Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ February 2006

New Law:  All Dogs, Cats Must Be Leashed in Public

By Beth Ginter and Jacquie Bokow

Recently, a new law was enacted in Montgomery County which impacts all dog and cat owners in our neighborhood.  Effective 27 December 2005, the law states that “an owner must not allow a dog or unaltered cat to be at large” (Section 5-203).  A dog at large is defined as “outside the owner’s premises and not leashed.”  Any other animal (i.e., cat or livestock animal) is at large “if it is outside the owner’s premises and not leashed or immediately responsive to verbal or non-verbal direction.”

In the past, dogs were allowed to be unleashed in public as long as they were under the immediate verbal control of their owners.  Now, all dogs must be leashed unless they are in a designated dog exercise area.  Our nearest designated “dog park” is located at Wheaton Regional Park.  Service dogs and dogs participating in “qualified activities” such as dog hunts or obedience trials are exempt from the leash law.

For cat owners, this would mean you would have to be with the cat and it would have to respond instantly to your verbal commands if it were not on a leash.  Allowing your cat to roam outdoors at night would violate the law.

The penalty for violation is $500.

The Washington Post quoted County Council member and public safety committee head Phil Andrews as saying that the law was necessary to protect children and vulnerable adults from the “unpredictable” nature of dogs.

Other aspects of animal control laws appearing in the MoCo Code (Sec. 5-203) are discussed below, including the penalties for violation.

Unwanted Contact

Pet owners must control their animals at all times.  Specifically, the Code states that “pet owners must prevent unwelcome or unsolicited threatening physical contact or close proximity to a person or a domestic animal that occurs outside the owner’s property that may cause alarm in a reasonable person, such as biting, chasing, tracking, inhibiting movement, or jumping.”  The penalty for violation is $500.

Animal Defecation

Under the so-called “pooper scooper” law [5-203(a)(2)], “an owner must not allow an animal to damage or defecate on property outside of the owner’s property.”  An animal may defecate on public property only if the owner immediately removes and disposes of the feces by a sanitary method.  Feces may be picked up in a plastic bag.  If this bag is placed inside another plastic bag, it may be put out for disposal in normal household trash.  The penalty for violation is $100.

Dogs on School Grounds

According to Section 5-203(a)(7), “an owner must not allow a dog to be on public school grounds on a day when school is in session, or in a public recreation area during an organized activity, unless the dog is controlled by a leash or similar restraining device.”  This does not apply if the dog is participating in an activity such as obedience or agility training if the owner or sponsor of the activity has permission from the agency controlling the school or recreation area.  The penalty for violation is $100.

Animal Noise

“An owner must not allow an animal to cause noise that is loud enough and persistent enough to disturb another person’s quiet enjoyment” [Sec. 5-203(a)(6)].  The penalty for violation is $100.

For further information, or to report an animal bite or a violation of animal control laws, call the Animal Services Division at 240.773.5960 or 240.773.5925.  For after-hours emergencies, call 240.773.5900.   ■

   © 2006 NFCCA  [Source:]