Leash laws are laws which require that a dog be kept on a leash unless it is confined to a house or to a fenced yard. These laws vary both by state and by locality.

The confinement of the dog is also required to be effective, meaning that an individual simply restraining the dog with their voice will not be adequate. The ordinance of the area will likely specify what is and what is not an effective confinement.

What if My Dog Stays on My Property?

In some cases, a dog will remain on its owner’s property or in the yard without having a fence. This may not be adequate to fulfill the requirements of local leash laws.

In many instances, even if a dog is on an individual’s own property, it must still be leashed or confined.

How Can I Properly Exercise My Dog Without Violating Leash Laws?

There are many communities that allow a dog to be unleashed in certain designated areas. Usually, these are specified dog parks or dog runs where a dog may be exercised off of their leash.

What are the Penalties for Violating Leash Laws?

A leash law violation will typically result in a small fine. Generally, the find will increase with the number of violations.

If an individual violates the leash law one time, they may only receive a warning or a small fine. If they violate the leash law again, this fine will increase to as much as several hundred dollars and will continue to increase with each subsequent violation.

What if an Unleashed Dog Injures Someone?

If a leash law is violated and it results in a dog biting or attacking another individual it can greatly increase the penalties the owner receives. A court will usually determine that the violation is enough to conclude that the owner was negligent, entitling the injured individual to appropriate compensation.

What are the Specifics of Dog Leash Laws?

In addition to requiring that an individual’s dog be leashed or confined, leash laws may also regulate the following:

  • The maximum length that permitted for the leash;
  • Whether or not animal control is permitted to pick up a dog that is not properly leashed;
  • The rules surrounding use of dogs for hunting;
  • Whether the laws vary by the breed of dog;
  • When dogs must also be muzzled; and
  • Whether leash laws also apply to other animals, for example, cats.

Is a Pet Owner Liable for Injuries and Damage Caused by their Pets?

Yes, pet owners are liable for injuries and damage which is caused by their pets. This is because the pet is considered the personal property of the owner.

This means that the owner may be held personally liable for any injuries which are inflicted upon other individuals or onto another individual’s property. People often associate animal injuries with dogs or dog bites but any injury or property damages caused by a pet may expose their owner to liability, whether the pet is a cat, rabbit, bird, or any other species.

In the majority of states, the liability of a pet owner, particularly a dog owner, is established by statute.

What is the Liability of a Dog Owner?

The liability of a dog owner for a dog bit will depend largely on the location where the individual resides. For example, some states epsxe any dog owner to liability for their animal’s conduct, including:

  • California;
  • Florida; and
  • Massachusetts.

These states are strict liability states, where a dog owner is strictly liable for the conduct of their dog. There are, however, certain exceptions when the individual would not be held liable for the conduct of their dog.

For example, if a victim is a criminal who was bitten in the commission of a felony, for example, robbing a bank, or if the victim provoked the dog, then the owner would not be liable. In addition, an owner would not be liable to a trespasser on their property who is bitten by their dog.

There are other states which only hold the owner liable if they had reason to know or should have known that the dog had aggressive tendencies, including:

  • New York;
  • Texas; and
  • Oregon.

How Can Animal Owners Protect Themselves from Liability?

Animal owners can take certain steps to protect themselves from liability. They may consider obtaining homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, especially if they reside in a state where they are considered responsible for their dog’s actions unless there are extraneous circumstances.

It is important to review the policy to determine whether dog bites on the individual’s property are covered. It is important to note that some insurance companies do not cover certain animals or dog breeds, for example, pit bulls, which are considered more dangerous and aggressive dogs.

It is important for an individual to receive their state, county, and city’s ordinances regarding dog ownership. This is because, as not above, some strict liability states make an owner legally responsible for any injuries the dog inflicts by virtue of the individual being the animal’s owner.

What is Breed-Specific Legislation?

Breed-Specific Legislation or BSL, includes laws and statutes which are passed in order to regulate the ownership and keeping of certain breeds of dogs. These laws are passed in response to date which indicates that certain dog breeds are more liable to engage in dog bites and animal attacks than others.

This data can be seen as controversial but evidence sometimes suggests that certain dog breeds have higher bite statistics. Pursuant to BSL statutes, a breed may be prohibited in a certain city or areas, as well as mixes of the breeds.

These types of prohibitions are typically based strictly on the breed of the dog rather than on any data or testimony regarding the dog’s behavioral history. The owner of a dog that falls under these statutes may face penalties regardless of whether the dog had a history of attacks.

What Types of Breeds are Commonly Included Under BSL Laws?

BSL laws typically include dogs that are considered to be dangerous, for example:

  • Pit bulls, including:
    • American Staffordshire Terriers;
    • Staffordshire Bull Terriers; and
    • Pit Bull Terriers;
  • Rottweilers;
  • Doberman Pinschers;
  • Bulldogs; and
  • Other dogs used in dog fighting.

It is important to note that a dog of a mixed breed may also be confiscated if they meet the distinguishing characteristics used by Kennel Club Societies for identifying pit bull breeds or other breeds. This may depend on the location because certain cities only prohibit dogs that are unlicensed or are not handled by a trained, certified professional.

Should I Contact an Attorney About My Leash Law Issue?

If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to a leash law issue in your area, it may be helpful to consult with a dog bite attorney. Your attorney will be able to advise you of the leash laws in your area and how they will affect your case.

It is always better to review the requirements for leasing your dog before any issues or incidents arise. If you have been cited or accused of a violation of the leash laws resulting in an attack or property damage, your attorney can present a defense in court.

Your attorney may also be able to negotiate a settlement with the victim in your case. If you are the victim of a leash law violation issue, your attorney can assist you in obtaining compensation for your injuries or property damage.