Louisiana Dog Laws 2023: Rabies, Dog Bites, Dog Cruelty, and Dog Chains

Louisiana Dog Laws 2023: Rabies, Dog Bites, Dog Cruelty, and Dog Chains
Louisiana Dog Laws 2023: Rabies, Dog Bites, Dog Cruelty, and Dog Chains
louisiana dog law
louisiana dog law

Photo by Linka A Odom

What are the dog laws in Louisiana? Does Louisiana 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 cruelty, and dog chains. 

Read on for more information about dog laws in Louisiana.

What Dog Vaccines are Required by Law in Louisiana?

All dogs over three months of age residing in Louisiana must receive a rabies vaccination. This vaccine must be performed by or supervised by a licensed veterinarian. Additionally, dog owners are required to affix the dog’s current rabies tag to the dog’s collar. After their first vaccination, dogs must be vaccinated either annually or triannually depending on the vaccination they receive. 

If an unvaccinated dog bites a person, they will be considered as a potential rabies carrier. It is legal for them to subsequently be euthanized with no hold in order to test for rabies. While this is a sad outcome, it is avoidable by staying up to date on your pet’s vaccines. 

What Are the Dog Bite Laws in Louisiana?

Louisiana’s dog bite statute appears in section 2321 of the Louisiana Civil Code. The statute states that the owner of a dog is liable for damages if:

  • the owner knew or should have reasonably predicted the animal’s behavior would cause damage,

  • the damage done could have been reasonably prevented,

  • the owner failed to prevent the damage,

  • the injured person did not provoke the animal.

There are cases where dogs will not be considered aggressors in attacks, even if previously proven to be dangerous. 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. 

Additionally, in some cases, there may be a “common sense” prohibition on finding a dog owner liable. For example, most people know to leave an eating dog or a mother with puppies alone. Bothering an animal when you could predict aggressive behavior will not always result in liability for the owner. 

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 considered vicious in the state of Louisiana. 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. 

What Are Louisiana Dog Abandonment Laws?

What is considered animal abandonment in Louisiana?

According to RS 14:102.1, animal abandonment is illegal. However, what qualifies as abandonment in the eyes of the law is not poorly defined. The law does clarify, however, that “abandons” means to completely forsake and desert an animal previously under the custody or possession of a person without making reasonable arrangements for its proper care, sustenance, and shelter.” 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. 

What is the punishment for animal abandonment in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, the laws on animal abandonment are fairly flexible. Some people abandon animals and are not prosecuted for doing so. However, abandonment can sometimes fall under cruelty; if, for example, there was proof you had left the animal without water, food, or shelter, you could be looking at a misdemeanor charge for animal cruelty. 

Who pays for an abandoned dog’s vet care in Louisiana?

Louisiana law determines that when an owner abandons an animal, they relinquish all rights to them. This is a good thing in some regards, but it means that abandoned animals are subject to the cost of whoever finds them and assumes the responsibility of their care.

What Are Louisiana Dog Cruelty Laws?

What is considered dog cruelty in Louisiana?

Louisiana has a wide range of defined actions that are viewed as animal cruelty. Of course, it is illegal to hit, kick, beat, or otherwise inflict physical pain or suffering on a dog unless in the case of self defense or an otherwise justifiable action. It’s also considered animal cruelty to deprive a dog of things that one could reasonably assume they need – food, water, shelter, exercise, vet care. 

What is the punishment for dog cruelty in Louisiana?

RS 14:102.1 determines that “Whoever commits the crime of simple cruelty to animals shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars, or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both. In addition to any other penalty imposed, a person who commits the crime of cruelty to animals shall be ordered to perform five eight-hour days of court-approved community service.  The community service requirement shall not be suspended.” Additionally, the punishment for aggravated animal cruelty is harsher. “Whoever commits the crime of aggravated cruelty to animals shall be fined not less than five thousand dollars nor more than twenty-five thousand dollars or imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not less than one year nor more than ten years, or both.”

What is the punishment for dogfighting in Louisiana?

As in the other 49 states, dogfighting is a felony in Louisiana. This doesn’t apply only to those directly fighting their animals. Charges can also occur for those betting on or attending dogfights in Louisiana. It’s also illegal to train dogs for the intent of fighting, even if you aren’t directly participating in dogfights. 

What Are Louisiana Dog Chain Laws?

Tethering or chaining a dog is legal in Louisiana. Somewhat controversially, Louisiana has very few restrictions on tethering dogs. This can lead to neglectful situations technically not found to be illegal. Keep in mind that many individual counties may have specific ordinances regarding tethering, so research your specific area.

There are two important ordinances regarding tethering in Louisiana:

  • LSA-R.S. 14:102.26: It shall be unlawful to tie, tether, or restrain any animal in a manner that is inhumane, cruel, or detrimental to its welfare.

  • LSA-R.S. 3:2362: It is prohibited to tie or tether a dog or cat in a manner that exposes the dog or cat to extreme weather conditions in the following designated emergency areas:

    • (1) A designated emergency area during a flood or hurricane in which a disaster or emergency, as defined in R.S. 29:723, is declared by executive order or proclamation of the governor.

    • (2) A designated emergency area during a flood or hurricane in which a local disaster or emergency, as defined in R.S. 29:723, is declared by a local political subdivision of the state.

Of course, the second ordinance largely only applies in emergency situations.  As a general rule of thumb, if you tether your dog, provide them at least three times the length of their body for space, keep the area clean and free of debris, attach safely without a choke collar, and provide shelter, food, and water.

How Does Louisiana Dog Law Rank Against Other States?

The Animal Legal Defense Fund ranks Louisiana number 7 out of all 50 US States for animal protection laws. This makes Louisiana a “top-tier” state by their standards.  Why does Louisiana rank so high? There are thorough definitions for standards of care that guardians must provide for their animals. Additionally, social services professionals have a duty to report suspected animal cruelty, preventing further abuse. And, for certain animal abuse offenders, there is mandatory mental health evaluations and treatment/anger management classes.

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