Your Dog Can”t Read This—It Is For You.

As a personal injury attorney, I was recently asked by my Homeowners’ Association to write briefly about the law surrounding a dog owner’s duties. This article is not intended to be legal advice—only general information. It started as a great scholarly treatise on dog bite law in Arizona. Family members, however, wisely advised me to just write what ‘they need to know.’ So, here it is.

State law requires that your dog be on a leash in a park or on school grounds. [1]If your dog is out in public unrestrained, it must have a collar with tags. [2] City codes add other requirements as well. For example, Mesa City Code requires the dog be leashed on any public lands or streets. [3] Then neighborhood CC&Rs have their own additional requirements. For example, the CC&Rs for my neighborhood add that a dog must be leashed if it is in a common area or on another owner”s lot.[4] It also states the owner”s obligation to ‘pick up’ after the dog. Basically, if your dog leaves your yard for any reason, it must be on a leash to comply with all three standards where I live.

If your dog bites a person, you can be held responsible for the damages of that bite even if you had no idea that the dog would do so.[5] However, your dog still has the right to bite the heck out of a burglar. You can also be held responsible for damage to a person or property caused by your dog if it is unrestrained in a public place, even if the damage is not caused by biting (for example, a dog knocks a cyclist off his bike and he is injured in the fall). [6] This also applies if, for example, your dog leaves your yard and attacks a dog being walked on a leash, because the other dog is considered ‘property.’ Even without the Statutes, you can be found negligent, and therefore responsible, if you knew your dog had a tendency to bite or attack. In that case, you can also be guilty of a criminal misdemeanor. [7]

Now, if your dog inflicts such harm, and you are found responsible, your home owner”s insurance policy will usually cover the value of the losses sustained, within the limits of the policy. However, after such a claim, the company will often give you the choice between keeping your dog or keeping the policy.

We are all aware of the joy dogs can bring. These laws and rules are designed to minimize the chances of your dog causing harm, so you and your neighbors can continue to enjoy both the pets and the people they own.

If you have any questions, feel free to send me an e-mail at

[1] Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) §11-1012

[2] A.R.S. §11-1012

[3] Mesa City Code 6-4-7

[4] Montecito HOA CC&Rs 8.7

[5] A.R.S. §11-1027

[6] A.R.S. §11-1001

[7] A.R.S. §13-1208