The issue of leashes is a sensitive subject for many dog owners. Some feel that if their dog is well trained, they shouldn’t be required to keep their dog on a leash. Other’s feel that whenever a dog isn’t on the owner’s private property, the animal should be leashed.
The State of California doesn’t have a formal opinion on the topic. Officially, the state doesn’t have any laws that state dogs have to be on a leash. However, before unclipping your leash from your dog’s collar, you need to check with the local government. There are several county, city, and townships that do have very strict rules regarding leashes and dogs. Violating the local rules can land you and your pet in serious trouble.
A perfect example of this is Sacramento County. They have very strict leash ordinances. The only time a dog can legally be off leash is when they have been brought to one of the county’s “off-leash” dog parks or on the owner’s property. The City of Sacramento also has its own set of leash laws.
Don’t assume that just because your dog is on a leash, that you don’t have to worry about getting into any legal trouble. Sacramento insists that the leash be a maximum of six feet long (this means that if you have your dog on an extendable leash, law enforcement officer could write a ticket) and that the dog be under control at all times.
Sacramento County uses Code 9.36.061 (d) when dealing with dog owners who let their dogs run free.
The penalty for having your dog off leash when you’re in an town or county that has leash laws depends on where you are. In most places, you, as the dog owner, will be issued a ticket and a fine. If you don’t pay the fine, the court could opt to file a bench warrant for your arrest, which means that not only will you be arrested if you’re ever stopped by the police (or get caught with your dog off-leash a second time) and have a criminal record.
If your dog bites or otherwise injures someone while they are off leash, you’ll not only be required to pay for the off-leash ticket, you will also be responsible for the injured parties medical bills and could face losing your dog forever.
If you aren’t clear about what the laws are in your county/city, it’s best to keep your pet on a leash until you speak to either a police officer or a court official who is familiar with the local laws and how they pertain to your dog.