The absence of leash laws and dog-trespass laws makes a community unsafe for people and other dogs. There are about 70 million dogs in the USA and many of them are killed or injured in fights every day. The fights usually include one or more unleashed dogs. The consequences often include high veterinary bills and long-lasting grief.
People are frequently among the victims of dog fights. Many of the dog mauling victims represented by Kenneth Phillips were bitten while trying to keep their dogs out of a fight. An eye surgeon bitten on the hand and unable to perform eye surgery, a young woman bitten on her arms and breasts, and an older lady whose finger was partially ripped off were all injured while trying to prevent a fight between their dogs and unleashed, vicious dogs.
A recent report established that 30% of dog bite fatalities resulted from groups of owned dogs that were freely roaming off the owner’s property. Some of these deaths might have been prevented through more stringent animal control laws and enforcement. For example, on November 30, 2003, three roaming pit bulls killed Jennifer Brooke, 40, in a rural part of Colorado. The three dogs had terrorized other neighbors, but when charges were brought against the owner, the case was dismissed because the county did not have laws governing dog attacks, according to county court records.
Urban and suburban areas need leash laws containing the following provisions:
- Every dog shall be leashed at all times except only when it is inside the residence of its owner, or upon the property of its owner and enclosed by a fence.
- A dog shall not be considered enclosed by a fence when and if the dog can pass through, under or over the fence, or the gate of the fence is not securely latched.
- A dog that can snap or bite a person through a fence shall not be considered enclosed by the fence.
- An electronic fence shall not be considered to be a fence, and an electronic leash shall not be considered to be a leash.
- A dog will be considered to be leashed only when the leash is six feet or less in length or is a retractable leash, and is being grasped by an adult, provided that if the dog is less than 20 pounds then the leash may be grasped by a person who is competent to handle the dog and is over 12 years of age.
- Notwithstanding the prior section, in the event that a dog on a retractable leash causes injury or death to a person or animal, the owners and the person holding the retractable leash shall be presumed to be in violation of this law unless it is proved that the leash was retracted to no more than six feet at the time of the injury or damage.
Communities also should enact laws that prevent trespassing by dogs. Whether or not on a leash, no dog shall be permitted upon property of anyone other than the dog’s owner, except with permission, which can be express or implied. Attorney Kenneth Phillips’ Model Dog Bite Laws contain leash requirements and provisions against dog-trespassing.