What are the leash laws in Pennsylvania?

Dog on Leash
Even friendly dogs can bite and attack when they are sick, scared, or feel threatened. For public safety, Pennsylvania law requires dogs owners to have full control of their dogs at all times. Although a leash is recommended, the law is unclear as to whether a leash is mandatory unless the dog has been declared a “dangerous dog.”

Our lawyers specialize in handling dog bite and dog attack lawsuits. For a free initial consultation, contact our expert dog bite attorneys today.

Is it against Pennsylvania law to have a dog off leash in public places?

That is not always an easy question to answer in court.

Pennsylvania’s leash laws are often debated – especially by insurance companies that do not want to pay on dog bite claims. If you have been attacked by a dog that was off leash you need a skilled attorney to prepare and present your case.

Pennsylvania law only requires “dangerous dogs” to be on a leash (or chain) in public places. Although PA Dog Law suggests that non-dangerous dogs be on a leash in public places, it is not considered mandatory. The only clear legal requirement is that dog owners have “reasonable control” of their dogs. Specifically:

§ 459-305 Confinement and housing of dogs not part of a kennel

Download Statute .pdf | .doc Version

(a) Confinement and control.

It shall be unlawful for the owner or keeper of any dog to fail to keep at all times such dog either:

(1) confined within the premises of the owner;

(2) firmly secured by means of a collar and chain or other devise so that it cannot stray beyond the premises on which it is secured; or, [emphasis added].

(3) under the reasonable control of some person, or when engaged in lawful hunting, exhibition or field training. [emphasis added].

In a landmark Pennsylvania leash law/dog attack lawsuit Commonwealth v. Glumac , 717 A.2d 572 (Pa. Super., 1998), the Court stated the following:

The title of 3 P.S. ¬ß 459-305 concisely explains that the principle purpose of the section is the ‚Äúconfinement of dogs.‚Äù In enacting this section of the Dog Law, the legislature intended to require dog owners to prevent their dogs from running at large. See Miller v. Hurst, 302 Pa.Super. 235, 448 A.2d 614 (1982). The protection of the public’s health and safety are attained when dogs are safely secured or accompanied when not so confined. See Baehr v. Commonwealth ex rel. Lower Merion Township, 51 Pa.Cmwlth. 241, 414 A.2d 415 (1980).

At one time, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture published the following language in their dog FAQs section:

All dogs must be under control. This means that when your dog is not on your property, it must be under reasonable control of you or a handler. The best way to control your dog is with a leash. Remember, dogs are personal property. You are responsible for any damage caused by your dog.

However, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has removed this web page and now only states that the law requires dog owners to have control of their dogs and does not even mention leashes as recommended method of restraint:

All dogs must be under control and must not be allowed to run at large.  Dogs are personal property, and  owners are responsible for damages caused by their dog.

The “under control” provision allowing dogs to be off-leash in public places does not apply to dangerous dogs, which have clear and substantially stronger restraint and control requirements:

…”It is unlawful for an owner or keeper of a dangerous dog to permit the dog to be outside the proper enclosure unless the dog is muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash and under physical restraint of a responsible person.” (Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture: Dangerous Dogs Provisions)

How Our Dog Bite Attorneys Can Help

No matter how you read Pennsylvania leash laws, a dog that attacks a human or another animal is not a dog that is under “reasonable control.” Our expert attorneys have the knowledge and experience to uncover the facts of your case and pursue legal action to get you the compensation you deserve. We can get you payment for medical expenses and damages for pain and suffering for severe dog bite and attack injuries.

For a free consultation, contact an experienced dog bite attorney today toll free at 1-800-731-4687 or use our online submission form to tell us about your case.


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