Laws on Dogs on Your Property

Loose dogs require caution and humane treatment.
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When the dog pacing up and down your front walk does not belong to you, the safety of your property and family might spring to mind. In most jurisdictions, laws protect private residences from stray and lost dogs, but if you don't know how those laws work, you can't protect yourself or your property. Contact your local law enforcement agency or animal control department if you are unsure about how to proceed.

Nuisance Laws

A nuisance dog typically is a neighbor's pet who regularly wanders onto your private property, or a lost dog who seems dangerous or refuses to leave. Local nuisance laws vary, but most include fines or other penalties for pet owners who allow their dogs to roam the neighborhood. In Massachusetts, for example, citizens can file a complaint, at which point animal control will attempt to retrieve the dog and notify the owner.

Leash Laws

A loose dog automatically violates the laws in most municipalities. Leash laws require owners to restrain their dogs whenever they are outside of an enclosed area, and some cities dictate the length and type of acceptable leash. In Long Beach, California, for instance, leashes must be eight feet long or shorter, while New York City outlaws leashes longer than six feet. When a dog ventures onto your property at the end of an unlawfully long leash, his owner is in violation.

Injury Laws

If a strange dog injures a person or pet while on your property, the animal's owner might be liable for compensatory damages, and could be charged with a crime. Pennsylvania allows police officers and dog wardens to charge pet owners with harboring a dangerous dog if the animal has a history of unprovoked attacks on humans or other animals. Call the police if a stray dog has behaved aggressively, or attacked a person or pet on your property.

Property Damage Laws

A dog roaming free on private or public property might raid trash cans, chew mailbox posts or otherwise damage property. Local dog laws often impose a fine or other penalty on the owners of loose dogs, especially when the animals have been destructive. Calling the dog warden or animal control office is the best way to ensure prompt removal of the dog and to avoid future damage inflicted by the same animal.

Health Code Laws

Some communities impose laws on pet owners that require them to retrieve excrement when their dogs defecate on public or private property. Residents who violate this law in Iowa City, for example, can be fined up to $40 per occurrence. It is almost impossible to prove that someone has violated this law, however, unless you catch him or her in the act.