Arkansas Dog Laws: Rabies, Dog Bites, Abandonment, and Cruelty

Arkansas Dog Laws: Rabies, Dog Bites, Abandonment, and Cruelty
Arkansas Dog Laws: Rabies, Dog Bites, Abandonment, and Cruelty
arkansas dog
arkansas dog

Photo by Emery Way via Getty

What are the dog laws in Arkansas? Does Arkansas 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 abandonment, or dog cruelty.

Read on for more information about dog laws in Arkansas.

Rabies Vaccination Laws

In Arkansas, any dog over three months of age must be vaccinated for rabies. A licensed veterinarian must administer rabies vaccines. Dogs must wear a rabies tag at all times to show proof the animal has been vaccinated. After their first vaccine, dogs must get a vaccination the next year. After this second vaccine, they may receive their vaccines on a three-year schedule. There are no medical exemptions for rabies vaccinations in the state of Arkansas.

If an unvaccinated dog bites someone, they are subject to a ten day quarantine. Dogs displaying symptoms of rabies during this time will face euthanasia for testing. If they do not, they will return home, but must be subsequently vaccinated.

Failure to vaccinate your dog in the state of Arkansas can make you responsible for paying a fine. This fine is not to go under five dollars or exceed twenty-five dollars per infraction.

Dog Bite Laws

Arkansas is known as a “one-bite” state. This means that on a dog’s first bite innocent, the owner is usually not held liable under the presumption that they did not have knowledge of the dog’s aggressive behavior. There are exceptions in these cases. For example, a severe attack or mauling is likely subject to prosecution even if the dog in question had not been previously aggressive. Additionally, if there was reason to suspect the dog was dangerous – past behavior such as snapping, growling, and so on — the owner may still be liable.

To complicate things further, many counties have individualized dog bite laws. This means that what is legal in one portion of the state may not be legal in a separate county. It’s important to research where specifically in Arkansas you will be living in order for the most accurate dog laws.

There are cases where dogs will not be considered aggressors in attacks. 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.

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 “known to be vicious” in the state of Arkansas. 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.

Arkansas-Specific Legislation

Arkansas Code section 5-62-125 states that it is a Class A misdemeanor to negligently allow a dog to inflict injury or death. This means that, if you did not properly contain your dog and they bit someone, you could be charged with a misdemeanorA judge or jury may additionally order the defendant (dog owner) to pay the victim’s medical bills post-conviction. However, unless the victim files a civil suit, the defendant will not be liable for other restitution for any pain and suffering caused.

Dog Abandonment Laws

In Arkansas, animal abandonment is prohibited by law. However, the law fails to really define what this constitutes. The law simply states that it is illegal to abandon an animal. There’s few specifics as to scenarios beyond that. Animal abandonment is always dangerous to animals and people that may encounter them. It’s always better to surrender a pet to a shelter or rescue if you cannot keep them.

Dog Cruelty Laws

In Arkansas, animal cruelty is most often a misdemeanor. Animal cruelty can have serious consequences. Even first offenders can face jail time and large fines. Consequently, repeat offenders face harsher sentencing. Aggravated animal cruelty carries heavier charges. These charges apply when an act of cruelty results in severe suffering, disfigurement, or death of the animal. Aggravated animal cruelty in Arkansas is a Class D felony, which can lead to prison time.

As in the other 49 states, dogfighting is a felony in Arkansas. This doesn’t apply only to those directly fighting their animals. It also applies to promoters or spectators of these events. Yes — watching a dogfight is also a felony.

Tethering Laws

Arkansas as a state does not prohibit tethering dogs. There are some criticisms in regards to Arkansas’s blatant lack of tethering laws. Without proper restrictions, tethering can be dangerous to dogs. However, many Arkansas counties have taken tethering laws into their own hands. There are many county-specific ordinances in regards to tethering. As an example, Little Rock has a long list of county-specific tethering ordinances. This means that, while tethering isn’t illegal in Arkansas, it’s a good idea to read up on your local ordinances if you plan to tether. As a rule of thumb, provide tethered dogs with accessible shelter, and at least ten feet of clean and maintained space. Additionally, never tether to a collar that could potentially choke or strangle the dog.

How Does Arkansas Rank Against the Other 49 States?

Arkansas ranks as a “bottom-tier” state for animal protection laws by the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Out of all 50 states, Vermont comes in at number 36 for animal rights. There are some good things about Arkansas’s animal laws. For example, Arkansas has mandatory mental health evaluation for convicted animal cruelty offenders, which can help prevent future crimes. However, there’s downsides too. While some of these don’t apply to dogs, such as ag-gag laws, some can impact dog ownership. For example, social services professionals are not required to report suspected animal cruelty, which can allow abusers to go unnoticed.

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