Articles

Designing a Model Dog Park Law

  • John J. Ensminger and Frances Breitkopf [1]
  • Animal Legal & Historical Center
  • Publish Date: 2011
  • Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law

I. Introduction

A dog park is a place where dogs run off leash in the presence of their owners or handlers.  Although most spaces called dog parks are surrounded by fencing, this is not always the case as some off-leash areas are called dog parks, at least by those who use these spaces.  We will use the term “off-leash area” to describe spaces that lack fencing, reserving “dog park” for fenced-in areas. 

Dog parks sometimes begin as off-leash areas where a group of citizens, with the approval of a local authority, install fencing to provide for the safety of their dogs and the surrounding community. [2] Dog parks are increasingly incorporated, generally tax-exempt, entities, though many have no formal legal status, being approved uses of a particular space by the municipal or park authority that owns the space.  This approval may itself be rather informal, indicated by no more than a city council passing a resolution to permit a citizens’ group to install a fence around some section of municipal property.  The citizens’ group may never formally incorporate itself, remaining a collection of park users who have banded together to post some rules for users of the park, and occasionally gathering to clean the space or raise funds to provide some amenities for users. 

There are few laws regarding the creation of dog parks.  The District of Columbia creates a framework under which a citizens’ group can approach the Department of Parks and Recreation for the creation of a dog park. [3]  Administrative codes may authorize park authorities to designate areas inside of parks as off-leash areas or dog parks, but usually provide no guidance beyond perhaps specifying the authority empowered to approve such a park. [4]

Few state laws use the word “dog park” and few state laws have been modified, as might seem required, to allow for their existence.  Many states prohibit dogs running at large, requiring generally that, outside of the handler’s property, a dog be on a leash or otherwise restrained.  Dog parks would seem in violation of such laws, yet, as of this writing, only Illinois and the District of Columbia have formally excepted dog parks from such state-wide leash laws.  Other states empower counties and municipalities to establish leash laws, so a dog park would not require modification of a state law, yet even here many county and municipal ordinances regarding usage of leashes often remain unmodified to take into account dog parks that these governments have approved. [5]  This kind of informality may be accepted by police and animal control authorities as a variance from local law, but if a serious attack by a dangerous dog were to occur in a dog park, the lack of formality might justify plaintiff’s counsel in arguing that a city was negligent in failing to enforce provisions that could have prevented an attack.  Few provisions even attempt to preclude liability on the part of a county or municipal authority that permits dog parks.  Other laws, such as dangerous dog laws, dog bite laws, and abandonment laws, should in many states be modified to take dog parks into consideration, but remain unaltered, creating various but potentially significant legal risks. 

The lack of formality in the law of dog parks may in part explain why police and animal control authorities are often reluctant to become involved in enforcement issues regarding these spaces.  Although a number of crimes can occur in dog parks—dog bites, attacks by dangerous dogs, even illegal activities by users such as dealing drugs—dog parks often receive little attention from local police, who may see the lack of formality as meaning that dog park users should reach their own accommodations with each other.  Similarly, although dog parks may become popular places to abandon unwanted dogs, animal control officers may not want to be seen as taking sides in disputes between users that they lack any clear authority to resolve and only enter the park on request from a dog park group that, formally or not, oversees the operation of the park. 

While the posted rules that apply to users of dog parks have a certain uniformity around the U.S., and it was not difficult for us to build model park usage rules from this uniformity, there are few laws specifying the procedures by which dog parks can be created or the requirements for their continued management and maintenance.  The District of Columbia has issued comprehensive municipal regulations on the application process of creating a dog park, what elements dog parks must have, how complaints are to be dealt with, and how rules are to be enforced.  These D.C. regulations became the basis of the model provisions we drafted concerning the creation and maintenance of dog parks, provisions that we considered could be adopted by states, counties, or municipalities, or by some mixture of authorities at different levels.  

We will begin by discussing the laws that may apply to dog parks, then describe the rules that apply to users.  The model law and rules, contained in the appendix, is somewhat unusual among model laws in that it contemplates that the law will involve adoption of provisions at a number of legislative levels. 

II. State and Local Laws That May Require Modification for Dog Parks and Off-Leash Areas

State statutory laws deal with a wide range of dog matters, some of which, as mentioned above, should be changed to take into account the unique aspects of dog parks and off-leash areas.  The following issues may be considered by legislatures in this regard, though some will only be relevant for a select group of states.  Many states provide general delegation of authority for dog regulation to counties and municipalities, [6] in which event the issues discussed below should be considered by these authorities.

Abandonment. Abandoning a dog is often made a crime, [7] and may result in extermination of the dog if it is not reclaimed. [8]  Dog parks have become favored spots for doing so, [9] despite the fact that dogs abandoned at a park can become frightened and dangerous, and animal control authorities are not going to treat dogs left at dog parks any differently than dogs left anywhere else. [10] Theft of an animal is generally a crime, [11] but would not apply to removing an abandoned dog from a dog park.   A statute that lists potential locations of abandonment (e.g., kennels) could be modified to mention dog parks.  The authors have heard of cases where owners temporarily left dogs in parks because of laws precluding leaving the animals in parked cars. [12]  Owners should be aware that dog parks are not places to park dogs during shopping trips. 

Advertising.  General public park rules may prohibit or limit advertising. [13]  Dog parks may want to allow for some advertising displays as a means of raising funds. Pet-oriented businesses, and pet friendly businesses, may see advertising in a dog park as a means of reaching a highly targeted audience, as well as generally supporting an initiative that presents the municipality or area as dog friendly.  State policy may not be averse to this, as indicated by the growing trend of issuing pet friendly license plates. [14]

Animal control authority.  Animal control authorities may be created at various governmental levels, [15] and may be private entities with which a county or municipality contracts. [16]  An animal control authority could be assigned specific responsibilities as to the inspection of dog parks, but at least should be empowered to investigate health and safety conditions of dog parks.  Animal control authorities are often responsible for investigating nuisance complaints against dogs said to be barking excessively. [17] This will occasionally arise from regular use of a dog park, but may also apply where someone uses a park after posted hours.  Some parks may use an informal overseer or interested group that report infractions and behavior problems to the municipality, which may then take action either through the police or the local animal control officer. 

Beaches.  States sometimes prohibit dogs from going on beaches, often in warmer months.  Delaware law, for instance, provides that only law enforcement and guide dogs may go on beaches between May 1 and September 30. [18] No change to such laws should be required, unless to specify the distance a dog park must be from a beach.  Beach arrangements can be informal in parks, though environmental groups can be increasingly expected to object to or attempt to limit such arrangements.

Dangerous dogs. State law often requires that dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs be kept indoors. [19]  Such dogs may be euthanized by an animal control authority under certain circumstances. [20] Attacks by dangerous dogs are often crimes, and the level of the crime and potential severity of the punishment increases with the number of attacks. [21] State law may permit municipalities to impose additional requirements as to dangerous dogs. [22]  Some states (Florida) specify that a dog that is the subject of a dangerous dog investigation may not be relocated or transferred to another owner pending the outcome of the investigation. [23]  The frequency of a dog’s biting may be part of the definition of a dangerous dog. [24]  Some states categorize both “dangerous” and “vicious” dogs. [25] Such laws should not require modification for bringing such dogs to dog parks unless to increase the penalty for not confining such a dog. 

Dog bites.  Even if a dog has not been designated as dangerous or viscous, the owner is liable for damages to a person bitten. [26]  As provided by Florida law:

Dog owner’s liability for damages to persons bitten.—The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness. However, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident. A person is lawfully upon private property of such owner within the meaning of this act when the person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when the person is on such property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner. However, the owner is not liable, except as to a person under the age of 6, or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad dog.” The remedy provided by this section is in addition to and cumulative with any other remedy provided by statute or common law. Fla. Stat. § 767.04 (damage by dogs).

The owner of the dog biting someone is generally liable even if the dog, at the time of the bite, was under the control of someone else, such as a dog walker. [27] Criminal liability generally attaches as well as civil.  The level of the offense is likely to increase if the owner, seeing the dog begin to attack a person, does not intervene. [28]  Some state laws empower counties or municipalities to impose requirements on dogs that have bitten people. [29]  Identifying a dog that has bitten someone in a dog park, or another dog, can be difficult if the handler is uncooperative.  Persons witnessing a bite or attack may have a responsibility to report the incident. [30] Getting the dog’s collar is one means of identifying it, if the collar contains licensing information, but taking off a dog’s collar without the owner’s permission is a crime in some states. [31]  As discussed under “park rules” below, some dog parks now require registration of users, and even issue swipe cards, which make identification of individuals using dog parks easier. 

Dog pounds.  Animal control authorities and municipalities are generally empowered to impound stray dogs, which include dogs abandoned in dog parks. [32] Dogs taken to pounds will generally be sterilized if they are not euthanized. [33]

Dog training areas.  Some states provide for licensing private dog training areas for training hunting dogs.  Delaware provides that the organization applying for such a license must have 20 or more members who are citizens of the state, and shall be at least 100 acres and not more than 250 acres. [34]  Dog parks may consider raising funds by separating off an area as a professional dog training area, usage of which can involve a fee.  Hunting dog training area requirements are irrelevant, but legislators should make sure that the two types of training are distinguished in statutory language. 

Euthanizing of dogs by animal control authority. All states have some animal control authority, which can euthanize dogs under certain circumstances.  No modification of state law should be required as to dogs abandoned in dog parks. Dogs must generally be held for a specific period before euthanized.  Nonprofit organizations may have the authority to take dogs from pounds. [35]  Also, dogs without licenses may absolve the animal control authority of any notice requirement to owners. [36]

Land for use as a dog park. State land may sometimes be used for dog parks, but the state legislator may have to approve the arrangement. [37]  The federal government permitted development of a dog park on land no longer used for military purposes at the former Puget Sound Naval Station at Sand Point. [38]

Leash laws.  Leash laws may be statewide, and may give exceptions for dogs in the open, [39] including for hunting dogs. Some states have specific leash requirements as to state parks, [40] and sometimes other specific locations. [41]  Leash law authority may be delegated to counties and cities. [42]  Leash laws (also “running at large” statutes) should be modified to state that turning a dog loose in a fenced-in dog park is not considered a violation.   If the state approves of off-leash areas that are not fenced in, such provisions should also be modified.  Missouri requires that domestic household animals not be allowed in any state park “unless restrained by a leash not longer than ten feet held by some person or firmly affixed to some stationery object so as to prevent the animal from ranging at large.” [43]  Leash laws also apply to federal land.  Dogs can be taken into Yellowstone National Park, for instance, but must be “on leash, crated, or otherwise under physical restraint” and kept “within 100 feet of established roads and parking areas.”  They may not be brought on established trails and boardwalks. [44]

Liability. A number of states have considered exempting cities developing dog parks from certain liabilities that may arise due to a park. [45]  Such exemptions do not absolve users of the park for torts or crimes that may be committed between them.

Licensing.  Although licensing is often delegated to counties and municipalities, [46] state statutory authority may empower law enforcement or animal control officers to seize unlicensed dogs found running at large on public highways and other locations. [47]  New York City imposes requirements on handlers who use dog parks, known as “dog runs” in the city’s code:

Dog Runs: Certain fenced park areas may be designated by the Commissioner as dog runs, and persons owning or possessing dogs that are wearing a license tag and vaccinated against rabies pursuant to the laws of the State of New York and City of New York are permitted to allow such animals to remain unleashed in these areas. Users of dog runs shall obey posted rules. Users of such dog runs shall provide proof of current vaccination against rabies and proof of current licensing upon the request of any Police Officer, Urban Park Ranger, Parks Enforcement Patrol Officer or other Department employee or employee of the DOHMH, the refusal of which shall constitute a violation of §1-03(c), §1-04(i) and of this paragraph. [48]

Rabies. Some states allow that, in the event of a rabies outbreak, extreme measures, such as requiring dog owners to confine their animals, may be required. [49]  Such measures may require the temporary suspension of the use of dog parks. 

Reporting dog bites.  Statutes may require that dog bites must be reported.  Professionals treating individuals who have received dog bites may also be required to report such incidents. [50]  A dog bite may require an investigation by an animal control authority, which may seize the dog and even destroy it under certain circumstances. [51] Dogs that have bitten must often be confined for a period of observation, [52] and if rabies is suspected, a dog bitten by a potentially rabid dog must also generally be confined. [53]  Generally no modification to refer to dog parks should be required. 

Running at large.  State statutes often prohibit allowing dogs to run at large. [54]  Police and animal control authorities are often required to impound dogs found running at large, and may destroy them after required efforts are made to find an owner. [55]  Some such statutes (e.g., Georgia) specifically prohibit letting dogs in heat run free. [56] Oregon permits county elections to determine if dogs can run at large in a county. [57] General “running free” statutes should be modified to allow an exception for dogs in dog parks or off-leash areas. [58]  Crimes and penalties associated with dogs running at large should not be enforced for dogs in off-leash areas or dog parks. [59] Some statutes allow municipalities to prohibit dogs from running at large.[60]  In such cases, the municipal law should be modified with regard to off-leash areas and dog parks.  Some statutes provide that uninoculated animals should not run at large, [61] but this does not require modification.  Dogs are sometimes permitted to run at large on farms of a certain size (e.g. 20 acres, from October 1 through February 28, in Delaware [62]). A driver who puts a dog in the back of a pickup without restraint may be guilty of a crime if the dog jumps out and runs at large. [63]  Massachusetts provides that dogs in highway rest areas are to be on a chain or leash, [64] though rest areas in some states include fenced-in dog parks to which any such law would presumably not apply unless a posting indicated that dogs were not to be taken off leashes in the area. Dogs escaping from dog parks and injured on roadways may be treated by veterinarians, who would have a claim for reimbursement from the owners. [65]

Service and police dogs. While service and police dogs are uncommon in dog parks, handlers of other dogs should be aware that attacking such dogs is often a higher level of crime than the typical dog bite. [66]  Since such laws may require that the handler of the attacking dog be aware the dog under attack is a guide dog, such laws might not apply if the skilled dog was released from its harness. Police and service dogs that bite people or other dogs are often exempted from quarantine requirements. [67]  No change to such laws will generally be necessary. 

Stray dogs.  Animal control authorities are responsible for picking up stray dogs, though private individuals may do so as well. [68]  Private individuals picking up stray dogs should notify animal control authorities if a dog has identifying information. [69]

Training. Some activities, such as commercial dog training, require a permit. [70] Permits could include the right to train in designated areas of dog parks for a fee paid to the municipality in which the park is located. 

Vaccination. Dogs may not use county dog parks or off-leash areas unless currently vaccinated for rabies.  If wolves, coyotes, and hybrids of these animals with dogs are permitted in the state, the vaccination requirement might be specifically required for these animals as well. [71]  If a dog is abandoned in a dog park without a vaccination tag, police may be authorized to kill the animal without impounding it. [72] A permit for a Chicago dog park will require that a veterinarian provide a user with proof of vaccination for distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus, bordetella, and leptospirosis. [73]  Authorities considering approving dog parks should consult with state or regional veterinary authorities regarding appropriate vaccinations and other veterinary measures that should be required for use of dog parks. 

Vicious Dog. A person commits the crime of allowing a vicious dog to attack or bite another individual or dog if the person knows or has reason to know the dog has a propensity to attack, cause injury, or endanger the safety of other persons without provocation. [74]  Commission of this crime includes taking a vicious dog to a dog park or off-leash area.  Such offenses may be treated as misdemeanors. [75]

Water sources. States may require capping unused wells, but this is to prevent dogs, livestock, and children from falling into them. [765] Dog parks created in hot climates are often provided with water sources, which may require additional approvals for the location of a dog park site, [77] which may require compliance with wellhead protection and anti-pollution regulations. [78]

Wolves, Coyotes, Wolf-dog, and Coyote-dog Hybrids.  State law may allow wolves and coyotes and hybrids of these animals with dogs to be pets, [79] though a permit may be required. [80]  If there is an added confinement requirement as to such animals, a separate provision should not be necessary as to dog parks. [81]  If no provision exists, the state may consider banning such animals from certain public areas. [82] Indiana requires that wolf hybrids and coydogs (crosses of coyotes and dogs) be confined to a building or secure enclosure or kept on a leash. [83] In Montana, “a person may kill a wolf or mountain lion that is in the act of attacking or killing a domestic dog.” [84] No exception is made as to pet wolves. 

 

III. Park Rules

As discussed in the opening paragraphs, the hundreds of sets of dog park rules that have been posted on the internet show a certain uniformity, though some rules, such as pit bull bans, are not widely adopted.  Some restrictions may not be specific to a dog park, but may apply to a larger park of which a dog park is a part. [85]  This often applies to smoking bans and prohibitions of alcoholic beverages. 

Regional differences come into play because of factors like weather.  Miami dog park rules contain an admonition to periodically hose your dog or bring it into the shade. [86]  The Portland, Oregon, Department of Parks & Recreation posts a guide, Off-Leash Park Etiquette, containing such advice as: “Be aware that dogs have different play styles. Always respect the wishes of other handlers and be prepared to move to another area if your dog is too rambunctious.” [87]

Breed-specific rules.  Rules excluding pit bulls have been adopted by a number of parks.   Some states (such as Colorado [88] and Oklahoma [89]) preclude counties and municipalities from imposing breed-specific rules.  States where wolves, coyotes, and hybrids of these animals with domestic dogs are allowed as pets may also be considering banning such animals. [90] 

Children.  Many, probably most, parks have an age limit on children who come to the park.  Such rules are adopted from health and safety concerns.  Dog bites of children can be fatal, and the risk of an attack on a child is greater than on an adult. [91] Other considerations may argue against such limitations, such as the desire to have tourists use the dog park.  Seattle dog park rules specify that users must “closely supervise young children.” [92]  Tourists may be families with both pets and children that they will not want to separate.  The Indiana Commission on Autism noted in meeting minutes for September 15, 2010, that some children were being taken to a dog park to learn compassion for animals. [93]

Leash requirements.  Dogs are usually only allowed off-leash in an off-leash area or inside of a dog park, but must be brought to the park on a leash and removed on one.  The handler is often required to carry the leash while the dog is off-leash so that it can be put back on in case of an attack or for any other reason.  Seattle dog parks, and some other parks, provide that a dog’s pinch or choke collar must be removed before entering the off-leash area. [94]  Park rules may require that the handler remain in eye contact with his or her dog, and keep the dog under his or her control. 

Numbers of dogs.  Many park rules do not specify a maximum number of dogs, though others may limit the number per owner or handler to two or three. [95] Given the difficulty of keeping three dogs in visual control, the lower number may be preferable.

Aggressive dogs.  Parks may require handlers to remove aggressive dogs, but may also allow such dogs to remain if muzzled. [96]  For the health of a muzzled dog, park rules should probably exclude dogs that need to be muzzled. 

Young dogs and dogs in heat.  Park rules commonly preclude bringing animals below 4 or 6 months to a park.  Besides disease risks to the puppy, many states except young dogs from vaccination requirements. [97]  State leash laws may require that dogs in heat always be on a leash, so a separate rule for a park may not be necessary.  On the other hand, it is probably best to prohibit dogs in heat from a dog park.  Dogs that are sick are excluded by many, probably most, dog parks. 

Cleaning up.  Handlers are almost always required to clean up after dogs.  This may not be a requirement of some private hotel dog parks where hotel staff members are responsible for periodically cleaning the park, but even here a clean-up rule will generally apply to users.  Rules should specify that owners and handlers are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs.  Some parks post a fine that can be imposed for failure to clean up. [98]  Dog waste bags and receptacles should be available at several points in the park, and should repeat the rule concerning the responsibility of cleaning up after the handler’s dog. 

Food and water. Parks will often prohibit both dog and human food, or limit food to dog treats. [99] Even treats can trigger aggressive behavior and are sometimes listed among items not to be brought into parks. Seattle dog parks advise that bringing food into off-leash areas is at the person’s own risk. [100]  If a dog water fountain is not available, users should be advised to bring their own water and water bowls. 

Dog toys.  Some parks limit kinds of dog toys that may be brought into a park, or exclude them altogether as possible causes of aggression. [101]

Bicycles and skateboards.  Parks will often specify that recreational vehicles not be used in a dog park, and may even preclude bringing them into a park.  This may not be practical in high-crime areas, where a prohibition on using the recreational vehicle inside the dog park should be enough.

Destruction.  Handlers are responsible for destruction caused by their dogs and may be advised that they are responsible for filling in any holes dug by their dogs.  A handler watching his or her dog and in control of the dog should be able to stop this quickly, but some handlers will need to be reminded of this responsibility and it is often mentioned in posted rules. 

Permit requirements.  Some parks require that users obtain a permit in advance.  The Ohlone Dog Park Association in Berkeley, California, has a members charge, which is reduced for low-income individuals and seniors, but which does not require that the applicant own a dog. [102]  The NOLA City Bark, a dog park in New Orleans, requires that prospective users fill out a two-page application with identifying and contact information on the handler and vaccination and registration information on the handler’s dogs.  The applicant must sign a “release and waiver of liability and assumption of risk,” and agree to abide by a list of rules. [103]   Users are issued an electronic card which they swipe to enter the facility, though once inside, the park is policed by users.  If a dog becomes aggressive, the card system can be checked to determine who entered the park around the time of the incident.

The permit or membership approach will help assure responsible usage of a park, but will not appeal to many communities that want to assure that people use the park in preference to informal off-leash areas.  Chicago dog parks have announced a policy of requiring a permit for using a dog park, which can be obtained from a veterinarian.  Failure to have a valid permit and registration tag is to be penalized, and after three violations can result in a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment of up to six months. [104]

 

IV. Appendix: Model Laws and Rules

Model State Law Modifications to Allow for Dog Parks and Off-Leash Areas

Running-At-Large/Leash Law

1. A dog that is current on required vaccinations, duly licensed in accordance with applicable law, and not in heat, is not considered to be running at large if it is under the control of a handler. 

Municipal Liability

2. Any municipality or political subdivision allowing dog parks and off-leash areas shall be immune from criminal and civil liability, except for willful and wanton misconduct, for damages that may result from occurrences in a dog park or off-leash area.  Owners and handlers of dogs entering such areas are to be on notice from a posted list of rules that entrance is at their own risk.  This provision shall not negate such rights as owners and handlers may have as to other individuals making use of the dog park or off-leash area.

Dangerous Dog

3. An owner or handler of a dog that has been designated as dangerous, or which he or she has reason to know is dangerous, shall not bring such a dog into a dog park or off-leash area.  Violation of this provision shall be an offense for an initial violation, but a misdemeanor for a second or any further violation.  This provision shall not negate any other penalties that may apply for harboring a dangerous dog. 

Dog Bites

4. A dog bite occurring in a dog park or off-leash area shall be reported to the local police or animal control officer by anyone involved or anyone witnessing such event, or by a physician or veterinarian or other health service provider treating the victim of a bite.  Dog park rules shall post a phone number for calling the appropriate authority to report a bite.

Abandonment

5. Abandonment shall include leaving a dog unattended at an off-leash area or dog park. 

[State, County, or Municipal] Law Provisions for Dog Parks and Off-Leash Areas

Statement of Purpose

6. The [state, county, or municipal authority] having determined that the residents of communities need safe places to bring their dogs for off-leash exercise, hereby authorizes [county and] municipal authorities to designate appropriate areas within parks for off-leash exercise of dogs and appropriate areas to be fenced in as dog parks. 

Dog Parks and Off-Leash Areas: General Provisions

7. The [county or municipal authority], whether in conjunction with other communities, may establish and maintain parkland to be designated for off-leash dog areas and dog parks. 

8. The [county or municipal authority] may permit the creation of private dog parks by hotels and other businesses where such dog parks are to be used by customers of such businesses for the exercise of dogs that are visiting the area.  Such businesses may open such areas to the community with the approval of the county or municipal authority, but the grant of permission to make such a private dog park shall not depend on the availability of the park to local residents.

9. No person shall use a dog park for any commercial purpose.  Professional dog walkers, whose business is to walk dogs for private individuals, may bring no more than two dogs, or for some parks, three dogs inside at any one time. Violation of this restriction shall be subject to a fine of $50 per incident.

10. The [county or municipal authority] may designate hours for the use of the dog park, which shall preclude use of the park after 9 p.m. and before 7 a.m., or during hours of daylight.  The [county or municipal authority] may specify times when the park will be closed so that sanitation workers may clean the park and the park authority may mow the lawn and take care of any plants or facilities inside of a dog park or off-leash area. 

11. The [county or municipal authority] may close a park for an extended time if necessary for repairs, grading of the land, installation of drainage systems, and other necessary modifications.  Notice of such closure shall be posted at the entrance of the dog park or off-leash area at least one week before the first day of such closure and shall state the reason and expected duration of the closure. 

12. For enclosed dog parks, the [county or municipal authority] shall provide or assure the installation of appropriate fencing, which shall be at least five (5) feet in height [alternatively six (6) feet], with a double-gated entrance area for each section of the dog park.  Dog parks may be divided into large- and small-dog sections [alternatively, small-, medium-, and large-dog sections], with the difference between the sections determined by the weight of the dog, such weight to be 25, 30, or 35 pounds.  Dog park rules may specify that individuals with both small and large dogs must use the large-dog area if one of the dogs fits in the large-dog category. 

13. The [county or municipal authority] must post a notice stating that all handlers using a dog park or off-leash area do so at their own risk, and that the [state, county, and municipality] shall not be liable for any injury or damage caused by the dog park.  This provision does not preclude a handler for seeking damages from another user of the park under either statutory or common law. 

Dog Parks: Application

14. The [state, county, or municipal authority] may create a dog park, or may allow a group of concerned and interested citizens to form a group (“Dog Park Group”) to undertake the responsibility of proposing a park, including providing plans for a park, which plans may specify a particular area owned by the [state, county, or municipal authority], or owned by another government authority or private entity.  The [state, county, or municipal authority] may request that the Dog Park Group provide a budget for the creation and maintenance of the park, suggest sources of funds to defray some or all of the cost of the park, and suggest what responsibilities as to the maintenance of the park shall be provided by volunteers.  The [state, county, or municipal authority] may designate responsibilities as to the creation and maintenance of the dog park or off-leash area will not be provided by the [state, county, or municipal authority] and may not be funded in whole or in part by it.

15. The [state, county, or municipal authority] may ask that the Dog Park Group make a presentation to the authority regarding the proposal for a dog park or off-leash area at any point during the process of proposing or creating a park, and may ask that the residents of affected communities be able to speak and comment at such meetings. 

16. The [state, county, or municipal authority] shall cooperate with the Dog Park Group in investigating the ownership of any proposed site, and if the ownership does not lie with the [state, county, or municipal authority], shall investigate whether zoning requirements would permit a dog park in the location and, if so, shall make inquiry of the owner of the area as to the owner’s interest in allowing development of the dog park in the area.  It is expected that appropriate areas might be owned by other government authorities, such as utility authorities or state parks, which areas may already have some informal usage by dog handlers and dogs. 

17. The [state, county, or municipal authority] may provide the Dog Park Group with a list of existing groups of residents and local officials who should be contacted for issues relevant to the creation or maintenance of a dog park.  The [state, county, or municipal authority] may separately notify local police, fire, health, animal control, and other authorities of the efforts of the [authority] and the Dog Park Group to create a dog park or off-leash area [alternatively, the principal governmental authority may require that the Dog Park Group contact such authorities]. 

18. When a formal proposal has been prepared for a dog park or off-leash area, the [state, county, or municipal authority] shall designate a member of the [authority] to head a committee which shall consist of a law enforcement official of the [state, county, or municipal police authority], a representative of the [animal control authority], a veterinarian practicing in the area, a representative of a local animal shelter or animal rescue organization, an official of the waste management authority for the area, and such other officials as are deemed appropriate by the [state, county, or municipal authority] for evaluating the practicality and affordability of the proposal.  This group shall be designated the Dog Park Review Committee and the composition of the Committee shall be published along with the proposal.  This Committee may be made permanent as determined by the [state, county, or municipal authority].  [Alternatively, particularly in small towns, no separate sub-group of the state, county, or municipal authority need be created.]

19. When a formal proposal has been prepared for a dog park or off-leash area, the [state, county, or municipal authority] shall publish notice thereof in [appropriate government and private publications and websites]. 

20. The Dog Park Review Committee shall review the application for creation of a dog park and shall make written recommendations within thirty (30) days of the submission of the application.  The [state, county, or municipal authority] may, if it so chooses, provide comments of the Dog Park Review Committee directly to the Dog Park Group and may delay a public hearing until the Dog Park Group has had an opportunity to make any changes it deems appropriate in response to the Dog Park Review Committee’s recommendations. 

21. The [state, county, or municipal authority] may accept the proposal of the Dog Park Group as made, accept the proposal provisionally with a requirement that certain changes be made, or reject the proposal.  If the proposal is rejected, the [state, county, or municipal authority] shall state the reasons for rejection of the proposal and state whether the proposal may be accepted later if modified in accordance with certain recommendations. 

22. If the proposal of the Dog Park Group is accepted, the [state, county, or municipal authority] may enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Dog Park Group and with such other officials as may be appropriate, regarding the responsibilities of various groups and authorities for the creation and subsequent maintenance of the dog park or off-leash area.  The [state, county, or municipal authority] may specify that the Dog Park Group take a formal legal status with an agreement to provide daily management of the park and with the understanding that if the Group does not continue to maintain the park, it may be shut down and the property used for other purposes. 

Dog Park Site Guidelines and Specifications

23. Dog parks in the [state, county, municipality] shall be no less than five thousand (5,000) square feet in area, though off-leash areas can be of any size satisfactory to the needs of the area.  Parks of less space can be considered on prior approval of the [state, county, or municipal authority].

24. A dog park shall be located on well-drained land to prevent soil erosion and shall sit at least 50 feet from surface waters that drain into any river or creek; the surface shall allow for drainage away from the site in a manner that mitigates waste management issues.  Where possible, under-utilized areas should be considered. [Alternatively, such restrictions should be left to the permit system of the environmental authority or local building inspector.]  

25. A dog park may be located near a water supply line for drinking fountain (dog and human) and for maintenance purposes.  [Alternatively, proximity to water supplies should be left to an environmental authority.]

26. A dog park must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Clean Water Act, and such other legislation and standards as apply to parks located in the area where the park is located.

27. A dog park shall not be located within 100 yards [or other designated distance] of a school playground or designated children’s play area, or of an athletic field or court, or near a sensitive wildlife habitat area as determined by an environmental protection agency operating in the area. 

28. The Dog Park Group will post rules for the dog park or off-leash area in English [and Spanish], in type large enough to be easily read by those entering the park. 

Complaints and Enforcement

29. Law enforcement authorities and the local animal control authority may enforce laws under their jurisdictions that apply to dog parks, which shall include the authority to remove and impound dangerous dogs, restrain and impound dogs biting individuals or other dogs for rabies inspections, arrest individuals for violations occurring in dog parks, and all other aspects of their authority that may be exercised in the area of the dog park. 

30. Complaints not properly directed to police, fire, health, or other authorities shall be directed to the Dog Park Group as formally created and recognized by the [state, county, or municipal authority].  If the complaint has not been satisfactorily resolved, the complainant may, after 30 days of filing the complaint, request a meeting with an official designated by the Dog Park Committee. 

31. If the [state, county, or municipal] authority [or Dog Park Committee] determines that the Dog Park Group is consistently unresponsive to complaints (other than mere complaints about the existence of the dog park), the authority [or Dog Park Committee] may designate a permanent representative to deal with such complaints, and may notify the Dog Park Group that the authority [or Committee] may recommend further action by the [state, county, or municipal authority], which action may include the replacement of the Group with other individuals or the termination of the dog park itself. 

32. The Dog Park Group shall be empowered to contact the [police or other appropriate law enforcement authority] and the animal control authority to enforce dangerous and vicious dog rules and to arrange for the removal of abandoned dogs and dogs that should be impounded to determine the possibility of disease. 

33. The Dog Park Group, in consultation with the [state, county, or municipal] authority [or Dog Park Committee], may impose a requirement that users of the park have a Dog Park Registration Tag specific to the dog park or the dog parks in the area. 

34. The Dog Park Group, in consultation with the [state, county, or municipal] authority [or Dog Park Committee], may arrange a card swipe or other mechanism for limiting access to the park to persons holding a valid and up-to-date Dog Park Registration Tag.

Dog Park Rules

  1. Each handler using the park is responsible for reading the rules of the dog park on first entering it. 
  2. No handler may bring more than two (2) [alternatively, three (3)] dogs into the park at one time. 
  3. A handler must be sixteen (16) years of age or older. 
  4. A child between ten (10) and sixteen (16) years may enter the park only with a responsible adult.
  5. A child under ten (10) may not be brought into the park in any case. 
  6. Each dog brought into the park must be wearing, or the handler must carry, current vaccination and registration tags, which tags may be checked by a member of the Dog Park Group or by the animal control authority or other law enforcement authority.
  7. Dogs are to be brought to the park on leashes and released inside the dog park, and put under the control of the leash again as they exit the dog park.  No spike, choke, electric, or prong collars are allowed on dogs in the park.
  8. No female dog in heat, or sick dog, shall be brought into the dog park. 
  9. Food, toys, and glass containers are not permitted in the dog park. Smoking is prohibited in the dog park. 
  10. Handlers are to remain in visual contact with their dogs in the park, and shall have verbal control of their dogs in the park. 
  11. A handler shall immediately leash and remove a dog that becomes aggressive, regardless of whether the dog has a history of bites or has been designated as a dangerous or vicious dog under state or other applicable law; in no event may a dog that has been designated as dangerous or vicious be brought into the park.  Criminal penalties apply to bringing a dangerous or vicious dog into this park.  
  12. Dog bites shall be reported immediately to the [local police or animal control officer] at [phone number and email address].  All animal bites of other dogs or people shall be reported to local police and the animal control authority by anyone involved or witnessing the bite. 
  13. Handlers shall control excessive barking.
  14. A handler is responsible for destruction caused by his or her dog, which includes the responsibility of filling in any holes the dog digs while in the park. 

[1] John J. Ensminger is a member of the New York bar and is the author of Service and Therapy Dogs in American Society (Charles C. Thomas, Springfield, Ill. 2010) and Police and Military Dogs (Taylor & Francis, Ltd., New York and London, 2011).  Frances Breitkopf is the Chair of the Woodstock Dog Park Committee.  The authors wish to thank Terrie Rosenblum, Kingsbury Parker, Ronald Keats, and L.E. Papet for helpful suggestions. 

[2] City of Buffalo could not avoid liability for alleged defective condition, a fence on which a user had tripped and fallen, in temporary dog park inside of Lasalle Park, merely because it had ceded maintenance responsibility to Erie County.  Temporary dog park had been created in response to various citizens organized by veterinary group, whose permit to have the temporary dog park had expired.  The City of Buffalo had publicly announced it would not take down the dog park even though another dog park had been built in Lasalle Park. Hall v. City Fence, Inc., 36 Misc.3d 1237 (Sup.Ct., Erie County, 2012)

[3] DC Order 2007-53 (delegation of authority under the Dog Park Establishment Act of 2005) (2007 DC Reg. Text 68645(NS)).

[4] Rules of Haw. § 10-1.7 (“The director [of parks and recreation] is authorized to designate areas in public parks for use by persons having custody and control of dogs on a leash and to designate public parks for use as off-leash parks for dogs. In designating parks as off-leash parks and in designating parks or areas therein for leashed dogs, the director shall consider the park's size, location, and frequency of use by members of the public, as well as the primary actual or designed use of each park or area included in the designation. The director shall post signs that notify the public of such designation that describe or map the park or park areas so designated.”); see Hawaii v. Hitchcock, Docket No. 29847 (2010) (designation of space as dog park does not preclude closing it for maintenance two days per week); Anchorage Municipal Code § 17.10.090 (off-leash dog park spaces; areas to be recommended by “animal control advisory board with concurrence of the parks and recreation commission and the mayor, subject to approval by the assembly.”).

[5] But see Okla. City Muni. Code § 8-153 (confinement section does not apply to city-approved dog park); Code of Ordinances, City of North Platte, Nebraska § 8-9 (unlawful to enter public park with animal not on leash, but city park department may provide exception); Omaha Muni. Code § 6-1 (exception to leash law for dog park recognized by city), § 6-74 (nuisance not to clean up dog excrement in dog park); Phoenix City Code § 8-1 (defining dog park), § 8-14 (at-large requirements do not apply to “area within a park, that is designated by the Director [of the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department] or the Parks and Recreation Board as a dog park”); Aurora, Colorado, Ordinance § 14-5 (at-large requirements do not apply “when the dog is upon the premises of a city dedicated off-leash dog park”); Fort Worth City Ordinances § 6-13 (tethering not required in “designated city dog park”).

[6] Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 140 § 147A.

[7] Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-202.  If a dog is not properly licensed but does have identification, the owner will generally have to pay the license fee before the dog will be released from a pound.  Idaho Code § 25-2804.

[8] N.M. Stat. Ann. § 77-7-17 (abandonment after term for care has expired when dog placed with “veterinarian, kennel, animal clinic or hospital, grooming parlor or other animal care facility”).

[9] As are kennels, veterinarians’ offices, neighborhoods with large dog populations, etc. See Fla. Stat. § 705.19.

[10] Ga. Code Ann. § 4-8-2 precludes abandoning a dead dog on public property, which would obviously include a dog park. 

[11] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:67.2. 

[12] Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 574.195 (“a person shall not allow a cat or dog to remain unattended in a parked or standing motor vehicle during a period of extreme heat or cold or in any other manner that endangers the health or safety of the cat or dog.”).

[13] There may also be zoning restrictions on advertising.  See Wag More Dogs, LLC v. Artman, 2011 WL 652473 (E.D. Va. 2011).

[14] Kansas Stat. Ann. § 8-1,164 (authorizing Kansas State University veterinary college to design pet friendly logo for license plate and receive royalties when plates are issued).

[15] See Del. Code Ann. tit. 9, § 921 (providing for a five-member Dog Control Panel consisting of a veterinarian, a member of the AKC or other dog club, an animal behaviorist and a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), a police officer, and a representative of the Delaware Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).

[16] Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 140 § 151 (instead of appointing dog officers, “any city or the board of selectmen of any town may … enter into a contract with a domestic charitable corporation incorporated exclusively for the purpose of protecting animals from cruelty, neglect or abuse, to perform the duties required of dog officers….”).

[17] Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 140 § 147. 

[18] Del. Code Ann. tit. 7 § 1702 (with a fine of between $25 and $50 for the first violation, going up to $100 thereafter).

[19] Cal. Food and Agric. Code § 31642; Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-9-204.5 (“building or enclosure designed to be escape-proof and, whenever the dog is outside of the building or enclosure, keep the dog under the owner’s control by use of a leash”; after a second or subsequent offense, the dog is to be kept muzzled; microchipping also required). See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 767.12 (“unlawful for the owner of a dangerous dog to permit the dog to be outside a proper enclosure unless the dog is muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash and under the control of a competent person …. The owner may exercise the dog in a securely fenced or enclosed area that does not have a top, without a muzzle or leash, if the dog remains within his or her sight and only members of the immediate household or persons 18 years of age or older are allowed in the enclosure when the dog is present.”; violation is infraction, with fine up to $500); Neb. Rev. Stat. § 54-618 (“No owner of a dangerous dog shall permit the dog to go beyond the property of the owner unless the dog is retrained securely by a chain or leash.”); N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 17-345 (dangerous dog may be ordered muzzled); N.C. Gen. Stat. § 67-4.2 (unlawful to permit dangerous dog beyond owner’s property “unless the dog is leashed and muzzled or is otherwise securely restrained and muzzled”).

[20] Cal. Food and Agric. Code § 31645.

[21] Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-204.5 (injury or death of domestic animal is class 3 misdemeanor in first instance, class 2 misdemeanor in second instance; attacks on persons can be felonies); Fla. Stat. § 767.13 (if dog has previously been declared dangerous, on subsequent attack dog is to be confiscated immediately).  

 [22] Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-204.5(5) (referring to authority of states and counties to impose additional requirements; no breed-specific rules may be imposed).

[23] Fla. Stat. Ann. § 767.12 (“animal control authority shall investigate reported incidents involving any dog that may be dangerous and shall, if possible, interview the owner and require a sworn affidavit from any person, including any animal control officer or enforcement officer, desiring to have a dog classified as dangerous”). 

[24] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:102.14 (defining “dangerous dog” as a dog that “which, when unprovoked, bites a person causing an injury; or … which, when unprovoked, on two separate occasions within the prior thirty-six month period, has killed, seriously bitten, inflicted injury, or otherwise caused injury to a domestic animal off the property of the owner of the dog.”).

[25] 510 Ill. Comp. Stat.  5/2.19b (“‘Vicious dog’ means a dog that, without justification, attacks a person and causes serious physical injury or death or any individual dog that has been found to be a ‘dangerous dog’ upon 3 separate occasions”); La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 14:102.13, 14:102.17 (separate registration and increased fees for dangerous dog); Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 955.11 (dangerous dog is one that “has chased or approached in either a menacing fashion or an apparent attitude of attack, or has attempted to bite or otherwise endanger any person, while that dog is off the premises of its owner, keeper, or harborer and not under the reasonable control of its owner, keeper, harborer, or some other responsible person, or not physically restrained or confined in a locked pen which has a top, locked fenced yard, or other locked enclosure which has a top”; a vicious dog may be a police dog that has caused serious injury or a “dog that has killed or caused serious injury to any person while a person was committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense on the property of the owner, keeper, or harborer of the dog”; the location requirement is a curious and perhaps inadvertent restriction); R.I. Gen. Laws § 4-13.1-2 (defining “vicious dog” as “ (i) Any dog that, when unprovoked, in a vicious or terrorizing manner, approaches any person in apparent attitude of attack upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds or places; (ii) Any dog with a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack unprovoked, to cause injury, or to otherwise endanger the safety of human beings or domestic animals; (iii) Any dog that bites, inflicts injury, assaults, or otherwise attacks a human being or domestic animal without provocation on public or private property; or (iv) Any dog owned or harbored primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting or any dog trained for dog fighting. “).

[26] 510 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/16 (“If a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks, attempts to attack, or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself or herself in any place where he or she may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in civil damages to such person for the full amount of the injury proximately caused thereby.”);  Ind. Code § 15-20-1-3 (owner liable even if he or she has no knowledge of prior vicious behavior of dog); Utah Code Ann. § 18-1-1 (“Every person owning or keeping a dog is liable in damages for injury committed by the dog, and it is not necessary in the action brought therefor to allege or prove that the dog was of a vicious or mischievous disposition or that the owner knew that it was vicious or mischievous.”).

[27] See Clea v. Odom, 2011 WL 3667611 (S.C. Sup. Ct. 2011) (exercise of control of owner sufficient for liability).

[28] Indiana Code § 15-20-1-4 (Class A misdemeanor if the violation results in serious bodily injury to a person, Class C felony if the attack results in death of a person).

[29] Haw. Rev. Stat. § 142-75(c) (“county may enact and enforce ordinances regulating persons who own, harbor, or keep any dog that has bitten, injured, or maimed a person”).

[30] Iowa Code § 351.38 (duty of “any person having knowledge of such bite or attack to report this act to a local health or law enforcement official”; physicians and veterinarians also obligated to make such reports); Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 258.065 (“every physician shall, within twelve (12) hours after his first professional attendance of a person bitten by a dog … report to the local health department the name, age, sex, and precise location of the person so bitten”).

[31] Ga. Code Ann. § 4-8-6.1 (though the statute specifies that the removal is an offense if done “with the intention of preventing or hindering the owner from locating such dog,” which may not apply to a dog park brawl); Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 258.212 (permitting law enforcement or animal control officer to remove identification tag if done “for a legitimate purpose,” which would presumably include identification of a dog that has bitten someone; anyone else removing identification would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor); Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266 § 47 (wrongful removal of a collar can lead to fine of not more than $100 or imprisonment of six months, or both); Mich. Comp. Laws § 287.262 (unlawful “for any person except the owner or authorized agent, to remove any license tag from a dog”). Holding an aggressive or dangerous dog's collar may also be one means of controlling it, and military working dog handlers are taught to do this. The problem with this approach, as described in a recent police dog bite case, is that once the person holding the collar lets go, the dog is liable to bite him or her, and it may be argued that by grabbing the collar the person trying to control the dog assumed the risk of bites following release of the collar.  Lockrem v. U.S., 2011 WL 3501693 (W.D. Wash. 2011). 

[32] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-332.  Impounding may also be authorized if the owner is incarcerated.  Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-4316 (providing for euthanasia after 21 days if bond is not posted; also providing for return of the dog “if it appears to the licensed veterinarian by physical examination that the dog has not been trained for aggressive conduct or is a type of dog that is not commonly bred or trained for aggressive conduct”).

[33] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-380f (No pound shall sell or give away any unspayed or unneutered dog or cat to any person unless such pound receives forty-five dollars from the person buying or adopting such dog or cat).

[34] Del. Code Ann. tit. 7 § 1703.  Destroying a fence around such an area is a separate crime.  § 1706.

[35] Cal. Food and Agric. Code § 31108(b).

[36] Cal. Food and Agric. Code §§ 31107, 31108(c) (also requiring authorities to scan stray dogs for microchips that may identify them).  See also 510 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/11.

[37] Massachusetts Senate Bill 1920 § 145P (May 26, 2011).

[38] See Government Accountability Office, Federal Real Property: Most Public Benefit Conveyances Used as Intended, but Opportunities Exist to Enhance Federal Oversight, GAO-06-511 (June 2006).

[39] Mich. Comp. Laws § 287.262 (certain working dogs permitted to work off leash).

[40] Okla. Stat. tit. 74 § 2217 (precluding a person from entering a state park with a dog, unless the dog is on a leash); S.C. Code Ann. § 51-3-10 (dog not to be brought into state park “unless it is crated, caged, or upon a leash not longer than six feet or otherwise under physically restrictive control at all times”).

[41] W. Va. Code § 5A-4-4 (“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. Any person who knowingly allows a dog owned by him to be upon the grounds of the capitol buildings or governor's mansion while not under control by leash shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction thereof, be fined not less than twenty-five nor more than one hundred dollars.”); Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 443.018 provides that “all pets except Seeing Eye dogs are not permitted in the Capitol, and shall be restrained at all times on a leash or similar device in the immediate control of the owner while on the grounds of the Capitol, except as approved by the board.”  The limit of access to a government facility to guide dogs violates federal requirements now applicable to such places.  See Department of Justice, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services. 75 Fed. Reg. 56164 (September 15, 2010).  Pets brought on property of the U.S. National Arboretum (USNA) in Washington, D.C., “must have proper vaccinations and, except assistance trained animals, must be kept on leash at all times.  The release or abandonment of fish, plants, and other animals of any kind on USNA grounds is prohibited.”  7 CFR 500.10.  Communities that receive permission to use federal land for a dog park must verify that no variance is required for use of the land as a dog park. 

[42] Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 822.007 (municipality or county not prohibited “from adopting leash or registration requirements applicable to dogs”).

[43] Mo. Rev. Stat. § 253.185.

[44] 36 CFR 7.13(h). 

[45] 510 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/35 (“municipality or political subdivision allowing dog parks shall be immune from criminal liability and shall not be civilly liable, except for willful and wanton misconduct, for damages that may result from occurrences in the dog park”). 

[46] Idaho Code Ann. § 25-2801; La. Rev. Stat. Ann.§ 3:2772 (parish or municipality that levies a license fee to issue a metallic license tag), 3:2731 (license fees and fines may be used by parish or municipality for its animal control program or for enforcement of animal control ordinances); N.D. Cent. Code § 40-05-02(22); Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 11-31-213 (“board of county commissioners may require the registration of all dogs and cats within a rabies control district….”).

[47] Haw. Rev. Stat. § 143-8 (officer “shall seize any unlicensed dog found running at large or found upon any public highway, street, alley, court, place, square, or grounds, or upon any unfenced lot, or not within a sufficient enclosure, whether in the immediate presence of the owner or otherwise, and confine it in a pound or any suitable enclosure for a period of forty-eight hours, during which time it shall be subject to redemption by its owner by payment of the license due, if any, and a penalty to be set by each county council; provided that until and unless provided by ordinance the penalty shall be $2.50.  If not so redeemed, the dog shall be sold by the officer for the amount of the license and penalty due, or as much more as can be obtained therefor; provided that the officer may neuter or require the neutering of the dog prior to sale, and if not so sold it shall be humanely destroyed.  The owner of any unlicensed dog impounded and not claimed within forty-eight hours as provided in this section, may redeem the dog at any time before sale or destruction of the dog by paying to the officer, in addition to the amount of the license and penalty, an impoundment fee per day for the number of days over two days the dog was impounded.  Each county council shall have the power to fix the impoundment fee for dogs; provided that until and unless otherwise provided by ordinance the impoundment fee shall be $2.50 a day.  Of the money so received the amount of the license fee shall be paid to the director of finance and the balance shall be retained by the officer to defray the expenses of collecting, keeping, and feeding the dog.”); N.C. Gen. Stat. § 105-350 (empowering tax collectors to collect “property, dog, license, privilege, and franchise taxes”; the authors are unaware of any tax collector using a dog park to find unlicensed dogs for tax collection purposes, but the possibility cannot be excluded). 

[48] Rev. Code N.Y. § 56.1-05(r)(3)

[49] Ark. Code Ann. § 20-19-310, Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 121575-121710.

[50] Colo. Rev. Stat. § 12-36-135 (failure to report is a petty offense, which can lead to a fine and a brief imprisonment); § 25-4-603.

[51] Cal. Food & Agric. Code §§ 31621-5.

>[52] Colo. Rev. Stat. § 25-4-604 (confinement at pound at the owner’s expense); Del. Code Ann. 3.8201(o).

[53] Colo. Rev. Stat. § 25-4-605.

>[54] Idaho Code Ann. § 25-2803; Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 7, § 3911 (“unlawful for any dog, licensed or unlicensed, to be at large, except for hunting.”).   Many states also criminalize allowing dogs to harass livestock or game.  Idaho Code Ann. §§ 25-2806, 36-1101; Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 258.265 (authorizing “peace officer or animal control officer” to “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”; authority is to “make a fair and reasonable effort to determine whether any dog found at large between sunset and sunrise is a hound or other hunting dog which has become lost temporarily from a pack or wandered from immediate control of its owner, or handler”); Minn. Stat. § 35.69 (prohibiting dog running at large “unless the dog is effectively muzzled so that it cannot bite any other animal or person.”); Mo.  Rev. Stat. § 273.033 (running at large onto person’s property is trespass allowing person to kill dog if action was to prevent “imminent harmful contact”); N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 466.31 (dog being used for hunting, supervised competition, exhibition, or training for such activities, if accompanied by an owner or custodian, is not considered at large); N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:42-107 (landlord can refuse to renew senior citizen’s lease if senior citizen fails to properly leash dog on premises); S.C. Code Ann. § 47-3-10 (dog is running at large “if off the premises of owner or keeper and not under the physical control of the owner or keeper by means of a leash or other similar restraining device”); Wash. Rev. Code § 16.08.020; Wis. Stat. § 174.042.

[55] Miss. Code Ann. § 41-53-11 (lack of evidence of vaccination can lead to immediate destruction).

[56] Ga. Code Ann. § 4-8-6; Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 258.255 (“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.”); Md. Code Ann., Art. 24 § 11-514 provides that female dogs in heat are to be confined, but also that they are to be kept from contacting “roaming dogs,” “dogs that are attracted to the premises,” and “migrating dogs.”  The latter term is not separately defined. 

[57] Or. Rev. Stat. § 609.040 (100 or more electors can petition for vote “for and against permitting dogs to run at large in the county,” but such may not be done inside a city with an established dog licensing program); Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-6539 (“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.”)

[58] 510 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/9 (“dog that is in a dog-friendly area or dog park is not considered to be running at large if the dog is monitored or supervised by a person”); Seattle Municipal Code §§ 9.25.084, 18.12.030, 18.12.080.

[59] Ark. Code Ann. § 15-41-113, for instance, allows for termination of employees of the Arkansas State Game and Fish Commission for allowing dogs to run at large. 

[60] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-148(b)(7)(A) (allowing municipalities to “[r]egulate and prohibit the going at large of dogs and other animals in the streets and public places of the municipality….”); S.D. Codified Laws § 9-29-12 (municipalities “have power to regulate or prohibit the running at large of dogs, animals, and poultry, to establish pounds, appoint poundmasters, and regulate the impounding of animals, and to impose a tax or license on dogs running at large;” perhaps such a tax could be imposed on the users of a dog park, though this was not likely the original intent of the law, first passed in 1890 and last modified in 1913).

[61] Colo. Rev. Stat. § 25-4-610. 

[62] Del. Code Ann. tit. 9, § 908(a).

[63] Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 29-A, § 2087 (“person driving an open vehicle may not transport a dog in the open portion of that vehicle on a public way unless the dog is protected in a manner that prevents the dog from falling or jumping or being thrown from the vehicle.”).

[64] Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 174B.

[65] Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 150, § 151B.

[66] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-364b (appropriate gear must identify dog as guide dog for infraction to apply); see also § 53-247 (protection also applies to dog part of voluntary canine search and rescue team). 

[67] Florida Statutes § 767.16. The owner should be able to establish that the dog is in fact a service dog.  Unlawfully claiming that a dog is a service dog when, in fact, it is not is a crime in some states.  Idaho Code Ann. § 18-5811A.  Such bogus service dogs would not be excepted from quarantine requirements. 

[68] Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 7, § 3913 (“person finding a stray dog and taking control of that dog shall take that dog to its owner if known or, if the owner is not known, to the animal shelter designated by the municipality in which the dog was found”); Tenn. Code Ann. § 5-1-120 (counties authorized to “establish and operate shelters and other animal control facilities, and regulate, capture, impound and dispose of stray dogs, stray cats and other stray animals”).

[69] Haw. Rev. Stat. § 143-10.

[70] Kansas Stat. Ann. § 32-954; Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 12, § 12052 (dog training area for hunting dogs); 34 Pa. Cons. Stat.  § 2941 (20 or more citizens may apply for permit for dog training area on land owned by them, generally for training hunting dogs on land of between 100 and 250 acres).  

[71] Ark. Code Ann. § 20-19-401, 406 specifically applies canine vaccination requirements to wolves and wolf-dog hybrids, noting that “wolves and dogs are scientifically classified as the same species.” 

[72] Iowa Code § 351.26 (“duty of all peace officers within their respective jurisdictions unless such jurisdiction shall have otherwise provided for the seizure and impoundment of dogs, to kill any dog for which a rabies vaccination tag is required, when the dog is not wearing a collar with rabies vaccination tag attached”).

[73] Chicago dog park rules (www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/docs/7a322e31-f650-4680-ba0b-100d626ead3f_document.pdf).

[74] Ark. Code Ann. § 5-62-125.

[75] Colo. Rev. Stat. § 30-15-102(2) (class 2 misdemeanor, punishable for each separate offense).

[76] Conn. Gen. Stat. § 19a-39.

[77] Other factors may affect the choice of a site.  Cities have had disputes when dog parks are located near city boundaries.  See Rocky River v. Lakewood, 2008 WL 5191383 (Ct. App. 2008). The proponents of a location may find that a particular location violates a deed restriction.  See Bloomfield Estates Improvement Association, Inc. v. City of Birmingham, 479 Mich. 206, 737 N.W.2d 670 (2007); for an analysis of the case under property law, see D.E. Nykanen (2009). Real Property. Wayne Law Review, 55, 575-598, at 592-3; Baker v. Board of Selectmen of the Town of Foxborough, 2008 WL 4799468 (Mass. Land Ct. 2008), aff’d 77 Mass.App.Ct. 1117, 2010 WL 3257845 (2010), aff’d sub nom. Hubrich v. Town of Foxborough, 78 Mass.App.Ct. 1120, 939 N.E.2d 803 (table), 2011 WL 103949 (2011).

[78] Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 325.1003b.

[79] Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 7 § 3921-A (providing that wolf hybrids may be identified “through tattooing, the placement of a microchip under the animal’s skin or any other method determined by the commissioner as adequately providing a permanent means of identification on the body of the animal.”).

[80] Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 131 § 77A. 

[81] See Ark. Code Ann. § 20-19-407. 

[82] Vermont permits a city or town to “regulate the keeping, leashing, muzzling, restraint, impoundment, and destruction of domestic pets or wolf-hybrids and their running at large….”  Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 20 § 3549.  The distinction of wolf-hybrids from pets would seem to permit separate exclusion of such animals from dog parks by municipal ordinance. 

[83] Ind. Code § 15-20-1-5. 

[84] Mont. Code Ann. § 87-3-130.

[85] Under RCNY 24.161.05(b)(1), the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation can close dog runs at night.

[86] Miami-Dade County Bark Park Rules (www.miamidade.gov/parks/library/bark_park.pdf).

[87] Portland Parks & Recreation, Off-Leash Park Etiquette” (www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=160385).

[88] Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-204.5(5).

[89] Okla. Stat. tit. 4 § 46 (“Potentially dangerous dogs or dangerous dogs  may be regulated through local, municipal and county authorities, provided the regulations are not breed specific.”).

[90] Note that Ark. Code Ann. § 20-19-402 states that “No animal may be judged to be a wolf or wolf-dog hybrid based strictly on its appearance.” 

[91] Tsokos, M., Byard, R.W., and Puschel, K. (2007). Extensive and Mutilating Craniofacial Trauma Involving Defleshing and Decapitation: Unusual Features of Fatal Dog Attacks in the Young. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 28(2), 131-136; Sacks, J.J., Sinclair, L., Gilchrist, J., et al. (2000). Breeds of Dogs Involved in Fatal Human Attacks in the United States Between 1979 and 1998. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 217, 836–840; Gershman, K.A., Sacks, J.J., and Wright, J.C. (1994). Which Dogs Bit? A Case-control Study of Risk Factors. Pediatrics, 93, 913–917; Avner, J.R. and Baker, M.D. (1991). Dog Bites in Urban Children. Pediatrics, 88, 55–57 (finding 94% of pit bill attacks to be unprovoked compared with 46% overall); Shields, L.B.E., Bernstein, M.L., Hunsaker, J.C., and Stewart, D.M. (2009). Dog Bite-Related Fatalities: A 15-Year Review of Kentucky Medical Examiner Cases. American Journal of Forensic Medical Pathology, 30, 223-230.

[92] Seattle Parks and Recreation Rules for Seattle’s Off-Leash Areas (photograph of rules provided by Kingsbury Parker). 

[93] Posted (www.in.gov/legislative/interim/committee/minutes/AUTID9F.pdf).

[94] Seattle Parks and Recreation Rules for Seattle’s Off-Leash Areas (photograph of rules provided by Kingsbury Parker). 

[95] Two (Hawaii Kai Dog Park; Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Off-Leash Dog Area; Essex County, New Jersey, Dog Park Rules); three (New Orleans NOLA City Bark, City of Albuquerque).

[96] Seattle Parks and Recreation Rules for Seattle’s Off-Leash Areas (photograph of rules provided by Kingsbury Parker). 

[97] Colo. Rev. Stat. § 30-15-101 (allowing county commissioners to specify an age below which dogs do not have to be inoculated).

[98] $500 under City of Chicago Ordinance 7-12-420. 

[99] Dogs are generally prohibited in food service areas, though Maryland specifically allows dogs in outdoor portions of restaurants.  Md. Code Ann. § 21-304.2 (a sign must be posted informing patrons that dogs are allowed in the outdoor dining area).

[100] Seattle Parks and Recreation Rules for Seattle’s Off-Leash Areas (photograph of rules provided by Kingsbury Parker). 

[101] The NOLA City Bark in New Orleans has a rule specifying that only balls and Frisbees may be brought into the park (www.nolacitybark.org).

[102] Ohlone Dog Park Association (www.ohlonedogpark.org).

[103] NOLA City Bark (www.nolacitybark.org).

[104] Administrator, Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control, Regulation VIII on the operation of dog friendly areas (DFAs) (issued under authority of § 20-15, Cook County Animal and Rabies Control Ordinance (www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/docs/7a322e31-f650-4680-ba0b-100d626ead3f_document.pdf)).

 

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