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Table of State Dog Leash Laws



Rebecca F. Wisch


Animal Legal & Historical Center
Publish Date:
2012
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law

Printable Version

 

"Does my state have a leash law?"

This simple question does not have a simple answer. Instead, like many areas of the law, it depends. Even though a state might not require that an owner use a leash when the dog is off-premises, the law may allow impoundment of "at-large" dogs. A dog that is at large may be defined as one who is off the owner's property unaccompanied or not on a leash. Further, a state may only require a leash in certain areas like parks and wildlife areas, or during the period between sunset and sunrise.

 

Additionally, while your state may not have a general requirement, your local government may. Many states view animal control (leash laws, number of animals one can maintain, prohibition on types of animals one can keep) as matters of local concern. Before you conclude that there is no leash requirement in your area, call your city or county code office to check your local law.

 

State Leash Requirements

Only two states declare that a dog must be under the control of his or her owner when off the owner's premises: Michigan and Pennsylvania. Michigan provides the clearest example of a statewide leash requirement. Section 287.262 states, "It shall be unlawful for any person for any owner to allow any dog . . . to stray unless held properly in leash." There are numerous exceptions in the law including working dogs, guard dogs, and hunting dogs.

Pennsylvania law is less clear as to the restraint requirement. The law states that is "unlawful for the owner or keeper of any dog to fail to keep at all times the dog in any of the following manners":

  1. confined within the premises of the owner;
  2. firmly secured by means of a collar and chain or other device so that it cannot stray beyond the premises on which it is secured;
  3. under the reasonable control of some person, or when engaged in lawful hunting, exhibition or field training.
[emphasis added]3 P.S. § 459-305. Dogs engaged in training or lawful hunting are exempted from this requirement. This language seems to imply that a person can have reasonable control while the dog is not leashed. In Commonwealth v. Glumac, 717 A.2d 572 (Pa. Super., 1998), the Court found the purpose of the law is to prevent roaming dogs:

The title of 3 P.S. § 459-305 concisely explains that the principle purpose of the section is the “confinement of dogs.” In enacting this section of the Dog Law, the legislature intended to require dog owners to prevent their dogs from running at large. See Miller v. Hurst, 302 Pa.Super. 235, 448 A.2d 614 (1982). The protection of the public's health and safety are attained when dogs are safely secured or accompanied when not so confined. See Baehr v. Commonwealth ex rel. Lower Merion Township, 51 Pa.Cmwlth. 241, 414 A.2d 415 (1980).

While this case and the law suggest that one can simply accompany his or her dog, that person remains liable for any damage done by the dog should it stray out of control. If an owner disregards the law, he or she may be found negligent in a civil suit where the dog being off-leash caused harm to another. Indeed, one case held that an unexcused violation of the dog law requiring that a dog be either confined within the premises of the owner or firmly secured by a means of a collar and chain or other device, was negligence per se. Baehr v. Com. ex rel. Lower Merion Tp., 414 A.2d 415, 51 Pa.Cmwlth. 241 (1980).

As observed in Pennsylvania's law, a leash is not the only way to control a dog. In fact, some owners argue that a dog may be under the control of his or her handler by verbal or hand commands. In fact, most of the state "restraint" laws for dogs do not mandate leashes and instead outlaw dogs running at large.

Running at large

Several states prohibit dogs "running" or roaming at large. Many states do this indirectly by giving  local governments the authority to enact ordinances that prohibit dogs running at large (Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wyoming all have such laws). Other states directly prohibit running at large. Wisconsin law provides that a dog found running at large is subject to impoundment (W. S. A. 174.042). In Wisconsin, a dog is considered to be running at large if it is off the premises of its owner and not under the control of the owner or some other person. New Hampshire declares a dog a "nuisance" if is at large, "which means it is off the premises of the owner or keeper and not under the control of any person by means of personal presence and attention as will reasonably control the conduct of such dog, unless accompanied by the owner or custodian." (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 466:31). Minnesota allows any person to seize, impound, or restrain any unlicensed dog found running at large (M. S. A. § 347.14). Maine and Louisiana both provide that it is unlawful for an owner to allow his or her dog to run at large. Delaware and Connecticut also make it unlawful for a person to allow his or her dog to run at large, meaning that the dog is not under the control of its owner.

Rabies Quarantine Leash Laws

A few states require that dogs be confined on the owner's premises or not allowed to roam at large when a rabies quarantine order has been issued. In the case of Arizona, a rabies emergency requires that owners either confine the animal or use a leash not to exceed six feet in length when not on the owner's property (A. R. S. § 11-1012). When a rabies quarantine is issued by the health department in Ohio, a dog is not permitted to leave the premises of its owner or keeper unless under leash or under the control of a responsible person (RC § 955.26).

Wildlife Areas, Parks, and Other Public Places

Other state leash laws are specific to the area the dog is taken by his or her owner. For instance, an owner in Alabama is guilty of a misdemeanor if he or she does not leash his or her dog in a state wildlife area (Ala. Code 1975 § 9-11-305). Likewise, New Hampshire makes it unlawful for any owner or custodian of any dog to permit such dog to run at large in territory inhabited by game birds or quadrupeds, or on lands where livestock is pastured, at any time of the year (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 466:33).

Arizona requires that a dog be "physically restrained by a leash, enclosed in a car, cage or similar enclosure" at a public school or park (A. R. S. § 11-1012). Delaware imposes a fine to those owners who allow dogs on state coastal beaches between May 1 and September 30th. (7 Del.C. § 1702)

Finally, Massachusetts and West Virginia have perhaps the most unique state laws concerning restraint requirements. Massachusetts requires a dog be restrained by chain or leash at any public rest area (M.G.L.A. 140 § 174B). West Virginia makes it unlawful for any person to knowingly allow a dog to be upon the grounds of the capitol buildings or governor's mansion unless such dog is under control by leash (W. Va. Code, § 5A-4-4).


Dogs at Sunset and Female Dogs

Some states restrict loose dogs in certain places, while others do so by time. Kentucky has perhaps the strictest requirement for dogs roaming at night. Any peace officer or animal control officer may seize or destroy any dog found running at large between the hours of sunset and sunrise and unaccompanied and not under the control of its owner or handler (KRS § 258.265). North  Carolina law states no person shall allow his or her dog to run at large in the nighttime unless accompanied. Violation is Class 3 misdemeanor AND the person is liable for any damages to property. (N.C.G.S.A. § 67-12). New York law allows a governing body of any municipality to establish an order that dogs be securely confined between sunset and one hour after sunrise. (McKinney's Agriculture and Markets Law § 121).

As to female dogs, Arizona simply states that no female dog during her breeding or mating season shall be permitted at large (A. R. S. § 11-1012). Michigan law states that it is unlawful to allow any female dog in heat to go beyond the premises of her owner unless "properly held in leash." (M. C. L. A. 287.262).

For More on Leash Laws

The table below summarizes statewide leash requirement for these categories. The table does not, however, capture leash laws for dangerous dogs or dogs that have been declared vicious. Again, this table is meant for informational purposes, so please check with your local government for restraint requirements affecting your animal companions.



State States that require a leash or that owner exercises control over dog State laws that prohibit dogs running at large or allow municipalities to enact such ordinances State laws requiring restraint for rabies quarantine areas States requiring leashes for dogs in parks, state grounds, or wildlife areas States requiring leashing or confinement of female dogs in heat States requiring confinement/leashing of dogs at night
Alabama

No dog shall be permitted except on leash within any wildlife management area except per state rule; the owner of any dog at large within any wildlife management area shall be guilty of a misdemeanor (Ala. Code 1975 § 9-11-305).

Alaska
Arizona In a rabies quarantine area, no dogs shall be permitted at large. Each dog shall be confined within an enclosure on the owner's property, secured so that the dog is confined entirely to the owner's property, or on a leash not to exceed six feet in length and directly under the owner's control when not on the owner's property (A. R. S. § 11-1012). No person in charge of any dog shall permit such dog in a public park or upon any public school property unless the dog is physically restrained by a leash, enclosed in a car, cage or similar enclosure or being exhibited or trained at a recognized kennel club event, public school or park sponsored event (A. R. S. § 11-1012). No female dog during her breeding or mating season shall be permitted at large (A. R. S. § 11-1012).
Arkansas
California
Colorado It is unlawful for any owner of any dog, cat, other pet animal, or other mammal which has not been inoculated as required by the order of the county board of health or board of health of a health department to allow it to run at large. The health department or health officer may capture and impound any such dog, cat, other pet animal, or other mammal found running at large and dispose of such animal in accordance with local program policy. (C. R. S. A. § 25-4-610).
Connecticut No owner or keeper of any dog shall allow such dog to roam at large upon the land of another and not under control of the owner or keeper or the agent of the owner or keeper, nor allow such dog to roam at large on any portion of any public highway and not attended or under control of such owner or keeper or his agent, provided nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit or prohibit the use of hunting dogs during the open hunting or training season. Violation of any provision of this subsection shall be an infraction (C.G.S.A. § 22-364)
Delaware No dog shall be permitted to run at large at any time, unless the dog is accompanied by the owner or custodian and under the owner's or custodian's reasonable control and is licensed in accordance with county ordinances, except that a person who is an occupant of a farm or property containing 20 acres or more on which there are no more than 3 resident dwelling units may permit a dog to run at large between October 1 and the last day of February, next following. (9 Del.C. § 908). Unlawful to allow any dog in the designated swimming or sunbathing area of a state coastal beach strand at anytime between May 1 and September 30 (except for law enforcement dogs or guide dogs for the blind). Violators are guilty of a violation with fine of $25 - $50. For each subsequent offense, fine of $50 - $100. (7 Del.C. § 1702)
D.C.
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa A dog shall be apprehended and impounded by a local board of health or law enforcement official if the dog is running at large and the dog is not wearing a valid rabies vaccination tag or a rabies vaccination certificate is not presented to the local board of health or law enforcement official (I. C. A. § 351.37). If local board of health declares a quarantine due to rabies, any person owning or having a dog in the person's possession in the quarantined area shall keep such animal securely enclosed or on a leash for the duration of the quarantine period (I. C. A. § 351.40).
Kansas
Kentucky Every female dog in heat shall be confined in a building or secure enclosure in such a manner that the female dog cannot come in contact with a male dog except for a planned breeding (KRS § 258.255). Any peace officer or animal control officer may seize or destroy any dog found running at large between the hours of sunset and sunrise and unaccompanied and not under the control of its owner or handler (KRS § 258.265).
Louisiana No person shall suffer or permit any dog in his possession, or kept by him about his premises, to run at large on any unenclosed land, or trespass upon any enclosed or unenclosed lands of another (LSA-R.S. 3:2771).
Maine It is unlawful for any dog, licensed or unlicensed, to be at large, except when used for hunting. The owner or keeper of any dog found at large is subject to the penalties provided in this chapter (7 M.R.S.A. §3901).
Maryland
Massachusetts

A person owning, keeping or possessing a dog shall not allow, permit or consent to such dog chasing, hunting, molesting, attacking or killing a deer. The director is hereby authorized to issue an order to restrain all dogs from running at large in any city or town where, in his opinion, such a restraining order is necessary to prevent dogs from chasing, hunting, molesting, attacking or killing deer (M.G.L.A. 131 § 82).

Whoever is the owner or keeper of a dog shall restrain said dog by a chain or leash when in an officially designated public highway rest area. Whoever violates the provisions of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than fifty dollars (M.G.L.A. 140 § 174B).

Michigan It shall be unlawful for any owner to allow any dog, except working dogs such as leader dogs, guard dogs, farm dogs, hunting dogs, and other such dogs, when accompanied by their owner or his authorized agent, while actively engaged in activities for which such dogs are trained, to stray unless held properly in leash (M. C. L. A. 287.262). It shall be unlawful for any person to own any dog 6 months old or over for any owner of any female dog to permit the female dog to go beyond the premises of such owner when she is in heat unless the female dog is held properly in leash (M. C. L. A. 287.262)
Minnesota Any person may seize, impound, or restrain any unlicensed dog which the person may find running at large. The fact that a dog is without a license attached to a collar shall be presumptive evidence that the dog is unlicensed. The sheriff and sheriff's deputies or other police officer shall seize, impound or restrain any dog for which no license has been issued and for which one is required (M. S. A. § 347.14).
Mississippi The governing authorities of municipalities shall have the power to prevent or regulate the running at large of animals of all kinds, and to cause such as may be running at large to be impounded and sold to discharge the costs and penalties provided for the violation of such regulations and the expense of impounding and keeping and selling the same (Miss. Code Ann. § 21-19-9).
Missouri
Montana

A dog found running at large without a valid current dog license tag issued by the authority of a county or municipal corporation may be seized and impounded by any sheriff, deputy sheriff, police officer, game warden, county poundmaster, or other law enforcement officer (MCA 7-23-102).

Also see (7-23-4101 - Control of animals running at large).

Nebraska The owner of any dog running at large for ten days without a collar as required shall be fined an amount not to exceed $25(Neb. Rev. St. § 54-607).
 
In counties having a population of eighty thousand or more inhabitants and cities of the first class contained in such counties, it shall be unlawful for any person, firm, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation to have any dog which is owned, kept, harbored, or allowed to be habitually in or upon premises occupied by him, her, or it or under his, her, or its control to be at large (Neb. Rev. St. § 54-608).
Nevada
New Hampshire A dog is considered to be a nuisance, a menace, or vicious to persons or to property if a dog is "at large," which means it is off the premises of the owner or keeper and not under the control of any person by means of personal presence and attention as will reasonably control the conduct of such dog, unless accompanied by the owner or custodian (excluding hunting, supervised competition, exhibition, or training dogs with restrictions; also a dog which is guarding, working, or herding livestock, with restrictions) (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 466:31).
It is unlawful for the owner or custodian of any dog to permit such dog to run at large in territory inhabited by game birds or quadrupeds, or on lands where livestock is pastured, at any time of the year (with exceptions for hunting and farm dogs) (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 466:33).
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York Any municipality may enact a local law or ordinance upon the keeping or running at large of dogs and the seizure thereof, provided no municipality shall vary, modify, enlarge or restrict the provisions of this article relating to rabies vaccination and euthanization (McKinney's Agriculture and Markets Law § 122).
The governing body of any municipality may at any time by order require that all dogs in such municipality shall be securely confined between sunset and one hour after sunrise during the period of time designated in the order, or, if no time is so designated, until the order is revoked (McKinney's Agriculture and Markets Law § 121).
North Carolina No person shall allow his dog over six months old to run at large in the nighttime unaccompanied by the owner or by some member of the owner's family, or some other person by the owner's permission. Any person intentionally, knowingly, and willfully violating this section shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor, and shall also be liable in damages to any person injured or suffering loss to his property or chattels (N.C.G.S.A. § 67-12).
North Dakota
Ohio Ordinances or resolutions to control dogs include the restraint of dogs, except that such ordinances or resolutions shall not prohibit the use of any dog which is lawfully engaged in hunting or training for the purpose of hunting while accompanied by a licensed hunter (RC § 955.221). Whenever rabies is deemed prevalent, the director of health shall declare a quarantine of all dogs in the health district or in a part of it. During the quarantine, the owner or keeper of any dog shall keep it confined on the premises, except that a dog may be permitted to leave the premises if it is under leash or under the control of a responsible person (RC § 955.26).
Oklahoma The board of county commissioners of any county with a population of 200,000 or more may regulate or prohibit the running at large of dogs within said county, and cause such dogs as may be running at large to be impounded and disposed of (4 Okl.St.Ann. § 43).
Oregon

If the governing body of a county by ordinance, or a measure approved by the electors in an election prohibits dogs from running at large, the county shall give notice, by publication in a newspaper having a general circulation in the county.

After 60 days from the date of the notice, every person keeping a dog shall prevent the dog from running at large in any county or city where prohibited. A person who is the keeper of a dog commits a Class B violation if the dog runs at large where prohibited (O. R. S. § 609.060).

A dog is a public nuisance if it is a female in heat and running at large (O. R. S. § 609.095).
Pennsylvania

Confinement and control.--It shall be unlawful for the owner or keeper of any dog to fail to keep at all times the dog in any of the following manners:

(1) confined within the premises of the owner;

(2) firmly secured by means of a collar and chain or other device so that it cannot stray beyond the premises on which it is secured; or

(3) under the reasonable control of some person, or when engaged in lawful hunting, exhibition, performance events or field training

(3 P.S. § 459-305)

It shall be unlawful for the owner or keeper of any female dog to permit such female dog to go beyond the premises of such owner or keeper at any time she is in heat, unless such female dog is properly confined or under control. (3 P.S. § 459-304).
Rhode Island
South Carolina It is unlawful in any county or municipality adopting penalty provisions pursuant to the provisions of this article for any dog or cat owner or other keeper of a dog or cat to allow his dog to run at large off of property owned, rented, or controlled by him (Code 1976 § 47-3-50). It shall be unlawful for any person at any park or facility under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism to bring a dog or any other animal into the park or facility unless it is crated, caged, or upon a leash not longer than six feet or otherwise under physically restrictive control at all times (Code 1976 § 51-3-145).
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia

The governing body of any locality may adopt ordinances requiring that dogs within any such locality be kept on a leash or otherwise restrained and may, by resolution directed to the circuit court, request the court to order a referendum as to whether any such ordinance so adopted shall become effective.

The results of the referendum shall not be binding upon the governing body of the locality but may be used in ascertaining the sense of the voters (Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-6539).

Washington
West Virginia It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly allow a dog owned by him to be upon the grounds of the capitol buildings or governor's mansion unless such dog is under control by leash (W. Va. Code, § 5A-4-4).
Wisconsin

A dog is considered to be running at large if it is off the premises of its owner and not under the control of the owner or some other person.

A dog that is actively engaged in a legal hunting activity, including training, is not considered to be running at large if the dog is monitored or supervised by a person and the dog is on land that is open to hunting or on land on which the person has obtained permission to hunt or to train a dog.

Dog running at large or untagged dog subject to impoundment. An officer shall attempt to capture and restrain any dog running at large and any untagged dog (W. S. A. 174.042).

Wyoming

A board of county commissioners may declare the running at large of any specified animals in unincorporated areas within the county limits a public nuisance.(W. S. 1977 § 11-31-301).

(Also see § 15-1-103: The governing bodies of all cities and towns may regulate or prohibit the running at large within the city limits of any animals, impose a license fee for the keeping or harboring of dogs and establish and provide for the operation of a pound).

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