California has universal strict liability laws that apply to dog bites and animal attacks. However, dog leash laws are not universal, and navigating the laws that apply to dog owners can be confusing depending on where the attack occurred. 

dog leash lawIf an attack occurred on a dog owner’s property – the owner of the dog may not have been required to have the dog restrained. Regardless of whether a dog was leashed or not, the owner of the dog may be liable for your injuries (the major exception being if you were illegally trespassing). If the attack occurred off of the owner’s property – such as in a neighborhood, at a “dog beach”, or even in a pet store, the owner may still be liable. The owner may also be required to have their dog restrained. 

At the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates, we have seen just how traumatic being bitten by a dog is. The following blog will address some of the frequently asked questions about dog leash laws in California. If you have questions about a potential dog bite case in California, contact us for a free case evaluation

Are Dogs Supposed To Be On A Leash In California?

While there is no universal law requiring dogs to be kept on a leash, in most California cities or counties, dogs are required to be kept on a leash when they are away from the home. Below are summaries of some of the leash laws in Southern California: 

  • Los Angeles: A dog must be restrained on a substantial leash which should not exceed six feet in length. The person must be capable of controlling the dog. 
  • Orange County: Your dog must be leashed anytime it is off your property. Designated ‘dog parks’ in Orange County lawfully allow the absence of a leash.
  • San Bernardino County: All animals must be restrained when they are on public property or unenclosed private property.
  • San Diego County: Away from their own property, dogs must be kept on a hand-held leash. Dog owners must be able to restrain their dog, and leashes should not be longer than six feet. 

Dog owners may be fined if they have their dogs off leash in a county or city that prohibits it. In many areas, leash laws are strictly enforced. 

Are Retractable Leashes Legal In California?

Municipal or county dog leash laws do not specifically name retractable leashes as prohibited. However, leash laws which name a length of leash make retractable leash areas a legal gray area. 

Retractable leashes can allow your dog much more freedom on a walk. For small dogs that like to sniff and explore, retractable leashes can make walks more enjoyable for humans and dogs. However, retractable leashes can be dangerous if the dog is out of control or the dog walker / owner is unaware of how retractable leashes can be a safety hazard. For large dogs, especially dogs which may lunge or take off suddenly. 

Critics of retractable leashes will argue that retractable leashes encourage dogs to pull. When a dog lunges quickly, the acceleration can cause a leash handle to fly out of a dog owner’s hand. If a dog changes direction suddenly, a retractable leash can also potentially knock over other individuals or children in the vicinity, or cause burn injuries. If a dog knocks over a person while on a leash, dog owners may be liable for the victim’s injuries. 

How Long Can Dog Leash Be In California?

The length of leash required is typically established by city or county. The common maximum length for dog leashes is 6 feet in length. Check local laws in your area. 

Does An Electronic Collar Count As A Leash?

A remote dog collar, training collar, or e-collar may be used in your own yard, but they are not the same as a leash. If a leash is required by city or county ordinance, you should not expect any remote control collar to be accepted as a leash by law enforcement. 

Do Emotional Support Dogs Or Service Animals Have To Be On A Leash?

According to a FAQ published by the Americans with Disabilities Act service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places. The major exception is when a leash interferes with the service animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents use of these devices. In those situations, a dog must be immediately leashed upon completion of a specific task. 

Understand Your Legal Rights Following a Dog Attack in California 

Dog bites can cause physical and emotional trauma for the adults and children who are victims of them. Many people do not pursue a dog bite claim because they are embarrassed. However, California’s dog bite laws offer relief for victims of dog bites. 

If you’ve been bitten by a dog, you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation for medical care expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. Even if the dog has never displayed aggressive tendencies or bitten anyone before, you may still have a valid case for your injuries. Money for a dog bite claim is frequently covered by a property owner’s home insurance policy. For more information, contact the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates today. 

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