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What You Need to Know About California Dog Leash Laws

As a dog owner or as a person who lives in a residential neighborhood where there are many other dogs present, it is important to educate yourself about dog leash laws. This is because you could find yourself either the victim of a dog bit accident or being accused in an injury claim when another person has sustained injuries due to your dog.

Unfortunately, every day people suffer catastrophic injuries from dog attacks. These incidents can even be deadly and can lead to a fear of dogs particularly for young children or even complicated infections. It is critical for every owner of a pet to understand their responsibility to obey California’s leash laws when in public places. If you fail to comply with this and your dog bites somebody, you could be held liable for what your dog does to another animal or human.

Can I Have My Dog Off of Leash?

In the vast majority of municipalities in California you must keep your dog on a leash. There are no universal laws in the state requiring owners to keep every single dog on a leash, but you’ll want to check with your county because most counties do have their own ordinances with this exact same requirement.

While it might not be the law in a rural area, if you take your dog to a metropolitan location in California, you will need to have your dog on a leash in public places. As one example, the Leash Law in Los Angeles County states that owners must restrain all dogs on leashes that are no longer than 6 feet when on shared areas of private property or while on public property. If you are on another person’s private property in Los Angeles County and you have received their consent to allow the dog to be off leash, this is acceptable.

In the event that your dog has been deemed dangerous by your local county, you’ll need to check whether any stricter dog restraint rules apply to you. Los Angeles County is not unique. In fact, many counties and locations in California have similar dog leash laws. You will need to verify the specifics of the leash requirements within your local area or county before taking your animal out. If you see signs that indicate that a pet can be off leash in public places, such as a designated dog beach or a dog park, this is acceptable but you will want to clarify the individual city’s requirements.

Can I Let My Dog Roam Free?

Also known as running at large, it is against the law in most cities in California to let your dog roam without a leash or on their own. You must have your dog on a leash, according to county leash laws when you are off of your own private property. Your dog has to remain on a leash in most counties in California if you do not have a wall or fence bordering your front lawn. This is true even if you dog is on your private property.

The only time that the dog can be off leash in your yard is if there is a fence, barrier or wall that prevents that dog from roaming free and separates the dog from the public.

Violations of County Leash Laws

State law applies if and when your dog bites somebody else. California is what’s known as a strict liability dog bite state. A person who is injured as a result of your dog biting them will not have to prove that you have previous knowledge of the dog’s violent behaviors or that you were negligent in managing the dog at the time in order to recover compensation. Instead, as the owner of the pet you can be held strictly liable for damages whether or not you were negligent in controlling or leashing your pet.

The purpose of this strict dog bite law is to encourage pet owners to step up and take responsibility for restraining their pets. It is even more important for you to understand the value or need of restraining your pet in that animal has been involved in previous attacks or is known to be aggressive. You might also be responsible for fines and penalties as a result of violating your county’s leash laws. It can be very expensive to treat an injury from a dog bite and you do not want to find yourself in this situation.

What About Retractable Leashes?

One issue that can occasionally arise in dog bite personal injury cases is whether or not the owner of the pet has sufficient control when using a retractable leash. This is particularly true if the leash is in the unlocked position at the time that the dog bite occurs. The majority of retractable leashes allow a dog to move further distances from the owner than a traditional six foot leash. Depending on the kind of retractable leash in fact, the dog may be eligible to go up to 30 feet away. The level of control that a pet owner can exert over their pet in certain circumstances is much more limited with a retractable leash.

There are even cases in which you can lose control of a fully leashed dog depending on the circumstances in the environment. You could be held accountable for failing to properly restrain your dog and could be involved in a legal claim.

What Happens if I’ve Already Been Bit?

If you were bitten by someone else’s dog, this information might prompt you to file an injury lawsuit. Since owners are responsible for their dogs, you might be able to recover compensation for your injuries and medical bills through a homeowners’ insurance claim. A lawyer might be necessary to assist you with a California dog bite claim.

For more information about what to do if you have already been a victim in a serious dog bit accident, schedule a time to speak with a dedicated attorney in your area.   Our California dog bite law office is here to help.    

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