Leash Law & Tethering Ordinance

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Whether warm or cold, sunshine or rain, the urge to track a scent in the backyard is irresistible to some of our furry friends. Pet owners with cabin fever or spring fever are eager to oblige as they open the door to the great outdoors. The Animal Services Division hopes their pet is on a leash or sprinting to a fenced-in area. If not, there’s a chance that pet owner could be breaking the law.


Leash Law

Durham County pet owners are required to keep their animals under restraint when they’re away from their property. It’s unlawful to take a dog on a stroll through your neighborhood without a leash. No matter how friendly or well-behaved the owner believes their pet can be around others, the pet must be supervised and restrained at all times for everyone’s safety.



There are times when keeping an animal restrained is a violation of the law. It’s unlawful to leave pets unsupervised in an open yard or space while tethered. Recently, misinformation posted on social media about a tethering case raised questions about the county ordinance and enforcement of the ordinance.


What Residents Need to Know
  • By law, Animal Services deputies cannot enter private property and remove an animal without the owner's consent or a search warrant related to a criminal investigation.
  • After Animal Services receives a tethering complaint, deputies must first attempt to locate the owner and make them aware of the ordinance. If an owner is not at home, a note, requesting that they contact the Sheriff's Office, is hung on their door.
  • During their initial contact with the owner, Animal Services recommends keeping the pet indoors or in a fenced in area. If a pet owner does not have the means to purchase a fence, they are referred to one of our community partners. Typically, within a few weeks, a fence is installed at no charge to the pet owner.
  • If the owner is unwilling to follow the law, they receive a written warning. Additional tethering complaints will result in a civil penalty or criminal charges.
Why Give Pet Owners a Chance to Comply with the Law?

Animal Services deputies have learned criminal charges are not always a deterrent for violators of the tether ban. Through its Healthy Animal Initiative, the Animal Services Division offers pet owners a chance to comply with the law in a non-punitive way. If deputies immediately charge a pet owner for a tethering violation, the cost of court fees can prevent some pet owners from taking the necessary steps toward purchasing a fence for their animal and providing them a healthy home with a long-term solution. The Sheriff’s Office wants to prevent animals from entering the local animal shelter.