March 16, 2004
CONNECTICUT LEASH AND DOG BITE LAW
By: Joseph Holstead, Research Analyst
You asked for information about Connecticut's leash and dog bite laws.
Connecticut has a variety of laws aimed at controlling dogs. Regarding leashes, it is illegal to allow your dog to roam; create a disturbance; or growl, bite, or otherwise annoy anyone using the highway. (Local governments may create leash ordinances.) A 14-day quarantine is required when a dog bites a person. An animal control officer (ACO) or the Department of Agriculture (DOAg) commissioner may also order a biting dog restrained or killed. A dog's owner or keeper is liable for any damage caused by his dog. Dog bite victims are immune from civil and criminal liability for killing the dog during the attack.
The general statutes do not mandate that dogs be on leashes at all times. But (1) a dog's owner or keeper must not allow it to roam on another person's land or on a public highway, including sidewalks, if it is not under his control and (2) local governments may create leash ordinances. Violating the state roaming law is an infraction punishable
by a fine of $92 (CGS § 22-364). Additionally, the Environmental Protection Department requires that owners keep their dogs leashed in state parks.
Vicious Dogs. By law, an owner or keeper of a vicious dog who intentionally or recklessly allows the dog to roam and the dog physically injures another person who was not teasing, tormenting, or abusing it, is subject to a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to six months, or both. For the penalty to apply, the dog's owner must have been convicted in the preceding year of allowing the dog to roam (CGS § 22-364).
ACOs are responsible for enforcing laws prohibiting roaming dogs, dogs not in their owners' control, and other provisions of dog and other companion animal law (CGS § 22-332). Constables and all prosecuting officers must also enforce these laws (CGS § 22-367). OLR Report 2003-R-0694 (copy attached), contains more information about municipal ACOs.
The law requires an ACO to quarantine a dog that has bitten someone off its owner's property. The dog must be quarantined for 14 days in a public pound, veterinary hospital, or place approved by the DOAg commissioner. The purpose of the quarantine is to assure the animal does not have rabies and to examine the dog's demeanor. The owner must pay all fees associated with quarantining the animal. The ACO may quarantine the dog on the premises if it has bitten someone on its owner's property. The ACO must give the person the dog bit and the commissioner notice of the quarantine within 24 hours. The commissioner or his designee must examine the dog on the 14th day of the quarantine to determine whether it should continue (CGS § 22-358 (c)).
An ACO or the commissioner may make any order concerning the restraint or disposal of the biting animal as he deems necessary. Notice of the order must be given to the person bitten by the dog within 24 hours. Anyone aggrieved by an order made by an ACO may request a hearing before the commissioner within 14 days of its issuance. The commissioner after the hearing may affirm, modify, or revoke the order.
ACOs can seize dogs when their owners do not comply with the quarantine or restraining order. The owner may also be fined up to $250, imprisoned for up to 30 days, or both (CGS § 22-358 (c)).
A dog's owner or keeper is liable for any damage caused by his dog to a person's body or property, unless the damage was sustained while the person was committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, abusing, or tormenting the dog. The law presumes that anyone under the age of seven was not committing a trespass or teasing the dog unless the defendant can prove otherwise (CGS § 22-357). If damage has been caused by two or more dogs at the same time, their owners or keepers are jointly and severally liable for the entire damage (CGS § 22-356).
Reporting and Killing
The victim of a dog bite must report the attack to a state, town, or regional ACO responsible for the town where the attack occurred. The ACO must immediately investigate the attack. Anyone who is bitten by a dog or who shows visible evidence of having been attacked may kill the dog during the attack if it happens off the animal owner's or keeper's premises. The law exempts anyone killing a biting dog in accordance with this law from criminal or civil liability (CGS § 22-358).
Public health regulations require health care providers to report to the local health director or authority anyone they treat or examine who has or is suspected of having a “reportable disease,” which includes rabies. (Conn. Regulations §19a-36-A3)
Another law prohibits anyone from owning or harboring a dog which is a nuisance because of a vicious disposition, excessive barking, or other disturbance. The courts may make any order necessary to restrain or dispose of the dog (CGS § 22-363). The penalty for violating the law is an infraction for the first offense and for subsequent offenses the violator may be fined up to $100, imprisoned for up to 30 days, or both. Section 22-362 of the Connecticut Genreal Statutes makes it a crime to own or keep a dog which habitually goes out on a highway and growls, bites, snaps at, or otherwise annoys any person or domestic animal using the highway or chases or interferes with any motor vehicle on the highway. Violators may be fined between $25 and $50, imprisoned for up to 30 days, or both for the first offense and for subsequent offenses they may be fined between $50 and $100, imprisoned for up to 60 days, or both.