In a pet-friendly state like Arizona, you’d be surprised to learn that we have some of the strictest animal laws in the country. Failing to uphold these laws can result in hefty fines or worse—the loss of your pet. If you’re a dog owner and you’re moving to a city like Phoenix or Mesa, or you already live in Arizona and have recently purchased a pup, these are the Arizona dog laws you should be aware of.
Animal Care and Control by County
Saying that the state of Arizona values pet and animal life is definitely an understatement. Each county in the state has its own Animal Care and Control Department that cares for pets, strays, and everything in between.
Your county’s Animal Care and Control Department oversees:
- Stray dogs
- Pet adoption
- Dog licensing
- Leash law violation
- Animal surrender
- Lost and found pets
- Pet attacks by wildlife
- Rabies vaccinations and microchipping
Any legal action taken for or against your pet, such as dog licensing or paying pet-related fees, will likely occur through your county department. Fees paid to the department are all funneled back into operating costs. Providing shelter for abandoned animals, low-cost vaccinations, and care for pets attacked by wildlife are all examples of citizen-funded services that the department provides.
Anti-Rabies Vaccination Requirements for Dog Owners
Bringing a new pet into your home is a very exciting time, but it’s important to not forget about Arizona vaccination requirements. Vaccines not only protect your dog and family from diseases like rabies, but they also safeguard other furry friends and neighbors in your county.
Arizona revised statute A.R.S. § 11-1010 details very specific vaccination requirements for dog owners, including:
- No dog can be licensed unless it is vaccinated for rabies
- A licensed veterinarian must complete the vaccination
- A duplicate of the rabies vaccination certificate must be transmitted to the county enforcement agent within two weeks of vaccination.
Bear in mind that if you’re moving from out of state, your pet’s current vaccinations must be up-to-date.
The Importance of a Dog License in AZ
Once your dog has received its vaccination, it’s time to dive into dog registration in AZ.
State law A.R.S. § 11-1008 says that all dogs over 3 months of age must be licensed with the county. This process can take place via your county’s Animal Care and Control website or in-person. Licensing fees do vary by county, but most counties offer a discounted rate for dogs who have been spayed or neutered or to owners 65 years of age and older.
Registering your pet establishes you as their owner and helps the county reunite you with your dog should it get lost. Not to mention, the fees paid during licensing support your local county, ensuring they can board and nurture your pet if it ever becomes lost or injured.
Dog owners need proof of current rabies vaccination before licensing their pet, including:
- A vaccination certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian
- Date vaccination was given and how long it is valid
- Type of vaccine used (MLV or Killed)
- Vaccine manufacturers name
- Serial or lot number
Once licensed, the county will provide a durable dog tag that lists the name of your county, your dog’s license number, and the year it expires.
If you’re moving from out of state, your dog still needs to be licensed with your county. To do so, you must present a vaccination certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian.
The vaccination certificate must also include your pet’s description, the date of vaccination and type, as well as the manufacturer and serial number of the vaccine used.
Arizona Pet Laws for Service Animal Licensing
In addition to guidelines for registering a house pet, state law A.R.S. § 11-1008 also dictates Arizona pet laws for service animal licensing. The law states that a county may not charge a license fee to individuals who have a disability and who use a service animal, law enforcement personnel that trains a service animal, or an individual who uses a search and rescue dog.
In order to take advantage of this law, the individual using a service dog must sign a written statement. Anyone who signs a false statement is guilty of a petty offense and will be charged a maximum fine of $50. For more details on registering a service dog, visit your county’s Animal Care and Control website.
Arizona Leash Laws for Pet Owners
It’s anticipated dog owners will take their pets for a stroll in the beautiful Arizona sun. But before gearing up for a walk or a trip to the park, it’s important to be aware of Arizona leash laws. For one, your dog cannot be off your property unless it’s restrained by a leash. While you’re out, your dog cannot be left tied to a rope or cable outside.
Likewise, your pet is forbidden from entering a public park or public school property unless it is wearing a leash or secured in a car or cage. When playing on your property, dog laws in AZ state that it must be kept in an enclosed yard.
How Does Arizona Classify a Dog-at-Large?
While it may not seem like a big deal to you, Arizona law looks down upon dog owners who let their pets roam freely. Though you know your dog’s behaviors and training, the rest of the public is unaware of their tendencies, and they may view your dog as a vicious animal. Therefore, whenever your dog is not confined by a fence or kennel or is not on a leash when in public, it is considered a dog-at-large.
More simply, this just means your dog has no restraint in place. Dogs are never permitted to be at-large in public places, such as public parks or on public school property. For the most part, an at-large dog is treated as a petty offense. However, if your pet is unrestrained and injures a person or property, you will be liable for personal injury or property damage costs.
Arizona Pet Laws for Impounding
If you’re a loving dog owner and borderline-obsessed with your pet, impounding is likely the last thing on your mind. However, a decent fraction of licensing fees go towards pound maintenance in your county, so it’s to be assumed there are impounding laws as well.
Essentially, Arizona revised statute A.R.S. § 11-1013 states that any dog-at-large without an owner or stray dog found in the county must be impounded. Stray animals impounded and not eligible for a sterilization program are typically kept at the county pound for a minimum of three days. Though, the pound will keep a stray for five days if it has a microchip or is wearing a license.
Impounded pets can be reunited with their owners, so long as there’s proof of the dog’s license and the owner pays the county’s impounding fee. If a pet is not reclaimed within the impoundment period, the county may place it for adoption. Here it can be purchased by another individual, but the new owner of the dog must comply with licensing, vaccination, and fee requirements.
If the pet is sick and/or spreading disease, a county is within its power to humanely euthanize the animal.
Understanding Arizona Dog Bite Laws
Dog bite law in Arizona is taken very seriously. Unlike states that have a “one free bite” rule, Arizona has what’s called a “strict liability” law. This means that the owner of a dog that bites someone is immediately liable to the bitten individual, no matter the previous or current circumstances.
A.R.S. § 11-1025 states that strict liability applies regardless of:
- The dog’s prior viciousness
- Any intent to harm
- If the dog was on the owner’s property, public property, or private property
- If the owner took proper care to keep the dog enclosed
The only possible defense against a dog bite is that the dog was provoked. This means that the actions of the bitten individual were threatening to the animal and would have merited self-defense on the part of the dog. For example, if the individual attempted to hit or hurt the dog, and the animal responded by biting the individual, it could be argued that the dog was reasonably provoked.
Defining an Aggressive Dog According to Arizona Pet Law
According to Arizona pet law, an “aggressive dog” is defined as any dog that has bitten a person or domestic animal. An aggressive dog is also an animal that has a known history of attacking people or domestic animals without provocation.
A.R.S. § 13-1208 dictates that the owner or individual responsible for an aggressive dog must take reasonable care to prohibit the dog from escaping the owner’s property or enclosed area. Failing to do so results in a Class 1 misdemeanor, regardless of if the dog bites an individual while at-large.
What are the Legal Repercussions of a Dog Bite?
Though the legislature surrounding strict liability for dog bites is very straightforward, the legal repercussions of a dog bite are not as simple. Consequences for an owner of a dog that has bitten a person varies depending on if the dog was already deemed aggressive.
If the owner of a non-aggressive dog fails to control their pet in a manner that prevents an animal bite or attack, the incident is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. Any dog owner who knows or has reason to suspect aggression from their dog or whose dog has a history of biting and causing injury without provocation can be charged with a Class 5 felony if the dog attacks. If an aggressive dog escapes a residence or enclosed area and bites while at-large, it is considered a Class 3 misdemeanor.
Any person who intentionally or knowingly causes a dog to bite or inflict serious injury to a person, not in a line of self-defense, can be charged with a Class 3 felony.
However, bear in mind that these laws do not apply to police or military dogs that bite in self-defense or while assisting law enforcement.
1-Year Statute Of Limitations for Dog Bite Cases
Most offenses have a maximum time after the event within which legal proceedings can be initiated. This is called the statute of limitations. Typically, personal injury cases have a statute of limitations of two years.
However, because dog bites fall under the umbrella of strict liability, the statute of limitations is restricted to one year under Arizona revised statute 12-541. If you wait longer than one year from the date of the animal bite, you cannot make a claim or sue.
Staying In the Know About Arizona Dog Laws
Whether you have a furry friend of your own or have neighbors with dogs, it’s always worthwhile to stay up-to-date with current Arizona dog laws in Maricopa County, or in whichever county you reside. Adhering to these best practices not only keeps your pet healthy and safe but also protects other pups in the Phoenix, Tucson, or Scottsdale area.