New Orleans is known for being a dog-friendly city. It’s not uncommon to see people out walking their dogs in local neighborhoods or even bringing their pets along to restaurants and bars. But while this dog-friendly environment may be great for dog owners, it has led to an increasingly lax attitude towards the city’s leash laws.
Off-leash dogs pose a certain risk to others—even the most beloved pet can attack with little to no warning. And when dog owners do not have their animals on leashes, they are far less able to restrain them and prevent bites and injuries.
Allowing a dog to be off leash in a public area in New Orleans is not only dangerous, but it is also illegal. The city follows the general state leash laws when it comes to restraining dogs in public spaces, meaning dog owners have a responsibility to ensure their pets are properly leashed or otherwise restrained in a way that does not harm the dog and limits the risk of injury to others. Failure to do so constitutes negligence and could result in a liability lawsuit against the dog owner.
Understanding Louisiana’s “At Large” Laws
It is unlawful for a dog or cat to be “at large” in the state of Louisiana.
In Louisiana, an animal is considered “at large” if it is:
- Outside the bounds of a home, yard, pen, vehicle, or other type of enclosure, and;
- Not tethered in a way that confines its movements to the property/enclosure, or;
- Not under the immediate physical control of the owner
A dog that is on a leash that is no more than six feet in length or that is tied up in its owner’s front yard is not considered to be “at large.” However, a dog that escapes its yard and roams the neighborhood is at large.
Dog owners have specific responsibilities when it comes to restricting their pets’ movements. These include:
- Ensuring that their dogs are securely enclosed in a home, yard, pen, etc.
- Taking proper, reasonable precautions from preventing the dog from escaping
Cat owners may not permit their pets to be at large at any time.
Exceptions to at-Large Laws
Dog owners may permit their pets to leave their homes, yards, pens, and other enclosures in certain circumstances.
Exceptions to the state’s at-large laws include:
- Dogs that are on an approved leash that is being controlled by an individual who is capable of restraining the dog
- Hunting dogs and stock dogs that are actively being worked under an owner’s direct supervision or the supervision of an agent on behalf of the owner
- Show dogs and cats that are actively being shown or worked under an owner’s direct supervision or the supervision of an agent on behalf of the owner
- Law enforcement and government dogs that are actively being worked under direct, physical supervision
- Dogs that are in designated “off-leash” areas, such as dog parks trails.
Additionally, dog owners and keepers who bring their pets to public areas, such as neighborhoods, parks, and trails, must ensure that their dogs are properly licensed and vaccinated. They must also prevent their dogs from trespassing on private property, as well as public property where prohibited.
What If You Are Attacked or Bitten by an Off-Leash Dog?
Unlike many other states, Louisiana’s dog bite laws are based entirely on negligence. This means that dog owners cannot typically be held strictly liable for bites and other injuries caused by their pets.
Instead, to bring a claim against a dog owner, you must prove the following:
- The owner knew or reasonably should have known the dog could cause injury
- It was possible for the owner to prevent injury by taking reasonable precautions
- The dog owner failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent injury
- The dog’s behavior resulted in injury and/or damages
- The victim did not provoke the dog
Dog owners who allow their dogs to roam off-leash or at large, either intentionally or unintentionally, may be considered negligent, as they failed to take reasonable measures to prevent injury to others. However, it can be difficult to prove that a dog owner knew or reasonably should have known that their dog’s behavior could cause injury, especially if the owner was not present when the bite or attack occurred.
It is important that you reach out to an experienced New Orleans dog bite attorney, like those at Womac Law Firm, if you were injured by an off-leash dog or another animal roaming at large. Our team can help you evaluate your case and determine the best course of action. We believe that negligent dog owners should be held accountable, which is why we fight hard to secure maximum compensation for our clients.