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Leash Laws For Cats

on July 29, 2009
Posted in News

Unlike dogs, cats have always had a special relationship with humans. One in which the cat was never truly ‘domesticated’ and was allowed to come and go as they pleased. Cats would hunt in the fields near where the humans lived and catch mice and other rodents. Humans were happy about that and allowed the cats’ their freedom.

However, during the 19th century dogs that were roaming around freely were found to be a menace to both farmers and their livestock. Dogs would often hunt and kill young goats and sheep which would hurt the farmer’s pocket. The spread of rabies also increased and eventually dog confinement laws were passed. These laws mandated the licensing and inoculation of dogs within the community. Further laws were established that gave farmers the right to shoot and kill any dog that they found to be preying on their livestock. Other laws allowed the impoundment of any dog that was found to be at-large. Soon enough some over-zealous people decided to take the dog leash laws one step further and suggested that cats be included in such leash laws. Some of these wannabe law makers even propose that trap and kill programs should be initiated to eliminate the presence of outdoor cats, claiming the protection of natural wildlife and birds was more important than the life of a nuisance cat. In fact the American Bird Conservancy group stated that “… cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion small mammals, such as rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks, each year.”

One such cat leash law was proposed in Wisconsin in 2005. Known as Question 62, the proposed law stated that cats who were found to be free-roaming and had no collar or other sign of being owned, could be considered an “unprotected species”, the same classification as skunks, rats, mice and weasels, and could therefore be hunted down and killed at any time with no bag limit! Thankfully, the proposed law received a multitude of criticism from across the US and the proposal failed.

Because of their free spirited nature, most people have a belief that cats should be free to roam around outside as they like and not to be constantly confined inside a house. Most people, however, have indoor only cats, which are just as strong and healthy as their outdoor counterparts. But even more people have cats that spend most of their time wandering around outside the home, coming inside only to eat and sleep.

It is because of these free roaming cats, that leash laws have grown in popularity amongst major cities across the USA. Texas, for example, has two laws in which cat confinement is discussed: The first one being that cats are allowed outside as long as they are in a fenced yard or on a leash; and the second law is that cat’s may be ‘outside without restraint, provided they are under the owners’ immediate control or on the owners’ property’. Texas state law actually allows all of its counties the freedom to pass cat leash laws as it deems necessary for its county.

Another city that has strong laws regarding the confinement of cats is Dallas, Texas. The city’s website blatantly states:

“All animals, including cats, must be confined at all times… restrained at all times in a fenced yard, in an enclosed pen or structure, or by a hand-held leash if in the custody of the owner unless the cat(s) belong to a Trap, Neuter and Release program.”

In this law, the Trap, Neuter and Release program, simply allows the Director of Animal Control to authorize programs that enable the controlling of disease and overpopulation of feral cat colonies. Therefore, without such a provision, cats that are deemed as being feral may be captured by Animal Control and destroyed.

Not surprisingly, most people do not even know whether their city has a cat leash law. Take for example, a loving cat owner who recently moved into a new neighborhood in a town in Georgia. One of her cats was caught violating the county at-large law and was immediately impounded overnight. A cat at-large law states that a cat that is “…outside the owner’s premises and not leashed or immediately responsive to verbal or non-verbal direction” can be picked up and impounded.

Before allowing your outdoor cat to go, well, outside again, check whether your city, county or state has any specific cat leash laws in effect. Most of the time these laws can be found by looking at the website for the city, county or state in which you live. Search under Animal Services, Health Department and Code Enforcement. A few cities even have their cat leash laws posted online at

Photo Credit: juhansonin

Read also: Pets Are Getting Their Own Luxury Hotels And…Homes?

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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