It’s The Law

Law Books
(Image via Mr. T in DC, courtesy of Flickr)

Yesterday I clicked on an innocuous looking Facebook link, to this article about the reasons you should keep your dog on leash. And then I scrolled down to read the comments, which are a train wreck of political news story proportions.

One of the commenters, defending her right to have her dog off leash whenever she wanted, pointed out that most city leash laws specify a maximum leash-length of six feet. (This was an attempt to take down the blog author for using a long line.)

I have complex feelings about leashes and leash laws, which isn’t the point here. Instead, this sent me off to check my city leash ordinances. I haven’t bothered to check because I have, honestly, never seen anyone ticket even an off-leash dog here. I *really* doubt they would ticket me for my long line, which I only use under the narrowest of circumstances. What I found is actually pretty ambiguous:

My animal, of any kind, can’t be “at large” unless he is in a designated area or on private property and prevented access to the street. “At large” means that the animal is not in my “direct physical control.” I would assume that direct physical control means a leash. There is no mention of verbal control, which is what the local off-leash areas add. Since the code is written to apply equally to, say, my donkey, it doesn’t specify a leash length. Is a poorly-wielded retractable leash physical control? A ten foot leash? A 50 foot leash? Rational brain says that this is contingent on the situation, and that as long as my leash is short enough to keep my dog from bothering people in that particular context that it’s fine. I do wonder if animal control has a favored interpretation.

We do have, however, some gems. Remember, I live in a substantial city:

–It is illegal to drive livestock down city streets without permission. (Drive a la John Wayne, not drive in a truck)
–It is illegal to race a horse down city streets, or to use your livestock to pull an inadequately greased wagon.
–It is illegal to “hitch or stake out” your animals in such a way that they can block the sidewalk.
–It is illegal, when transporting the manure away from your stables, to let said manure fall out of the truck and into the street.

My favorite: you can get a waiver for any of the already pretty loose chicken laws if you can provide animal control with a note from your doctor saying that fresh eggs are necessary for your health. I seriously wonder when someone used that last.

You can check your local ordinances via Municode.


4 thoughts on “It’s The Law

  1. I couldn’t find my leash law there, but Delilah is on a 15 footer and Sampson’s leash is the traditional 6 foot. Sampson is usually under verbal control but if he doesn’t respond I put him on leash.

    I imagine some of the laws are on the books from many years ago, and if they took them off someone would try it. 🙂


    1. I’m sure it’s hard to draw a line. “Yep, no mules left in the city limits. We can repeal that one.” And, weirdly, there are still some farm animals around. My husband works in a big industrial area, and you get off the freeway, drive past a cow pasture (and a strip club), then viola! dozens of businesses.


  2. Yeah, I’m ambivalent about leash laws myself. I interpret the law to mean the dog must be under perfect control. But most people who think their dogs are under voice control are fooling themselves. My dogs were attacked several times by a dog living with one of these delusional neighbors.

    On quiet streets in my neighborhood, I’ll drop Honey’s leash and let her drag it. But if someone comes by I pick it up. I know she’ll come to me when I call her. But if that person is afraid of dogs, they don’t know that. And I believe in respecting animals and people, not just one or the other.

    The other livestock laws are hilarious. I used to work at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania where we had many pictures of people driving their flocks of sheep down Broad Street in the 19th century. Once you see a few of those images, you know where the laws came from.


    1. I do walk Silas on his long line when we go out on the sidewalk. I don’t want to add *any* stress from him pulling on the leash.

      One of my neighbors walks a pair of little dogs off leash, and they’re perfectly well behaved. With people, anyway; I always scope the streets for dogs before I take Silas out. Again with the “no stress” approach.

      The people who are afraid of dogs angle is one that I wish more dog owners took seriously. I mean, you wouldn’t let your pet tarantula crawl on someone because “it can’t hurt you.”


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