A leash law is a local ordinance or statute intended to keep domestic animals, especially dogs, from roaming freely. Leash laws vary by community and can apply to other animals, such as pigs and horses, for example, although these laws are most often intended to protect the public against dog bites and other potential problems caused by free-roaming dogs. In general, leash laws require that dogs and other animals be under control on a leash or lead or be enclosed in a fenced area or indoors. Cats usually are excluded from leash laws.
Leash laws vary in specifics, depending on the community. Along with stipulating that a dog must be under control, a dog leash law might specify the maximum length of the leash and what kind of fencing is in compliance with the law. Fencing can include standard fences and electronic fences. A leash law might consider voice control of a dog to be adequate control, or staying on the owner's property even if it is unfenced might be permissible, depending upon the local ordinance.
Hunting dogs can have different rules applied to them than family pets, depending on the locality. Leash laws might also designate where dogs can be exercised off-leash. More and more communities are creating dog parks, where dogs are allowed to run freely. In a community with a dog park, the leash law often will include rules specifically for the park.
Individual dog breeds also might be discussed in leash laws. Breeds that are designated as dangerous might be required to wear muzzles when in public, even if on a leash. Leash laws might delegate different times of year or different times of day that dogs must be controlled. For example, in some communities, leash laws don't allow dogs to roam freely at night, but they may be allowed off-leash during daytime hours. Again, ordinances vary greatly by location.
Enforcement of leash laws also differs. In some communities, leash laws are more strictly enforced than in others. Some law enforcement agencies use more discretion in determining whether to issue a citation or not. For example, if a police officer or animal control officer determines that the dog is well trained and is under the owner's voice control while off-leash, the owner might receive only a warning. In other communities, owners of any dogs found off-leash might be ticketed.
The penalty for violating a leash law is often a fine. The size of the fine often increases with repeated violations. Leash laws might also have more severe penalties in place when dogs bite or otherwise injure people, harm other animals or damage property. Such a penalty can include animal control confiscating and possibly euthanizing the dog.