California law, Health & Safety Code 122335 HS, makes it a crime to tether a dog to a stationary object under most circumstances.1
The law against unlawful tethering of a dog is one of several California “animal abuse and cruelty” laws, such as the law against leaving animals in an unattended vehicle.2
According to Oakland criminal defense attorney Reve Bautista3:
“We currently have a situation where California lawmakers and voters are trying to reduce the number of people in prison, through measures like realignment and Prop 47. So it's remarkable that California law still prescribes criminal penalties, including potential jail time, for tying up your dog the wrong way. But in fact local police departments do enforce California's dog-tethering law.”
The legal definition of unlawful tethering of a dog
You may be guilty under Health & Safety Code 122335 if your behavior meets the following legal definition of unlawful tethering of a dog:
- You tethered, fastened, chained, tied or restrained a dog, or caused a dog to be tethered, fastened, chained, tied or restrained; and
- The dog was tethered, fastened, etc., to a dog house, tree, fence or any other stationary object.4
Example: Carolina is a single mother with a 10-year-old son, Jacob. They have a dog named Sadie.
One day Sadie comes down with a bad stomach flu that means she'll need to use the bathroom frequently. Carolina has to go to work, and Jacob has to go to school. Their yard is unfenced.
Not sure what else to do, Carolina asks Jacob to tie Sadie's leash to a tree in their backyard before they leave for work and school. Carolina puts out a bowl of water for Sadie so she won't get thirsty while they are gone.
Carolina has just broken the law by causing Jacob to illegally tether Sadie.
Fortunately, there are a number of exceptions to California's law against tethering dogs to stationary objects. You are allowed to tie your dog up in any of the following circumstances:
- The dog is tied to a running line, pulley or trolley system, as long as s/he is not wearing a choke or pinch collar;
- The dog is tethered pursuant to the requirements of a camping or recreational area;
- The dog is tied for no longer than is necessary for you to complete a task that requires him/her to be restrained for up to three (3) hours in a twenty-four (24) hour period;
- The dog is tethered while you are engaged in or training for a licensed activity associated with the use or presence of a dog—such as a dog show; or
- The dog is tethered while you engage in herding livestock or cultivating agricultural products, as long as the restraining is reasonably necessary for the safety of the dog.5
Example: Sharon takes her dog Max for a long walk and decides to swing by her bank on the walk.
Sharon ties Max to a light pole outside of the bank and tells him to stay. She then goes into the bank to run her errand. It ends up taking longer than she expected, and Max waits outside for about 45 minutes.
Sharon is not guilty of Health & Safety Code 122335 because she tied Max up to complete a task that required him to be restrained, and he was tied for less than 3 hours.
Penalties for tethering a dog under HS 122335
Charged as an infraction, illegal tethering of a dog can lead to a fine of up to two hundred fifty ($250) for each dog that was unlawfully tied.7
The penalties for unlawful tethering of a dog as a misdemeanor are:
- A fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each dog that was unlawfully tethered; and/or
- Up to six (6) months in county jail.8
Legal defenses against charges of illegally tying your dog in California
Our California criminal defense attorneys are familiar with the common legal defenses that can help people accused of unlawfully tethering their dogs.
Most dog owners love their pets and are shocked to find themselves facing illegal dog-tethering charges. It could be that you were not violating Health & Safety Code 122335 but instead tied your dog up for a reasonable period of time so that you could accomplish a task that required him/her to be restrained.
Or it could be that you broke the law but under fairly innocent circumstances and are a responsible pet owner. In this case, your attorney can try to convince the prosecutor to charge the case as an infraction—or drop the charges altogether.
Call us for help…
For questions about the crime of Health & Safety Code 122335 HS unlawful tethering of a dog, or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our California criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
We have local criminal law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
For more information on Nevada “animal abuse and cruelty” laws, please see our page on Nevada “animal abuse and cruelty” laws.
Humane Society of the United States – California office
Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control
1 Health & Safety Code 122335 HS – “Animal control”, “agricultural operation”, “person”, and “reasonable period” defined; prohibition against tethering dog to stationary object; exceptions; penalty. (“(a) For purposes of this chapter, the following terms shall have the following definitions: (1) “Animal control” means the municipal or county animal control agency or any other entity responsible for enforcing animal-related laws. (2) “Agricultural operation” means an activity that is necessary for the commercial growing and harvesting of crops or the raising of livestock or poultry. (3) “Person” means any individual, partnership, corporation, organization, trade or professional association, firm, limited liability company, joint venture, association, trust, estate, or any other legal entity, and any officer, member, shareholder, director, employee, agent, or representative thereof. (4) “Reasonable period” means a period of time not to exceed three hours in a 24-hour period, or a time that is otherwise approved by animal control. (b) No person shall tether, fasten, chain, tie, or restrain a dog, or cause a dog to be tethered, fastened, chained, tied, or restrained, to a dog house, tree, fence, or any other stationary object. (c) Notwithstanding subdivision (b), a person may do any of the following in accordance with Section 597t of the Penal Code: (1) Attach a dog to a running line, pulley, or trolley system. A dog shall not be tethered to the running line, pulley, or trolley system by means of a choke collar or pinch collar. (2) Tether, fasten, chain, tie, or otherwise restrain a dog pursuant to the requirements of a camping or recreational area. (3) Tether, fasten, chain, or tie a dog no longer than is necessary for the person to complete a temporary task that requires the dog to be restrained for a reasonable period. (4) Tether, fasten, chain, or tie a dog while engaged in, or actively training for, an activity that is conducted pursuant to a valid license issued by the State of California if the activity for which the license is issued is associated with the use or presence of a dog. Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to prohibit a person from restraining a dog while participating in activities or using accommodations that are reasonably associated with the licensed activity. (5) Tether, fasten, chain, or tie a dog while actively engaged in any of the following: (A) Conduct that is directly related to the business of shepherding or herding cattle or livestock. (B) Conduct that is directly related to the business of cultivating agricultural products, if the restraint is reasonably necessary for the safety of the dog. (d) A person who violates this chapter is guilty of an infraction or a misdemeanor. (1) An infraction under this chapter is punishable upon conviction by a fine of up to two hundred fifty dollars ($250) as to each dog with respect to which a violation occurs. (2) A misdemeanor under this chapter is punishable upon conviction by a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000) as to each dog with respect to which a violation occurs, or imprisonment in a county jail for not more than six months, or both.”)
2 See, e.g., Penal Code 597 PC – Cruelty to animals; Penal Code 597.7 PC – Leaving an animal in a vehicle.
3 Oakland criminal defense attorney Reve Bautista spent over 20 years as a prosecutor with the Contra Costa District Attorney and the San Francisco District Attorney. As a result, she is well-known at every courthouse in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now, she devotes her energy to helping protect the rights of criminal defendants in cases ranging from high-profile felonies to more minor charges like illegal tethering of a dog.
4 Health & Safety Code 122335 HS – “Animal control”, “agricultural operation”, “person”, and “reasonable period” defined; prohibition against tethering dog to stationary object; exceptions; penalty.