FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE AVON LAKE MUNICIPAL COURT COUNTY
OF LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. CVH 1600299
MATTHEW O. WILLIAMS, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.
L. REULBACH, JR., Attorney at Law, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
J. CARR, JUDGE.
Plaintiff-Appellant Francesca Cappara appeals from the
decision of the Avon Lake Municipal Court upholding the
determination that her two dogs were nuisance dogs. This
On June 29, 2016, Cappara left her yard and went for a bike
ride. Cappara's two dogs, a large black dog named Teddy,
and a large black dog with brown coloration named Reggie,
went through the electric fence and left the yard after her.
The dogs ran across the street into the driveway and tree
lawn area of Ashley Rufus' property. Rufus' two sons,
who were 5 and 7 years old, and a 12 year old neighbor boy
were playing in the yard and Rufus was pulling a soccer goal
up the driveway at the time the dogs left their yard. Rufus
began screaming and yelling as the dogs came towards them.
Reggie knocked over the neighbor boy and bit him, leaving a
"tiny little hole in his baseball pants[.]" Teddy
charged at Rufus' older son. Rufus' children ran
inside and her older son was crying following the incident.
Rufus herself was shaken up by the events. Shortly
thereafter, the dogs met up with Cappara, who heard the
commotion and turned back to take the dogs home. After the
incident, Cappara went to the Rufus' house to ask if
everyone was alright. She was informed that the neighbor boy
had been bitten.
Ultimately, Rufus called the police and reported the
incident. The Avon Lake City Prosecutor sent Cappara a notice
that the Avon Lake Police Department had designated her dogs
as nuisance dogs. The notice quoted the Ohio Revised Code
definition of nuisance dog. Cappara was informed that she
could appeal the determination by requesting a hearing
through the Avon Lake Municipal Court. The notice cited to
Avon Lake Codified Ordinances ("Loc. Ord.") 618.01,
618.17, 618.18 and 618.20 and R.C. 955.222 and 955.11.
Cappara sought review of the determination and a hearing was
held. The trial court concluded that the dogs were nuisance
dogs based upon the testimony and video evidence submitted at
the hearing. Cappara and her husband filed pro se motions,
which were construed as motions for reconsideration. Their
motions were denied following a non-evidentiary hearing.
Cappara has appealed the trial court's determination that
the dogs were nuisance dogs, raising five assignments of
error for our review.
OF ERROR I
COURT ERRED AS A MATTER OF LAW WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE DECISION
OF THE CITY OF AVON LAKE TO DESIGNATE MRS. CAPPARA'S DOGS
"NUISANCE DOGS" THOUGH THE CITY FAILED TO COMPLY
WITH ITS OWN PROCEDURAL AND LEGAL REQUIREMENTS FOR SO
DESIGNATING A DOG.
Cappara argues in her first assignment of error that the
trial court erred in designating the dogs nuisance dogs when
Defendant-Appellee the City of Avon Lake ("the
City") failed to comply with the requirements of Loc.
Loc. Ord. 618.18(b) states:
The Police Chief shall have authority to determine whether a
dog is a nuisance dog, dangerous dog, or vicious dog. This
determination may be based upon an investigation that
includes observation of and testimony about the dog's
behavior, including the dog's upbringing and the
owner's or keeper's control of the dog, and other
relevant evidence as determined by the Police Chief. These
observations and testimony can be provided by any witness who
personally observed the behavior. Such witness shall sign
a written statement attesting to the observed behavior and
agree to provide testimony regarding the dog's
behavior. Forms for providing witness testimony shall be
made available at the Police Department.
At the hearing, prior to the beginning of testimony, Cappara
asserted that the ordinance required that she be "given
a written statement, " which she later referred to as a
complaint. The trial court told Cappara that there was no
complaint in these cases, and instead informed her that she
would have received a notice, which the prosecution then
submitted into evidence. Cappara admitted to receiving the
notice. Cappara did not then otherwise object or request that
the designation be rescinded in absence of a written
While Cappara appeared pro se at the hearing, she is still
"presumed to have knowledge of the law and correct legal
procedures so that [s]he remains subject to the same rules
and procedures to which represented litigants are bound.
[Sh]e is not given greater rights than represented parties,
and must bear the consequences of h[er] mistakes."
(Internal quotations and citations omitted.) Lathan v.
Andrews, 9th Dist. Summit No. 28382, 2017-Ohio-4419,
¶ 12. Even assuming that Cappara could be viewed as
having objected to not receiving the written statement, we
see nothing in the plain language of the ordinance that
requires that she be provided with a copy of the written
statement in order for the designation to be valid. Further,
nothing in the plain language of the ordinance suggests that
the written statement must be included in the record of any
appeal of the nuisance dog determination. Finally, Cappara
has not explained how she was prejudiced by the absence of a
written statement in light of the notice she received and the
subsequent hearing at which the trial court reviewed the
propriety of the nuisance dog designation. See
Given all of the foregoing, Cappara's first assignment ...