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New York Dog Laws 2023: Rabies, Dog Bites, Dog Cruelty and Dog Chains – DogTime

By Patrick Kuklinski
What are the dog laws in New York? Does New York have dog laws? If you live in this state, you might be wondering what the law says about issues like rabies vaccination, dog bites, dog cruelty, and dog chains. 
Read on for more information about dog laws in New York.
All dogs between three and four months of age residing in New York must receive a rabies vaccination. (All New York counties, with the exception of New York City, are required to provide a free vaccination clinic every four months.)  This vaccine must be performed by or supervised by a licensed veterinarian. Additionally, dog owners are required to affix the dog’s current rabies tag to the dog’s collar. After their first vaccination, dogs must be vaccinated either annually or triannually depending on the vaccination they receive. 
Anyone found violating NY’s rabies vaccination laws will have to pay a fine of $200. 
If an unvaccinated dog bites a person, they will be considered as a potential rabies carrier. It is legal for them to subsequently be euthanized with no hold in order to test for rabies. While this is a sad outcome, it is avoidable by staying up to date on your pet’s vaccines. 
New York is a “mixed” state, meaning that this state has a dog bite statute that mixes the “one-bite” rule, which is fairly uncommon today, with a limited degree of strict liability. The statute makes the owner or keeper of a “dangerous dog” strictly liable only for the victim’s medical and veterinary costs. For other damages, New York requires the victim to prove that the dog had the dangerous tendency to bite people, and that the dog owner was previously aware of the dog’s behaviors. New York does not permit victims to recover compensation on the ground of negligence, at least in most circumstances where the defendant is the owner of the attacking dog. 
There are cases where dogs will not be considered aggressors in attacks, even if previously proven to be dangerous. Dog owners are not responsible for attacks in which the dog was provoked or protecting the owner. This could include yelling at, hitting, or throwing objects at the dog. Additionally, if you were trespassing on private property and then were attacked by an otherwise contained dog, the dog’s owner would not be liable. 
Additionally, in some cases, there may be a “common sense” prohibition on finding a dog owner liable. For example, most people know to leave an eating dog or a mother with puppies alone. Bothering an animal when you could predict aggressive behavior will not always result in liability for the owner. 
A dangerous dog, particularly a repeat offender, may be euthanized if this is determined to be in the best interest of the safety of the community. After one documented bite, a dog is considered vicious in the state of New York. This means that subsequent bites may lead to euthanasia. Additionally, a severe enough attack could lead the court to determine euthanasia is the best course of action even for a first offender. 
New York’s animal abandonment laws mainly are in place for situations such as abandoning a pet in the custody of another (boarding kennel, veterinarian, petsitter) and either not returning for them or not getting consent in the first place. While the law is intended for these situations, abandoning your dog in the custody of no one (such as on the side of the road) could still be classified as animal cruelty, as you are leaving the animal without the things they need for survival. 
There are rarely charges for animal abandonment in New York, but if animal cruelty is proven, the defendant could be charged with a misdemeanor. This could lead to jail time or a fine (more likely, a fine). 
New York law determines that when an owner abandons an animal, they relinquish all rights to them. However, the old owner is still responsible for costs of care in cases such as abandonment at a boarding kennel. 
New York has a wide range of defined actions that are viewed as animal cruelty. Of course, it is illegal to hit, kick, beat, or otherwise inflict physical pain or suffering on a dog unless in the case of self defense or an otherwise justifiable action. It’s also considered animal cruelty to deprive a dog of things that one could reasonably assume they need — food, water, shelter, exercise, or vet care. 
Animal cruelty in New York is most commonly associated with a misdemeanor charge. However, New York considers it aggravated cruelty to kill or seriously injure a pet on purpose and in a sadistic manner, or with the intention of causing extreme pain. Aggravated animal cruelty is a felony charge, not a misdemeanor.
As in the other 49 states, dogfighting is a felony in New York. This doesn’t apply only to those directly fighting their animals. Charges can also occur for those betting on or attending dogfights in New York. It’s also illegal to train dogs for the intent of fighting, even if you aren’t directly participating in dogfights. 
Tethering or chaining a dog is legal in New York. However, New York has regulations in place intended to protect tethered dogs from harm. Breaking New York’s tethering laws is illegal, and could result in an animal cruelty charge in severe cases. New York’s tethering laws also restrict tethering between certain hours, mainly to prevent disturbances or noise complaints. Additionally, some counties in New York have stricter tethering laws than the state itself, so research your specific area’s ordinances before you tether.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund ranks New York number 33 out of all 50 US States for animal protection laws. This makes  New York a “middle-tier” state by their standards. Why does New York rank this way? There’s some good things to love about New York’s animal defense laws. Veterinarians must report suspected cruelty to a companion animal and have immunity for doing so, and peace officers have a duty to enforce animal cruelty laws. But there’s some problems, too. Some issues are very basic — standards for minimum acceptable care for animals (e.g. necessary food, water, shelter) are not well-defined. There’s always room for improvement, and hopefully in the years to come, we’ll see New York develop laws in favor of animal protection.
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