New York Dog Laws Every Owner Should Know (Licenses, Leash Law, & Bites)

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
New York State Dog Laws

While New Yorkers may get a reputation as tough-minded, resilient people, it's clear that New York State has a soft spot for dogs. In fact, there are more than 600,000 dogs in New York City alone.

Unfortunately, such a high number of dogs in the city comes with a real risk of dog bites. Nearly 4,000 dog bites are reported every year in New York City, with children and older residents being most at risk of a dog bite.

Given the prevalence of these bites and the risk to public safety, it stands to reason that New York State has implemented laws designed to reduce the risk of dog bites as well as other laws that improve the well-being of dogs and the state's residents. Here are the essential New York state dog laws every owner in the state should know.

Dog licensing

New York State requires all dogs over four months of age to be licensed. To obtain this license, owners must provide proof of current rabies vaccination as well as proof of the dog being spayed or neutered (only if applicable).

As such, if you plan on having a dog in New York City or elsewhere in the state, you will be required to get a dog license for your pet. This license may be obtained from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene if you live in the City, and the license must also be renewed each year.

Additional criteria must be met in the City if your dog is a guard or service dog. These dogs must be registered and the loss, theft, or ownership transfer of such a dog must be reported to the City within five days. Further, a guard dog is required to wear their dog license tag as well as their City-issued guard dog tag on their collar.

These provisions are designed to ensure that guard dogs are known by fellow New Yorkers, which can help cut down on the risk of dangerous dog encounters.

New York State leash law

New York State does not have a state-wide leash law, contrary to what some in the state may believe. Instead, these laws are independently determined by localities. For example, Albany requires dogs to be restrained by an "adequate collar and leash" controlled by someone at least 12 years old if they are on public property in Albany.New York City leash law, for its part, requires dogs to be on a leash no more than six feet long. It is also illegal to tie or chain a dog for longer than three hours.In effect, make sure that you are following your local area's leash laws since those are the laws that will inform what is lawful in your area.

Spay and neuter laws in New York

Section 377-a of the New York Consolidated Laws outlines the requirements for spaying and neutering animals in the state. This law primarily affects the adoption of dogs and cats, requiring animal shelters, humane organizations, and similar agencies to spay or neuter the animal before releasing them for adoption.

Additionally, the person who adopts such a dog must sign a written agreement to neuter or spay the dog within 30 days of adoption or 30 days from the date the animal becomes six months old.

New York City also prohibits shelters from releasing dogs eight weeks or older for adoption unless the dog has been neutered or spayed. While exceptions can be made if a veterinarian finds that such a procedure could endanger the dog's life, but generally, adoption will require spaying or neutering.

Dangerous dog laws

While counties and local areas may have their own dangerous dog laws, there are statewide laws on the books regarding dogs that may be classified as dangerous. New York statutes give someone who witnesses a dog attack or threatened attack to make a complaint to a dog control officer or police officer of their appropriate municipality.

If such a complaint is made, the officer must immediately inform the person who made the complaint that they have the right to commence a proceeding on these grounds. If the officer has reason to believe the dog is dangerous, they will start the proceeding on their own.

The state also implements lengthy criteria to determine whether a dog should be declared as dangerous when events like these arise.

Owners of dogs who wrongfully allow their dog to bite someone may be subject to civil penalties. If the dog is deemed dangerous, the owner of a "dangerous dog" will be strictly liable for all medical costs resulting from injuries caused by the dog.

State law defines a dangerous dog as a dog that does one of the following:

  • Attacks a person or another companion animal without justification and causes physical injury or death
  • Behaves in a way that reasonable people would believe poses an imminent, serious and unjustified threat of serious injury or death to people or other companion animals
  • Attacks a service, guide or hearing dog without justification and causes physical injury or death

And, if an owner negligently allows a dog previously declared dangerous to cause a "serious injury", then criminal penalties may be warranted. New York State defines serious injury as one that:

  • Causes death
  • Presents the risk of death
  • Causes disfigurement
  • Impairs someone's health or function of bodily organic in a protracted manner

What to Do if You Are Attacked by a Dog

If you believe an owner's actions have caused you to suffer from a dog bite or a dog attack, you need to take steps to protect your legal rights allowed under New York State law. If you have questions about your legal options, a New York premises liability lawyer can help you understand your next steps.

What steps should be taken after a dog bite? First, you will need to report the bite, which you can do by calling 311. From there, talk to a New York dog attack lawyer who will help you navigate the legal process and will ensure your rights are protected as a dog bite victim.

To schedule a free consultation with an attorney at Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm complete the contact form below, or call 212-268-3222.

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, NY. With over thirty years of experience as a personal injury lawyer, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).

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