Thinking of walking your dog without a leash? Tacoma leash law violators face $513 fine

It’s common to come across a dog that is off-leash in Tacoma, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the proper etiquette or lawful to do so.

According to Tacoma Municipal Code, dogs are required to be on a leash no longer than eight feet while in public unless they are in a designated off-leash area.

“Any dog found roaming, running, straying, or being away from such premises and not on a leash as herein provided is hereby declared to be a nuisance and such dog may be seized and impounded,” according to the municipal code.

But what happens if a fight breaks out between a leashed dog and an unleashed dog?

We reached out to the Tacoma Police Department and Animal Control for more information. Animal control answered The News Tribune’s questions in an email through a TPD spokesperson. Here’s what they had to say:

Q&A with Tacoma Animal Control

Q: How much are owners fined if their dog is found to be running loose?

A: The dogs off premises not on a leash fine is $513.

Q: What should people do or who should they contact if a dog fight breaks out in public?

A: There are so many scenarios and circumstances on dog fights. If you see two stray dogs fighting in public, people should not get into the middle of the fight for safety and health reasons. Depending on the seriousness of the dog fight it is up to the person to call 911, 311 or Animal Control. In most cases the dog owners are there to break up the dog fights.

Q: Can owners be fined or have their dog taken away from them if their leashed dog hurts a loose dog?

A: In most cases leashed dogs are the victims of loose dogs attacking them. Animal Control would investigate provocation, in which the loose dog should have never been loose to approach the leashed dog. So most likely there would be no fines or animal taken away.

Q: Can you hold other dog owners accountable for any injuries and medical bills that result from a dog fight? How should they do this?

A: Monetary damages are civil and a person would have to handle in Civil Courts.

Q: What happens to the dogs seized by the city of Tacoma if they violate the leash law ordinance?

A: Owners can recover their pets at the Humane Society by paying impound, board, vaccination and license fees.

Q: About how many dog fights get reported in Tacoma each year?

A: Animal Control receives reports of dog attacks daily where there is an aggressor and a victim dog usually leashed trying to retreat. Dog fights are more uncommon and are usually caused by food aggression or two dogs fighting over dominance. Dog fights reported would be less than 20 a year.

Q: What happens to dogs that get into fights? Do the owners receive warnings or are the pets immediately taken away?

A: If Animal Control receives a complaint of a dog fight, the administrative assistant would take a report and an animal control officer would talk with the dog owners to determine the circumstances of the dog fight, there may be a potentially dangerous dog investigation where there are restrictions placed on the dog that has been declared potentially dangerous.

Verbal warnings, written warning, warning letters, education and infractions are other possibilities. Handwritten statements would be needed from the victims. Dog owners have a right to contest an infraction or have a hearing on a dog that has been declared potentially dangerous. Pets are not immediately taken away unless they unprovoked kill another animal or cause serious injury to a human.

Off-leash parks in Tacoma

Swan Creek Off-leash Dog Park

  • Where: E 42nd St & Roosevelt Ave

  • Hours: 1/2 hour before sunrise - 1/2 hour after sunset

Wapato Off-leash Dog Park

  • Where: 6500 S. Sheridan Ave

  • Hours: 1/2 hour before sunrise - 1/2 hour after sunset

Point Defiance Off-leash Area

  • Where: 5400 N Pearl St., along Five Mile Drive

  • Hours: Monday - Thursday & Saturday - Sunday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Rogers Off-leash Park

  • Where: 3151 East L St

  • Hours: 1/2 hour before sunrise - 1/2 hour after sunset