Model Laws

Act to Prevent Dogs from Running At Large


Read Commentary


Sec. 1. Purpose

To address problems concerning protection of public safety, overpopulation and unwanted animals, and reinforcement of responsible guardianship of dogs with regard to ownership of both male and female dogs. Dogs that are left to run at large (unleashed) are a hazard to the community and its citizens with the potential to harm unwary citizens through acts of aggression, threatening behavior and damage to property. It is the interests of the community to regulate the latitude given to dogs and their caretakers to roam without proper supervision in public areas.


Sec 2. Confinement of dogs

Any person owning, harboring, or controlling a male or female dog whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, licensed or unlicensed, sterilized or unsterilized, shall always keep such animal from running at large by either:

  • Securely confining such animal within an adequate fence or enclosure, or within a house, garage, or other building or
  • Accompanying the animal on a leash.

Sec 3. Definitions

For the purposes of this section, "secure confinement" means securing the dog in an area from which the dog cannot escape based on the size and breed of the dog, while providing for the humane care of the animal while in confinement.



  1. Any dogs confined within a fenced yard must have an adequate space for exercise based on a dimension of at least one hundred (100) square feet. Provided, further that where dogs are kept or housed on property without a fenced yard, the owner of such dogs or persons having custody of such dogs shall provide an enclosure for such dogs meeting the one hundred (100) square feet dimension. Such enclosure shall be constructed of chain link or other material that permits adequate ventilation, with all sides enclosed. The enclosure shall be of sufficient height to prevent the dog from escaping from such enclosure. The top of such enclosure shall be covered with materials to provide the dog with shade and protection from the elements. Dogs shall not be chained, tied, fastened or otherwise tethered to dog houses, trees, fences or other stationary objects as a means of confinement to property.

Sec. 4. Penalties

Whoever, being an owner, harborer, or possessor of any dog, allows such dog to remain at large shall be fined ____. For any subsequent offense occurring within twelve months of a prior offense, the dog owner, harborer, or possessor shall pay a reasonable fine and have the animal spayed or neutered within seven days of the redemption, if the dog has not already been rendered sterile. Verification from the veterinarian performing the surgery shall be provided to the Division in writing within seven days of the surgery.


Additional Commentary

Several city and state laws prohibit dogs from running at large. One common problem surfaces in each law: only female dogs are required to be confined while they are in heat, estrus, breeding condition, or copulating season. City counselors and state legislators must think about the meaning behind the phrase, "It takes two to tango." Prohibiting only female dogs from running at large does not fully address the concerns behind a running at large statute.


Many laws prohibiting female dogs from running at large are intended to prevent unwanted animals. Controlling animal overpopulation helps communities save money by lessening the need to control surplus animals. However, these laws singling out female dogs fail to recognize the necessity to prevent male dogs from roaming, finding, and impregnating confined female dogs in heat. An unneutered male animal is likely to roam the neighborhood and may even run away, according to Drs. Foster and Smith1 , in order to find a confined female dog in heat. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), in six years one female dog and her offspring can be the source of 67,000 puppies.


By preventing dogs from roaming at large, the current laws are also meant to keep people and the animals themselves safe. Individuals are less likely be bitten and/or attacked by animals that are leased or confined and closely supervised by their caretakers. In addition to concerns about human safety, dogs running at large could possibly be killed by cars, subjected to abuse, or get hurt by other animals.


Running at large statutes are also meant to reinforce responsible pet care. Securing a pet in a safe place or walking a dog on a leash will reduce the potential anguish and expense of losing a loved pet. Confinement must be humane for the animal as well as secure and safe. Both unsterilized and sterilized dogs should be required to be confined under the law, as the law is intended to address concerns regarding safety as well as population control. It is important for individuals to take responsibility for dogs in their control



American Animal Hospital Association. Preventive Care: Neutering Your Pet: Pet Overpopulation and Your Role as a Responsible Pet Owner.


Foster, Race and Marty Smith. Neutering Male Dogs- Why it's a Good Idea.




LAWTON, OK. ORDINANCES Sec. 90-18 (1990).






The Humane Society of the United States. Be A Responsible Dog Owner, 1999.


The Humane Society of the United States. Just One Litter . . . Facts About Spaying and Neutering Your Pet, 2001.


The Humane Society of the United States. Legislation on Tethering or Chaining Dogs, 1999.


[Return to Top]