the wild animal,” said the court. “Since Risner had no title to or ownership interest in the seized wild animal parts,” the court explained, “ it is illogical to construe ORC 1531.201 to require ODNR to choose between possession of the unlawfully taken parts or restitution for the unlawfully taken deer.”
Additionally, the appellate court noted that ORC 1531.201 contained “additional” provisions for restitution assessments for deer in excess of 125 points, explaining that "[w]e must presume that in enacting a statute, the General Assembly intended for the entire statute to be effective. * * * Thus, all words should have effect and no part should be disregarded." The court also stated, however, that nothing in its decision would prevent Risner from arguing for a deduction of the restitution value based on the monetary value the seized deer provided the state.
Risner requests review by Ohio Supreme Court
Risner asked the Ohio Supreme Court to review the decision. “To allow the chief to bring a second action when a remedy has already been provided, chosen and carried out is nonsensical, frivolous, a violation of law and due process, and a waste of the Court's time and resources,” argued Risner. “A second action provides for multiple sanctions and double (if not more) remedies…”
ODNR argued that the Supreme Court should not accept the case for review because the appeals court made a correct interpretation of the statute and because Risner had not been doubly penalized, as he had claimed. “It is clear the General Assembly recognized the need to create R.C. 1531.201(B) as a separate civil mechanism to recoup the full economic loss of this valuable resource,” stated ODNR. “The return of evidence did not make the State whole, nor should it be construed as a satisfaction of restitution liability…”
The question before the Supreme Court
Challenges to hunting laws don’t often pique the interest of the Ohio Supreme Court, especially those that don’t revolve around constitutional issues. But this case does carry serious implications for both ODNR and Ohio hunters. Does ORC 1531.201 allow ODNR to recover the parts of an antlered white-tailed deer and also to seek payment from the violator for the value of the deer, with additional payment for large animals? If this is the correct interpretation, we can conclude that our legislature intended strong sanctions against violators in addition to ensuring that a violator would not be able to keep a poached animal. Is this outcome more severe a punishment for unlawful takings of deer than the legislature intended?
Or does the statute require ODNR to choose either possession or a restitution payment, but not both? If this is the case, then ODNR must strategically determine how to handle an illegal taking of an antlered white-tailed deer. Should ODNR claim the meat and antlers so that a violator does not benefit from breaking the law? Or should ODNR allow the violator to keep the animal so that it can seek payment from the violator? If the deer is quite large and the restitution payment high, should ODNR choose the higher payment and higher economic value over reclaiming the animal from the violator? Is the goal of the statute punishment or regaining the economic value of an animal?
The Ohio Supreme Court will answer these and other questions when it determines the correct interpretation of ORC 1531.302 later this year or next.
Read the Court of Appeals decision in Risner v. Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources, Div. of Wildlife.
For most people, dogs are a very familiar part of the family. For farm families, dogs may even go beyond the family pet duties and help protect the assets of the farm – the livestock. However, when dogs get loose and go after the livestock of someone else, serious problems can arise. Any livestock that is killed or injured by someone else’s dog is a monetary loss, as well as an emotional loss for some. A question we frequently receive is what can someone do if their livestock is threatened or attacked by someone else's dog. In these cases, livestock owners do have a course of action they may follow.
Under what circumstances can you kill a dog threatening your livestock?
Under Ohio Revised Code Section 955.28, dogs committing certain acts against livestock, poultry, other domestic animals, and other animals that are the property of another person, may be killed at the time of the act. These acts include:
If a dog belonging to someone else is in the act of chasing, threatening, harassing, injuring, or killing your livestock, poultry or other animals, then you may kill the dog while it is in the act. If you are attempting to kill the dog while it is engaged in such an act, but you only wound the dog, you will not be liable for animal cruelty.
What if the dog has just committed the act and is running away?
If the dog is no longer in the act of chasing, threatening, harassing, injuring, or killing your livestock, then you are not permitted to kill the dog. If you do, you may face animal cruelty charges. In State v. Cordle, the owner of domestic fowl was found guilty under Ohio Revised Code Section 959.02 of maliciously, or willfully, and without consent of the owner, killing a dog that was the property of another. In that case, the domestic fowl owner found his neighbor’s dog killing one of his fowl. The dog ran back to the neighbor’s property where the domestic fowl owner had followed it and proceeded to kill it while on the neighbor’s property. If you do not catch the dog in the act of chasing, threatening, harassing, injuring, or killing your livestock, even though you may not kill the dog, you still may be able to recover damages for your loss, as explained in the next section.
When can you recover damages for you injured or killed livestock?
If you believe your injured or killed livestock had a fair market value of $10 or more, under Ohio Revised Code Section 955.29 you may be eligible to receive compensation from the dog and kennel fund. In each Ohio county, a dog and kennel fund has been created from the registration fees of dogs and dog kennels each year. Part of the funds are used for reimbursing livestock owners when a dog belonging to someone else has killed or injured their livestock. If the owner of the injured or killed livestock believes the animal has a fair market value of $10 or more, then the owner must follow the process laid out below in order to be compensated through the dog and kennel fund.
Ohio Revised Code Section 955.29 explains the process for recovering compensation from the dog and kennel fund:
- Notify a member of the board of county commissioners or dog warden within 3 days after the loss or injury has been discovered
- If a commissioner has been notified, then the commissioner will notify the dog warden
- The dog warden will investigate or have the loss or injury promptly investigated
- The dog warden or the person investigating will provide the owner with a claim form where the owner will provide the kind, grade, quality, and fair market value of the animal, as estimated by the owner, the nature and amount of the loss or injury, the place where the loss or injury occurred, and any other facts that will be useful to the warden in fixing responsibility for the loss or injury.
- If the warden finds all statements made by the owner on the claims form to be correct and agrees with the owner as to the fair market value of the animal, then the warden passes the information to the board of county commissioners who will then examine the information and make the final determination of the fair market value of the animal.
- If the warden does not find all statements to be correct or does not agree with the owner as to the fair market value, then the owner may appeal to the board of county commissioners.
It’s important to note that in order to recover from the dog and kennel fund, the owner of the injured or killed livestock must sign a statement indicating they did not own or harbor an unregistered dog on the date the loss or injury occurred.
The Ohio House of Representatives gave final approval on May 21, 2014 to a bill initiated in the Senate that addresses invasive plants. As approved by both chambers, Senate Bill 192 grants regulatory authority over invasive plants to the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). While ODA, Ohio EPA and Ohio's Division of Forestry already have programs in place to educate and assist in the identification and removal of invasive species, the new law clarifies that the director of ODA has "sole and exclusive authority to regulate invasive plant species in this state." This authority includes the identification of invasive plant species and the establishment of prohibited activities regarding invasive plants.
The bill defines "invasive plant species" as:
"plant species that are not native to this state whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health as determined by scientific studies."
A committee amendment to the bill clarifies that the definition of invasive plant species does not include "cultivated plants grown as food or livestock feed in accordance with generally accepted agricultural practices, including all plants authorized by the animal and plant health inspection service in the USDA." In committee hearings, the Ohio Invasive Plants Council expressed serious concerns about this exclusion for cultivated crops. The group's concern is that ODA would not have authority to evaluate plants with invasive properties if they are grown for livestock feed. Other groups have raised similar worries about plants with invasive characteristics grown for biofuel production. The Ohio Farm Bureau submitted testimony supporting the exemption, stating that the federal government already regulates plants grown for agricultural crops.
The bill contains one exception to ODA's authority over invasive plant regulation. The director of Ohio EPA may continue to consider invasive plant species when evaluating applications and permits for wetlands under Ohio's Water Pollution Control Act. Once ODA develops invasive plant regulations, however, the EPA must refer to ODA's list of invasive plant species when reviewing wetland applications and permits.
Read S.B. 192 here.