By Sara Chisnell-Voigt
Animal law as a whole has expanded by leaps and bounds over the past few decades, and as with any growth in a particular field of law comes more creation of laws. While legislatures across the nation have been busy introducing a wide array of new laws affecting dog ownership, plenty of basic dog laws already exist that all dog owners should be aware of. Although the majority of Americans consider their dogs to be family members, under the letter of the law they are considered property, and similar to other property, dog ownership can be regulated by the government. This article discusses some of the most common basic dog laws that apply to most dog owners.
At the most basic level of dog law, and found just about everywhere, are licensing requirements. Dogs must be licensed (typically by county), or owners may face fines. This gives the county a record of dogs under their jurisdiction. Typically, in order to obtain a dog license, the owner must provide proof of a rabies vaccination. Most states require that dogs be vaccinated for rabies. Some places charge a higher license fee for dogs that have not been spayed or neutered. Others offer kennel licenses for people who have over a certain number of dogs. Dog owners benefit from licensing their dogs because it provides another form of identification should they ever need to claim their dog at the animal shelter.
Now why would your dog be at the shelter? Most likely for running at large. Most states have leash and dog-at-large laws. Dogs must be on lead and under control of the owner when off the owner’s private property. Usually these laws authorize animal control to seize dogs running at large. Leash laws are in place to protect citizens from dogs running loose and to protect the dogs themselves. Some cities even have laws that require you to clean up after your dog if they defecate on public property, or you face fines.
There are exceptions to leash laws, such as dog competitions, dog parks, and hunting. States will have specific laws regarding hunting with dogs that outline where dogs may be loose for hunting, what time(s) of year, and what kind of prey they may be used for. Some states even have right to retrieve laws, where hunters have the right to go onto private property to collect a dog that has followed game across property lines.