Leash Training

Dog Leash Laws – Requirements Per State

by Alison Page

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Do you know what the dog leash laws are in your home state?

Many dog owners are either blissfully unaware of their local leash laws and restrictions, or they’re unsure as to where their dogs can roam off-leash. Getting it wrong can land you in hot water with law enforcement, a hefty fine, or even prison time!

Read this guide to learn the leash laws in your home state and find out the leash requirements per state throughout the United States!

Dog Leash Laws in the US

Map of mainland United States of America

In several US states, there are state-wide leash laws and specific requirements. Those rules are called “Running at Large Statutes.” In states that don’t have “Running at Large Statutes,” leash requirements are governed by the local authority per town, city, county, borough, and municipality.

However, even in states where there are state-wide leash laws, the state governing body allows local governments to enforce their own leash requirements and laws. Many times, those local rules are stricter than those enforced by the state.

Dangerous Dogs

Some dog breeds, such as Pit Bulls and similar crossbreed dogs, are classed as dangerous breeds and must be leashed and muzzled for the public’s safety.

If you’re unsure about the leash laws in your state or town, contact your local government offices for advice.

ID Tags

Wherever you live in the US, your dog is required to carry ID tags bearing your contact information and a valid rabies vaccination tag.

In the event of a rabies outbreak, some states insist that dogs are confined in an adequate enclosure on the owner’s premises and are not permitted to be at large, even on a secure leash.


sad Stray dog

Some states restrict off-leash dogs by time or specific places.

For example, in Kentucky, if a dog is seen unaccompanied and roaming loose between sunset and sunrise, a peace officer or animal control officer may seize or even destroy the dog.

In North Carolina, you are not permitted to allow your dog to run at large at nighttime unless the pup is accompanied. Violating that county ordinance is a Class 3 misdemeanor, and you’re liable for any damage done by your dog to a property.

Female Dogs

Many states and city councils have separate leash laws applied to female dogs.  

For example, a female in heat must not be allowed at large in Arizona. Michigan law decrees that permitting a female to leave her owner’s premises is unlawful unless the dog is “properly held in leash.”

Dog Leash Laws – Requirements Per State

So, you can see that state-wide dog leash laws vary tremendously, depending on where you live.

In this part of our guide, you can check out the leash laws for your home state. 


Young pit bull terrier dog in harness

Your dog is not permitted to run at large in the stage of Alabama. Fido must be leashed when off your property or suitably confined within the property.

Contravention of that law can result in a fine of between $2 and $50.


Given the size and remoteness of the state of Alaska, it’s not surprising to learn that it does not have a state-wide leash law. 

However, local governments and city councils can make leash laws, and you should check with your local municipality for more information.


Arizona state law demands that your dog must be leashed with walking in a public park and on public school property.

No aggressive dog or a female dog in heat is permitted to be at large.


Person walking do at the park

There is no state-wide leash law in the state of Arkansas.

However, during rabies outbreaks, all dogs must be kept muzzled and confined to the owner’s premises. Local county ordinances can prevent dogs from running at large, causing injuries and annoyance.


In California, you are not permitted to allow a female dog in heat or in breeding conditions to run at large.


There is no state-wide leash law in Colorado. However, your dog must be under full control at all times, and no dog that’s not fully vaccinated is permitted to run at large.

Local governments can make leash laws for their municipalities, so you should check with your local animal control officer for more details. 


In the state of Connecticut, it’s unlawful for dogs to run at large. The only exception to that are dogs engaging in legal hunting activity.

If an owner allows a vicious dog to run loose and the animal bites someone, the owner can be fined up to $1,000 and could face a prison term of six months! Interestingly, guide dogs should also be leashed when out in public and must wear a distinguishing harness or orange-colored leash.


With the exception of farm dogs, pups cannot run loose in Delaware unless with a handler and under reasonable control.

In addition, from sunset to sunrise, your canine companion must be confined in an enclosure he can’t escape from or otherwise firmly secured so that he can’t stray from your premises.

If your dog is loose and bites someone, the dog’s handler is liable to a fine of $100 to $500 for the first offense and $750 to $1,500 for the second and any subsequent offenses.

District of Columbia

In DC, the Council and the Mayor are authorized to make, modify, and enforce leash laws.

Owners of female dogs must not permit their furry friends to roam at large while in heat. If you’re caught, you can be fined up to $20.


There is no state-wide leash law in Florida. So, you need to check with the city council in the area you’re planning to visit to find out what you and your dog can and cannot do there.


There’s no state-wide leash law in Georgia. Again, check with your area’s local animal control officer to find out what local leash regulations are imposed.


Dog in Hawaii

In Hawaii, you are not permitted to allow your dog to run at large on the public highway, in unfenced lots, and on the street.

In addition, a female dog in heat is not permitted to run at large.


There is no state-wide leash law in Idaho.


In the state of Illinois, you are not permitted to allow your dog to run at large.

In the event of a rabies outbreak, the Department of Agriculture can demand that all dogs are kept muzzled and restrained on a leash.


There is no state-wide leash law in Indiana.


Although Iowa doesn’t have a state-wide leash law, your dog is not permitted to run at large.

If your dog is found running loose and is not wearing a valid rabies vaccination tag, law enforcement officials or animal control officers are authorized to impound the pup.


Kansas doesn’t have a state-wide leash law.


Dog walk in the forest

In Kentucky, all female dogs in their heat cycle must be confined to a secure enclosure or in a building that prevents the pup from coming into contact with male dogs. The exception to that is for planned breeding.

If a dog is caught running at large between sunset and sunrise and not in the company of a responsible person, the dog can be seized by an animal control officer or peace officer.


Louisiana laws state that dogs must not run at large. In addition, a guide dog must be restrained on a leash when out in public.


With the exception of hunting dogs, canines are not permitted to run at large in Maine state.


In the state of Maryland, city councils and county ordinances can impose regulations for the capture and disposal of any dogs found running at large.


There’s no leash law in the state of Massachusetts.

However, the state requires that dogs be leashed on a public highway rest area. In addition, local municipalities are permitted to enact laws, so you should check with local councils or government departments in your area for more information.


In Michigan, dog owners must leash their dogs when the pup is away from home. A dog over six months of age must be officially registered and should always wear a collar.

In addition, female dogs in heat must be confined to their owner’s premises or kept on a leash when out in public areas.


White Shorkie in outdoor

There’s no state-wide leash law in Minnesota. However, any unlicensed dogs found running loose without a responsible person will be impounded.


There’s no state-wide leash law in Mississippi.

In this state, Local councils and governments can decree and enforce leash laws, so you should check with your local authority for leash laws in the local area.


In Missouri, there’s a “State Lands Leash Law.” That law states that your dog must be on a leash no longer than 10 feet when exercised on historic sites or in state parks. That means you cannot use a retractable leash in those areas.

In addition, Missouri also insists that dogs that have rabies or have been exposed to the disease must not run at large.


There’s no state-wide leash law in Montana.

In this state, local governments and municipalities are permitted to enact leash laws for their immediate areas.


Nebraska has unusual state leash laws in that in counties with a population exceeding 80,000, dogs are not permitted to run at large.

In those areas, any owner of a dog found running at large without a collar for ten days can be fined up to $25.


Dog on the Leash with Jogger

In Nevada, state leash laws state that dogs cannot run at large if the dog is found to be chasing, tracking, killing, attacking, or harassing wildlife in a state-owned wildlife management area.

New Hampshire

In beautiful New Hampshire, your dog is breaking the state law if it is running at large without a responsible person in areas where livestock or wildlife could be endangered. The exception to that is hunting and farm dogs.

In times of rabies outbreaks, officials in the local area can decree that dogs must be restrained and muzzled.

Nuisance dogs running at large will be impounded and could even be destroyed.

New Jersey

New Jersey state doesn’t have state-wide leash laws. Instead, the governing body of each city makes, amends, and enforces its own ordinances with regard to dogs and their control. In general, the running at large of dogs is prohibited or regulated.

New York

New York state relies on local government for leash laws. So, you need to ask your local authority or a law enforcement officer for guidance on what’s permitted in your local area regarding dogs on leashes and roaming free.

North Carolina

North Carolina does not permit dogs to run at large at night unless the pup is accompanied by the owner, a member of the owner’s family, or another responsible person who has the owner’s permission.

North Dakota

There is no state-wide leash law in North Dakota.


pug bites in a leash

The state leash law in Ohio decrees that all dogs must be properly leashed, confined, restrained, and controlled by a responsible person. The exception to that law is when the dog is engaged in hunting activities with its keeper or owner.


If you want to visit a state park, recreational ground, or state monument in Oklahoma, your dog must be on a leash. 

Across the state, local municipalities set their own leash laws and regulations regarding dogs running loose.


In Oregon, dog owners should know that their canine companion is considered a public nuisance if the pup is a female in heat, running at large.

Local ordinances are permitted to set their own leash laws, so ask the proper officials for guidance in your local area.


Pennsylvania state leash laws define that all dogs must be confined within their owner’s home or land, reasonably controlled by a responsible person, or firmly secured to prevent the dog from straying.

Rhode Island

In Rhode Island state, town or city councils make rules regarding dogs in towns and cities. That includes leash laws, unrestricted dogs, destruction of dangerous dogs, and confinement.

South Carolina

Dogs in South Carolina state are not permitted to run loose. If you want to visit any of the state parks in the Palmetto state, you must keep your dog on a leash at all times.

South Dakota

Hand holding tangled retractable leashes

In South Dakota, each county’s board of county commissioners has the authority to regulate the activities of dogs.

Any person keeping more than five dogs on their property must keep their dogs confined within a sufficient enclosure on their property. Failure to do so constitutes a public nuisance.

Any person whose dogs are running at large in a state park is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.


In Tennessee, your dog is not permitted to run at large unless you are engaged in legal herding or hunting activities.


Texas state law decrees that a dog’s owner must keep the dog under reasonable control at all times, and the dog is not permitted to run at large. In some counties, a dog of six months of age or more must be registered and wear an ID tag.


In Utah state, it’s left to the local municipalities to regulate leash laws and general rules surrounding the keeping of dogs.


There is no state-wide leash law in the state of Vermont.


There is no state-wide leash law in the state of Virginia. Instead, municipalities and local government agencies are authorized to set and manage leash laws.


There is no state-wide leash law in Washington state.

West Virginia

In West Virginia, there’s no law stating that dogs must be leashed. However, there is a law holding dog keepers and owners liable for any damage caused by dogs that are permitted to roam at large.


Man and Woman Walking Dogs

The laws of the state of Wisconsin state that dog keepers and owners are liable for any damages caused by dogs roaming loose.

Your dog is not permitted to run at large, and it must also be tagged. Any dog failing to observe that law will be impounded. Owners in breach of that leash law can be fined up to $100 for the first instance and up to $200 for subsequent offenses.

In Wisconsin, your dog is considered to be “running at large” if your furry friend is away from your premises and not under the control of you or someone else. Dogs are not defined as running at large if they are hunting or field training on land where you have permission to hunt or train your dog.

If your dog is running at large or untagged, it will be impounded.


There is no state-wide leash law in the state of Wyoming. That said, a dog running at large could be considered a public nuisance.

In Wyoming, local governments and municipalities set and enforce leash laws. 


Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about US dog leash laws.

Q: Does my dog have to be on a leash?

Dog walker strides with his pet on leash

A: In most places, it’s a legal requirement to have your dog on a leash of some type while out walking. Of course, that depends on where you are. Some countries are more relaxed than others when it comes to leash laws, whereas others have specific leash laws per state or region.

Dog parks allow off-leash exercise, but public parks usually require your dog to be leashed. Your dog should be leashed when walking in a busy urban area, and in some wilderness areas, leashes are mandatory to protect wildlife and livestock.

However, we recommend you check with your local authority to find out the leash laws in your immediate area.

Q: What to do if an off-leash dog approaches you while walking a dog?

A: To avoid potential confrontations, always choose a suitable environment for your dog’s personality and level of training. For example, if your dog is aggressive toward other dogs, is easily frightened, or is leash reactive, avoid off-leash areas and high traffic levels.

I recommend that if an off-leash dog approaches you, watch the two dogs’ body language for signs of friendliness, fear, aggression, etc. Keep calm and walk on, trying to distract your dog with verbal cues and treats. Don’t run; keep yourself at a 90-degree angle to the approaching dog.

Try using verbal commands to distract the strange dog, such as “sit!” “go away,” etc. I’ve found that approach is highly effective. Don’t shout or act aggressively toward the other dog; that could trigger a defensive reaction in your dog. I’ve also found that tossing treats toward the approaching dog can stop it long enough for you and your dog to get away.

Don’t pick your dog up. That could encourage the other dog to jump up. If you can find a physical barrier, such as a car or fence, use that to shield yourself and your pet. If you’re carrying an umbrella, open it to protect yourself and your dog if the approaching pup appears aggressive.

Q: Should all dogs be walked on a leash?

Man in Mask Walking in the Park with His Dog

A: Every dog, regardless of his age, size, breed, or lifestyle, should learn basic leash skills.

You should be able to walk your dog on his leash along the street, through a park, or take your pet with you to visit a pet-friendly cafe or shop without worrying that your pet will misbehave. In addition, good leash skills are essential for your dog’s and other people’s safety.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed our guide to dog leash laws across the US. If you found the information helpful, please share the article.

Dog leash laws vary widely across the country and around the world. Most states insist that owners keep their dogs leashed for public safety, although you can allow your pet some off-leash fun at your local dog park.

Contravention of leash laws can result in a hefty fine, so make sure you know what’s permitted before you venture out with your furry friend!

Where do you live? Are the leash laws strict there? Tell us in the comments box below!

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