You probably know about laws and local ordinances that pertain to pets, especially dangerous pets. But did you know there are six types of dog owner laws, and if you violate them, you could pay fines? Part of welcoming a dog into your family involves following your local dog laws and regulations. Non-compliance can lead to civil consequences such as fines or criminal penalties for you and being euthanized for your dog. Make sure everyone in your household fully understands and abides by state and local ordinances.

Here are six typical laws on dog ownership that you should be aware of.

1. Noise Ordinances and Dog Barking Laws

No one wants to listen to a dog bark all day and night, which is why dog barking is often included in state or local nuisance laws and ordinances. While the definition of “nuisance” barking can vary, some locales specifically target loud barkers or dogs that bark during certain hours. If local authorities deem that your dog is a nuisance barker, you may be fined or ordered to surrender your pet.

Where do you find local noise ordinances? Check with your city attorney or your city’s mayor or manager’s office. Your local library should also keep a copy of local codes of ordinance. You might also call a non-emergency number for your local law enforcement (sheriff, police) and ask them to point you in the right direction.

2. Pooper Scooper Laws

Yep, when your dog does his biz, it’s your biz to clean it up. A growing number of municipalities want dog owners to be responsible for their pets’ waste and have some sort of pooper scooper law on the books. They typically hold that a dog owner is responsible for picking up and properly disposing of their dogs’ waste on a property that isn’t the dog owners’. Failure to do so can result in a fine. Pooper scooper laws help keep your city or town clean and prevent the spread of disease between dogs and humans.

Where can you find pooper scooper laws? See the previous section on noise ordinances. Those local municipalities will also have your pooper scooper laws. If your concern pertains to local parks, you might check with the office that manages your parks and recreation.

3. Dog License Laws

One of the most common dog laws across the nation pertains to dog licenses. Cities and towns require dog owners to purchase a dog license for their pet(s) annually. Some places offer lifetime licenses. If your pet’s license comes with a tag, it’s expected that your dog will have the tag on its collar at all times. The tag’s purpose is to help identify the dog’s owner in case the dog gets lost or picked up by animal control. Most municipalities that issue dog licenses will not issue licenses without proof of up-to-date vaccinations (more on vaccinations below).

Dog licenses support dog shelters in many areas. So while you might be tempted to grumble about paying a “dog tax,” think about the homeless pets you might be helping with your small annual fee.

Where do you get a dog license? This is typically managed at the county level. You can check with your local animal shelter; they will be able to direct you to licensing authorities.

4. Leash Laws

To help ensure residents’ safety and their pets, cities and towns have established leash laws. Similar to other dog laws, the particulars of leash laws can vary among communities. However, they typically require any dog to be on a leash when not on their owner’s property or in a “no leash” area. Your local leash law may allow dogs to be off their leash, provided you have complete control over your pet. On the other hand, you may need to leash your dog only during specific times of the day outside your property. Failure to follow your area’s leash laws can result in fines.

Where do you find out about leash laws? Your local library will have a copy of local ordinances. You can also check with the same governing authorities that we recommended in the first section about noise ordinances.

5. Vaccination Laws

Although vaccination laws vary, pretty much every state or municipality requires dogs to have a rabies vaccine to protect humans from contracting rabies, which can be fatal in humans if bitten by an infected dog. Exceptions to the mandatory vaccine may be allowed in some areas if a veterinarian finds the vaccination poses a medical risk to the dog. Penalties for non-compliance can include fines, jail time, or confiscation of your pet.

How can you find out about vaccination laws? Ask your vet. You’ll also find out when you license your dog; most municipalities require certain vaccinations, including rabies, in order to obtain a dog license.

6. Dog Bite Laws

One of the most important rules for dog owners has to do with dog bites and dog attacks. If your dog bites someone, not only could you lose your dog, but you could also lose money.

The specifics of dog bite laws vary from state to state; however, they typically fall into two categories: one-bite and strict liability. The difference between the two dog laws is a dog owner is not liable for injury caused by their dog under the one-bite rule unless they have reason to believe their dog could cause such injury. In contrast, strict liability holds the dog owner responsible, regardless. You can check with your homeowner or renter insurance company regarding dog bit laws; you can also search for dog laws by state online.

The idea behind the one-bite rule is a dog owner shouldn’t be held responsible for any type of injury, including bites, caused by their dog if there was no previous evidence of such threatening behavior. However, other factors can come into play. For example, if the dog is deemed a dangerous breed, its owner can be held liable regardless of previous aggression in the dog. The one-bite rule relies on whether the dog’s owner knew or should have known their dog was a risk and if they did know whether they took appropriate measures to prevent this behavior.

On the other hand, strict liability finds a dog owner liable for an injury caused by their dog regardless of whether the dog owner’s believed the dog posed a danger. There are a few exceptions to this dog law. If the victim provoked the dog or broke the law (trespassing on the dog owner’s property), the owner is not liable for injuries caused by their pet. 

Contact Your Local Officials About Dog Laws

Even though we’ve shared some common dog laws, it’s essential that you contact your local city or town hall and homeowner’s association (if you have one) to verify what dog laws pertain to your pet and municipality. Other helpful resources on dog laws include your veterinarian, animal control, or police department. 

Photo by Lance Grandahl on Unsplash

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