Landlords in Kentucky now have an added reason to bar tenants from having pets. A new Kentucky Supreme Court ruling says landlords can be liable if their tenants’ dogs bite people.

The Kentucky Enquirer reported the opinion won’t help a Newport family after a child wearing a lion costume was mauled by a boxer in July 2009. The court ruled the dog was too far from the rental property for the landlord to be liable in that case. The dog’s owner was found liable. However, there are incidents in which the landlord could be held at least partially liable for the actions of pets kept on rental property, the Supreme Court said.

Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association attorney Jeffrey Greenberger called the opinion “scary” and said he knows of no other case where the landlord is treated as though he owns the tenant’s pet.

Stan Billingsly of Carrollton is a retired judge who owns rental property. He said in light of the ruling, he is re-evaluating his policy of renting to dog owners.

We suspect other landlords will be doing the same. As renters know, many landlords already ban pets from their property, making it more difficult for those with pets to find places to rent. The ruling for the state’s highest court is sure to make it that much more difficult.

Pet owners should be held responsible for the actions of the animals they have, not the owner of the rental property where the pets live. That’s the way we assumed it was in Kentucky — that is until the Supreme Court ruled differently.

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