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California Leash Law

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Californians love their pets. Many cities in California have earned the title of most pet-friendly in the country, including San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento. California has some of the most progressive pet laws as well, including one recently passed law to treat pets more like children than property in divorce cases. As a pet owner in California, knowing the laws that relate to you is one of your duties. Obeying your county’s leash law, for example, could keep you and your pet safely out of trouble.

State vs. County Leash Laws

Universal leash laws are not common in the U.S. Only two states, Pennsylvania and Michigan, have leash laws that extend to every dog in the state. Most other states, including California, do not address the leashing of pets in statewide laws. Instead, they let counties enact municipal leash laws if desired. Several counties in California have passed laws requiring owners to leash and curb their pets in public (and private) areas.

  • LA County. Los Angeles County has a pet law that prohibits owners from letting their dogs run at large on public streets, parks, sidewalks and other public places. It is also against the law to allow dogs to run at large on private property the person does not own. A dog’s leash must not exceed six feet long.
  • Orange County. Orange County has a similar leash law to LA County. Its Code of Ordinances states that no one may have control of a dog on public property without using a chain, leash not exceeding six feet long or another type of physical restraint.
  • Sacramento County. Pet owners in Sacramento County, California may not let their pets run at large. Pet owners are responsible for properly restraining their dogs when on public property, such as using leashes.

Find out the specific leash law in your county, if it has one. If your county does not have a leash law, you must still use common sense in controlling or restraining your dog. If your animal poses a threat to other people or properties, use a leash to control your pet and prevent incidents. Negligent pet control, resulting in an attack, could lead to pet owner liability for damages.

California Dog Bite Laws

Like many states, California has a strict liability dog bite law. Civil Code 3342 states that a pet owner will be legally responsible for any damages a dog causes, regardless of negligence on the pet owner’s part. If the attack happened while the victim was in a public place or private place with the owner’s permission, the pet owner will be liable.

A victim does not have to prove the owner failed to obey California’s leash laws, or even that the owner negligently allowed a pet to run at large. Evidence that the dog bite caused the injuries and that the victim was not trespassing will typically be enough to make the victim eligible for compensation in most cases.

Allowing a pet to run at large could point to liability for a dog attack. In a negligence-based injury claim, a victim could prove a pet owner’s liability by establishing that the owner reasonably should have had the dog on a leash, yet failed to properly control the animal.

If a reasonable and prudent pet owner would have used a leash and prevented the incident, an owner could be responsible for damages in California. The rules of negligence per se may apply if the pet owner broke a county-wide leash law. Negligence per se holds a person responsible without needing further proof of negligence, simply for breaking a law. Understanding the liability rules in your particular dog-related case may take help from a dog bite attorney in Orange County.