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animal welfare

A guide to the laws on pet ownership

As responsible pet parents, we must follow laws to keep our pets and the people around them safe. Here’s a list of federal and state-specific pet ownership laws.

Updated September 20, 2021

Created By

Will Hank,

📷 by Jeffrey F Lin

Being a pet parent of a dog, cat, bird, or another pet is an enormous responsibility. Besides acting as a caretaker and providing a happy life for your pet, you must be aware of the numerous local, state, and federal laws surrounding pet ownership in the United States.

Between leash laws, dog bite laws, breed-specific legislation, and more, learning about pet ownership laws can be super overwhelming. So, we’ve gathered all the information you’ll need to educate yourself on the important pet laws in your city or state.

What rights do animals have?

Do animals have rights in America? According to most federal and state laws in the U.S legal system, animals like pets and livestock are considered property, with little to no legal rights. U.S animal protection laws vary from state to state. However, some federal mandates, like the 1966 Animal Welfare Act, were implemented nationwide to combat animal cruelty and neglect. This mandate also set standards regarding care, treatment, and transport of animals.

Numerous state and federal dog laws have been enacted since then, but the ongoing status of dogs, cats, and other animals as “property” remains among the largest hurdles to ensuring equal treatment of pet owners and animal caretakers nationwide.

Federal laws on pet ownership

Despite the numerous local and state laws surrounding pet ownership, there are surprisingly few animal protection laws in the United States at the federal level. Some statutes seek solely to govern the treatment of wildlife, and others concern the ownership of farm animals like livestock. Certain regulations, however, have been implemented specifically in regards to protections for dogs, cats, birds, and other household pets. Other regulations cover issues like:

  • Dog registration and licenses
  • Proof of vaccinations
  • Adoption laws
  • Questions of liability following injuries or accidents.

The 1966 Animal Welfare Act remains the primary federal animal protection law in the United States, however several other regulations have been enacted in the following decades to help better address issues of legality surrounding pet ownership.

Animal Welfare Act (1966). This landmark piece of legislation established a minimum set of standards for the handling, care, treatment, and transportation of animals including dogs, cats, and other pets. It also established guidelines for the breeding and sale of puppies, and put in place restrictions on practices deemed as cruelty, such as dogfighting, cockfighting, and more.

Endangered Species Act (1973). This law authorized the listing of certain species as endangered, and prohibits the capture, transport, and sale of endangered species. It’s enactment has aimed to cut down on the market for exotic, endangered animals being sold and kept as pets.

Pets Evacuation and Transport Standards Act (2006). This law amended the prior Disaster Relief and Emergency Act to implement preparedness plans and address the needs of individuals with pets and/or service animals following major disasters or emergencies.

Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act (2007). Passed amidst the infamous Michael Vick dogfighting scandal, this law amends the Animal Welfare Act, enforcing stricter punishments for offenders participating in animal fighting.

Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (2007 amendment).  Amending the original FDCA law passed back in 1938, this statute introduces regulatory safety standards involving the production, processing, and labeling of pet food nationwide.

Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act (2010). This law sought to address the disturbing trend of animal cruelty videos being spread across the internet, specifically, content showing the intentional torture or killing of animals.

Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (2019). Amending the above 2010 act, this regulation sought to impose harsher penalties on the crimes depicted by those producing and sharing animal cruelty videos.

👉 In 2020, England passed Lucy’s Law which makes puppy farms illegal in England. However, there’s still no federal legislation that makes them illegal in the United States.

Do you know the pet ownership laws in your state?

While federal animal protection laws provide broad regulations, many states and local governments and courts have their own sets of laws. State laws surrounding animal protection vary across the country, with many factors such as history, geography, and politics coming into play.

Besides broad pet ownership laws protecting against animal cruelty, many states also have laws governing dog ownership in specific situations. Among these statutes are leash laws, tether laws, dog bite laws, breed-specific legislation, and more. Naturally, some parts of the country have stricter animal protection laws than others. Staying informed on animal laws no matter where you live is an important part of responsible pet ownership.

Learn where your state sits on the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s annual U.S. State Animal Protection Laws rankings, and read on for detailed state-by-state breakdowns.

Overview of pet laws by state

Law How many states have them
Leash Varies at the local/municipal level
Protect animals left in parked vehicles Approximately 31 states
Tether 23 states and D.C.
Liability dog bites 36 states
Prohibit municipal regulation of dogs by breed 21 states

Pet laws in the 50 states and D.C.

Alabama

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Alabama’s dog bite laws state that owners of “vicious or dangerous” animals are liable for any bites or injuries caused to others.  Additionally, the owner or caretaker may be held liable for dog bites occurring anywhere the victim has a legal right to be at that time.

Breed-specific laws: None

Alaska

Leash laws: None

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: None

Arizona

Leash laws: Arizona’s leash laws give local counties, cities, and towns the ability to pass legislation for the control and restraint of dogs in public. Statewide, dogs aren’t allowed off-leash in public parks or on public school property unless properly restrained or enclosed in a car or crate.

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Under Arizona law, leaving a dog unattended in a car in considered animal cruelty. Any person who uses reasonable force to remove a confined animal from a car shall not be held liable for damages, so long as they were acting in good faith out of concern for the animal’s welfare.

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Arizona dog bite laws state that injury to any person or damage to any property by an unconstrained dog will be the full responsibility of the dog owner, even if the incident occurred on the owner’s private property.

Breed-specific laws: Arizona law prohibits any legislation that is specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

Arkansas

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: None

California

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: California law criminalizes the act of leaving an animal confined in a car unattended. A 2016 amendment provides liability protection to persons acting in the best interests of an animal to rescue it from a vehicle.

Tether laws: California’s tether laws prohibit the tethering, chaining, or tying up of any dog to a tree, fence, or another stationary object. An exception includes the temporary tethering for a reasonable period of time in order to complete short tasks.

Liability laws for dog bites: California’s dog bite laws state that injury to any person or damage to any property by an unconstrained dog will be the full responsibility of the dog owner, even if the incident occurred on the owner’s private property.

Breed-specific laws: California law prohibits any legislation that is specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

Colorado

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Colorado law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles without liability, so long as there was reasonable belief that the animal was in danger.

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Colorado dog bite laws hold owners liable only if the victim suffers serious bodily harm or death from a dog bite. The law applies to public and private property.

Breed-specific laws: Colorado law prohibits any legislation that is specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

Connecticut

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Connecticut law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles without liability, so long as there was reasonable belief that the animal was in danger.

Tether laws: Connecticut dog tether laws require specific standards for tethering dogs.  For instance, tethers shorter than eight feet, tethers with weights, tethers that don’t prevent tangling,  and choke or prong collars on tethered dogs are prohibited. Dogs are also prohibited from being tethered outside in extreme weather conditions.

Liability laws for dog bites: Connecticut dog bite laws hold owners liable for dog bites, unless the victim was trespassing or teasing or tormenting the dog.

Breed-specific laws: Connecticut law prohibits any legislation that is specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

Delaware

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Delaware law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles without liability, so long as there was reasonable belief that the animal was in danger, and a reasonable attempt was made to contact the car owner.

Tether laws: Delaware dog tether laws require specific standards for tethering dogs.  For instance, tethers shorter than ten feet, tethers that don’t prevent tangling,  and choke or prong collars on tethered dogs are prohibited. Dogs are also prohibited from being tethered outside in extreme weather conditions, and dogs may not be left tethered unattended for longer than two hours.

Liability laws for dog bites: Delaware dog bite laws hold owners liable for dog bites, unless the victim was trespassing or teasing or tormenting the dog.

Breed-specific laws: Delaware law prohibits any legislation that is specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

D.C.

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: D.C. dog tether laws prohibit “cruelty” chains, including tethers that cause a dog to choke, and ones that do not allow them to access food/water or to escape harm.

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: None

Florida

Leash laws: None

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Florida law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles without liability, so long as there was reasonable belief that the animal was in danger.

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Florida dog bite laws state that owners will be held liable for dog bites, but negligence on the part of the victim may reduce liability for the dog owner. Owners are also not liable if there’s a “bad dog” sign prominently displayed on their property.

Breed-specific laws: Florida law prohibits any legislation that is specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

Georgia

Leash laws: None

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Georgia dog bite law holds any owner of a “vicious or dangerous animal” of any kind liable for a bite or injury, as long as the victim didn’t provoke the bite on their own.

Breed-specific laws: None

Hawaii

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: Hawaii dog tether laws state that the tethering of a dog by means of a choke, prong, or pinch collar is prohibited and will be considered animal cruelty.

Liability laws for dog bites: Hawaii dog bite laws hold owners liable for dog bites, unless the victim was trespassing or teasing or tormenting the dog.

Breed-specific laws: None

Idaho

Leash laws: None

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: None

Illinois

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Illinois law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles , but only by an animal control officer or law enforcement officer, and so long as there was reasonable belief that the animal was in danger.

Tether laws: Illinois dog tether laws require specific standards for tethering dogs. For instance, tethers shorter than ten feet, tethers that don’t prevent tangling, and choke or prong collars on tethered dogs are prohibited.

Liability laws for dog bites: Illinois dog bite laws hold owners liable for unprovoked dog bites where the victim was conducting him or herself “peacefully and lawfully.”

Breed-specific laws: Illinois law states that any dog labeled “vicious” shall not be done so on the basis of breed.

Indiana

Leash laws: None

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Indiana law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles provided certain conditions are met, such as attempts to contact law enforcement, and use of no more than necessary force. Anyone not meeting the conditions may be held liable for up to one-half of the fees for vehicle damages.

Tether laws: Indiana dog tether laws require specific standards for tethering dogs.  For instance, tethers shorter than three times the length of the dog, tethers that choke the dog, and tethers too heavy to allow the dog to move are prohibited.

Liability laws for dog bites: Indiana dog bite laws hold owners liable for unprovoked dog bites where the victim was conducting him or herself peaceably and in a lawful location.

Breed-specific laws: None

Iowa

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Iowa dog bite laws hold owners liable for unprovoked dog bites, except when the victim was committing an unlawful act.

Breed-specific laws:  None

Kansas

Leash laws: None

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Kansas law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles provided certain conditions are met, such as attempts to contact law enforcement, and use of no more than necessary force.

Tether law: None

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: None

Kentucky

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Kentucky dog bite laws states that any owner whose dog causes damage to a person, property, or livestock, shall be held liable for the damage.

Breed-specific laws: None

Louisiana

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Louisiana law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles provided certain conditions are met, such as attempts to contact the car owner, and remaining with the animal in a safe location until first responders arrive.

Tether laws: Louisiana dog tether laws declare it unlawful to tether or restrain any animal in a way that is inhumane, cruel, or detrimental to its welfare.

Liability laws for dog bites: Louisiana dog bite laws state the owners shall be held liable for any unprovoked dog bites which the owner could have prevented.

Breed-specific laws: None

Maine

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Maine law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles, but only by an animal control officer, law officer, firefighter, or another authorized person.

Tether laws: Maine dog tether laws declare it unlawful to tether or restrain any animal in a way that is inhumane, cruel, or detrimental to its welfare. Tethers must meet certain conditions to provide proper shelter and humanely clean conditions.

Liability laws for dog bites: Maine dog bite laws state the owners shall be held liable for any unprovoked dog bites which did not occur on the owner or keeper’s private property.

Breed-specific laws: Maine law prohibits any legislation that is specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

Maryland

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Maryland law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles, but only by an animal control officer, law officer, firefighter, or other authorized person, and only if certain conditions are met.

Tether laws: Maryland dog tether laws  prohibit tethering dogs in ways that restrict movement, and also outlines conditions to provide sanitary conditions and shelter to tethered dogs.

Liability laws for dog bites: Maryland dog bite laws hold owners liable for dog bites, unless the victim was trespassing or teasing or tormenting the dog.

Breed-specific laws: None

Massachusetts

Leash laws:  None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Massachusetts law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles without liability by an animal control officer, law officer, firefighter, or other authorized person. Any other person may remove the animal if certain conditions are met.

Tether laws: Massachusetts dog tether laws prohibit the tethering of any dog for longer than 5 hours in a 24-hour period, and require conditions for tethered dogs to be treated humanely.

Liability laws for dog bites: Massachusetts dog bite laws hold owners liable for dog bites, unless the victim was trespassing or teasing or tormenting the dog.

Breed-specific laws: Massachusetts law states that no dog may be labeled “a dangerous dog” solely on the basis of breed.

Michigan

Leash laws: Michigan law states that it’s unlawful for any dog to stray from their owner unless properly restrained by a leash.

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: Michigan dog tether laws state that any tether must be at least three times the length of the dog and must include a harness or non-choke collar.

Liability laws for dog bites: Michigan dog bite laws hold owners liable for dog bites, unless the victim was trespassing or teasing or tormenting the dog.

Breed-specific laws: None

Minnesota

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Minnesota law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles, but only by a peace officer, humane agent, or other authorized person, and only if certain conditions are met.

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Minnesota dog bite laws hold owners liable for unprovoked dog bites where the victim was conducting him or herself peaceably and in a lawful location.

Breed-specific laws: Minnesota law states that no dog may be labeled “a dangerous dog” solely on the basis of breed.

Mississippi

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: None

Missouri

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Missouri dog bite laws hold owners liable for dog bites, unless the victim was trespassing or teasing or tormenting the dog.

Breed-specific laws: None

Montana

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Montana dog bite laws hold owners liable for dog bites, unless the victim was trespassing or teasing or tormenting the dog, and as long as the incident occurred in an incorporated city or town.

Breed-specific laws: None

Nebraska

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Nebraska dog bite laws hold owners liable for dog bites, unless the victim was trespassing. These laws don’t apply to military or police working dogs.

Breed-specific laws: None

Nevada

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Nevada law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles, but only by a peace officer, animal control officer, or other authorized person, and only if certain conditions are met.

Tether laws: Nevada dog tether laws prohibit the tethering of any dog for longer than 14 hours in a 24-hour period, and require conditions for tethered dogs to be treated humanely.

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: Nevada law states that no dog may be labeled dangerous or vicious solely on the basis of breed.

New Hampshire

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: New Hampshire law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles, but only by a law enforcement or humane agent. Leaving a dog in a car in harmful conditions also warrants animal cruelty in New Hampshire.

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: New Hampshire dog bite laws hold owners liable for dog bites, unless the victim was trespassing.

Breed-specific laws: None

New Jersey

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: New Jersey laws states that leaving an animal unattended in a vehicle in inhumane conditions constitutes cruelty.

Tether laws: New Jersey dog tether laws require specific standards for tethering dogs, and prohibits tethers shorter than 15 feet, choke collars, tethering dogs younger than four months old, and more.

Liability laws for dog bites: New Jersey dog bite laws state that injury to any person or damage to any property by an unconstrained dog will be the full responsibility of the dog owner, even if the incident occurred on the owner’s private property.

Breed-specific laws: New Jersey law prohibits any legislation that’s specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

New Mexico

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: None

New York

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: New York law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles without liability by a humane officer, law officer, other authorized person, if certain conditions are met.

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws:  New York law prohibits any legislation that is specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

North Carolina

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehiclesNorth Carolina law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles, but only by an animal control officer, law officer, or other authorized person, and only if certain conditions are met.

Tether laws: North Carolina dog tether laws declare it unlawful to tether or restrain any animal in a malicious manner.

Liability laws for dog bites: North Carolina dog bite laws hold owners responsible for any damage caused by an unaccompanied dog running at large.

Breed-specific laws: None

North Dakota

Leash laws: None

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: North Dakota law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles, but only by a law enforcement officer, and only if certain conditions are met.

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: None

Ohio

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Ohio law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles without liability, so long as there was reasonable belief that the animal was in danger.

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Ohio dog bite laws hold owners liable for dog bites, unless the victim was trespassing, teasing or tormenting the dog, or committing a criminal offense.

Breed-specific laws: None

Oklahoma

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Oklahoma dog bite laws hold owners liable for unprovoked dog bites where the victim was in a place where they had a lawful right to be.

Breed-specific laws: Oklahoma law prohibits any legislation that’s specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

Oregon

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Oregon law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles provided certain conditions are met, such as attempts to contact law enforcement, and use of no more than necessary force.

Tether laws: Oregon dog tether laws prohibit the tethering of any dog for longer than 15 hours in a 24-hour period, and require conditions for tethered dogs to be treated humanely.

Liability laws for dog bites: Oregon dog bite laws hold owners liable for injuries caused by unprovoked dog bites.

Breed-specific laws: None

Pennsylvania

Leash laws: Pennsylvania leash laws state that dogs must be kept firmly secured by means of a collar or chain, or under the reasonable control of the owner while hunting or field training.

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Pennsylvania law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles, but only by an animal control officer, law officer, or other authorized person, and only if certain conditions are met.

Tether laws: Pennsylvania dog tether laws prohibit the tethering of any dog for longer than 9 hours in a 24-hour period, and require conditions for tethered dogs to be treated humanely.

Liability laws for dog bites: Pennsylvania dog bite laws hold owners fully responsible for damages caused by dog bites. These laws don’t apply to military or police working dogs.

Breed-specific laws: Pennsylvania law prohibits any legislation that is specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

Rhode Island

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Rhode Island law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles, but only by an animal control officer, law officer, or other authorized person, and only if certain conditions are met.

Tether laws: Rhode Island dog tether laws prohibit the tethering of any dog for longer than 14 hours in a 24-hour period, and require conditions for tethered dogs to be treated humanely.

Liability laws for dog bites: Rhode Island dog bite laws hold owners fully responsible for damages caused by dog bites.

Breed-specific laws: Rhode Island law prohibits any legislation that is specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

South Carolina

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: South Carolina dog bite laws state that unprovoked dog bites will be the full responsibility of the dog owner, even if the incident occurred on the owner’s private property.

Breed-specific laws: South Carolina law states that no dog may be labeled a dangerous animal solely on the basis of breed.

South Dakota

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: South Dakota law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles, but only by a peace officer, humane agent, or other authorized person, and only if certain conditions are met.

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: No local government may enact, maintain, or enforce any ordinance, policy, resolution, or another enactment that is specific to the breed of a dog.

Tennessee

Leash laws: Tennessee leash laws state that owners have a responsibility to keep dogs under reasonable control at all times.

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Tennessee law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles without liability, so long as there was reasonable belief that the animal was in danger.

Tether laws: Tennessee dog tether laws prohibits the tethering of any dog in a manner that results in injury to the dog.

Liability laws for dog bites: Tennessee dog bite laws hold owners liable for unprovoked dog bites where the victim was in a place where they had a lawful right to be.

Breed-specific laws: None

Texas

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicle: None

Tether laws: Texas dog tether laws prohibit the tethering of any dog in extreme weather, tethering dogs overnight, and require conditions for tethered dogs to be treated humanely.

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: Texas law prohibits any legislation that is specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

Utah

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Utah dog bite laws hold owners fully responsible for damages caused by dog bites. These laws don’t apply to police working dogs.

Breed-specific laws: Utah law prohibits any legislation that’s specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

Vermont

Leash laws: None

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Vermont law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles without liability by a humane officer or rescue workers. Any other person may remove the animal if certain conditions are met.

Tether laws: Vermont dog tether laws declare it unlawful to tether or restrain any animal in a way that’s inhumane, cruel, or detrimental to its welfare.

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: None

Virginia

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Virginia law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles, but only by an animal control officer, law officer, or other authorized person, and only if certain conditions are met.

Tether laws: Virginia dog tether laws require specific standards for tethering dogs, and prohibits tethers shorter than 15 feet, or tethers with weighted attachments.

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: Virginia law states that no canine may be labeled vicious or dangerous solely on the basis of breed.

Washington

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Washington law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles, but only by an animal control officer, law officer, or other authorized person, and only if certain conditions are met.

Tether laws: Washington dog tether laws state that certain conditions must be met to provide tethered dogs with proper shelter and humanely clean conditions.

Liability laws for dog bites: Washington dog bite laws hold owners fully responsible for damages caused by dog bites. These laws don’t apply to police working dogs.

Breed-specific laws: Washington law prohibits any legislation that is specific to breeds to be passed on the city, town, or local level.

West Virginia

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: West Virginia laws state that leaving an animal unattended and confined in a vehicle constitutes cruelty.

Tether laws: West Virginia dog tether laws deem it unlawful to intentionally, recklessly, or cruelly chain or tether an animal.

Liability laws for dog bites: West Virginia dog bite laws hold owners responsible for any damage caused by an unaccompanied dog running at large.

Breed-specific laws: None

Wisconsin

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles: Wisconsin law allows for the rescue of animals from locked vehicles without liability, so long as there was a reasonable belief that the animal was in danger.

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: Wisconsin dog bite laws hold owners fully responsible for damages caused by dog bites. These laws don’t apply to police working dogs.

Breed-specific laws: None

Wyoming

Leash laws: None *

Laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles:  None

Tether laws: None

Liability laws for dog bites: None

Breed-specific laws: None

*While statewide leash laws are somewhat uncommon in the U.S., many of these states have laws prohibiting dogs “running at large” or roaming freely while unaccompanied by an owner or caretaker. Additionally, leash laws are often applied at the country, city, or local level, rather than statewide.

📷 by Gary Samaha

Local ordinances about pet ownership

While federal and state laws provide broad regulations surrounding pet ownership, local ordinances and municipal laws set specific standards for cities, towns, and other localities. For instance, some cities may allow an unlimited amount of dogs to be owned, while others might impose a maximum limit.

Other ordinances exist in some places to regulate the ownership of exotic pets. Local ordinances may vary greatly by area, so it’s important for dog owners like yourself to research and learn about pet ownership laws in your own county, city, or town.

  • Leash and “running at large” laws. Statewide leash laws are uncommon, but most municipalities have some form of local law prohibiting dogs from running or roaming freely while not under the control of an owner.
  • Number of companion animals owned. A common local ordinance is one imposing a limit on the number of pets allowed in a household. Some areas may limit pets to just two, while others may allow for more. Certain areas may also require a permit to keep a certain number of pets.
  • Dangerous dog provisions. While many states have outlawed breed-specific legislation, it still exists on local levels in some places. Depending on the locale, dogs may be deemed “dangerous” based solely on breed, or as a result of a history of biting or violence.
  • Animal waste provisions. Removal of pet waste is a common dispute among dog owners, and many locales have instituted provisions enforcing proper dog waste removal.
  • Animal noise provisions. Excessive dog barking can be a nuisance to neighbors, so many locales have municipal ordinances in place to help address and curb excessive noise.
  • Vaccinations. Many local governments require dogs and cats to have up-to-date vaccinations, particularly against rabies. In some cases, dogs without rabies vaccines who are involved in bite incidents may be quarantined by animal control offices or a shelter for up to two weeks.

The bottom line on pet ownership laws

Owning a pet is a huge responsibility, and staying in line with federal, state, and local dog laws is an important part of any pet owner’s life. Pet ownership laws exist for the overall safety and well-being of pets and pet owners alike, and the world is a better place for all when these laws are followed.

Failure to adhere to pet ownership laws could result in fines and legal penalties, as well as injury to your furry friend, yourself, or others. It’s our job to be the best pet parents we can possibly be, and staying on top of important pet ownership rules is a great first step.