Is It Illegal to Let Your Dog Poop in Someone's Yard?
Posted: February 22, 2023
Common courtesy demands that we clean up after our pets when we walk them. Still, sometimes you get caught unprepared. Whether you forgot to bring a bag or your dog decided to go more than once, sometimes you may be unable to clean up. While it’s certainly not ideal, can you get in legal trouble in this situation? Before your next walk, you may ask: is it illegal to let your dog poop in someone's yard?
Trespassing and Property Laws
To answer whether it’s illegal to let your dog poop in someone’s yard, there are a few issues to consider. When it comes to what you can or cannot do on someone else’s land, trespassing and destruction of property are the two most common concerns.
In most cases, if you are simply walking your dog normally and they step into someone’s yard to poop, you cannot be accused of trespassing. This is because, while someone’s yard is their property, the law allows for some minimal use of the space without consent.
Interestingly, this is the same legal precedent that allows a delivery person to walk onto your property to deliver a package. So unless you were already in someone’s yard illegally, your dog pooping there does not violate trespassing laws.
The other general concern is property damage. If letting your dog poop in someone’s yard caused them a measurable loss, you can be sued for that damage. This can apply if your dog ruined a flower bed or if the house’s owner incurred damage by stepping in it.
Specific Laws and Private vs. Public Property
While you may not be subject to trespassing or damage laws if your dog does its business on a neighbor’s lawn, you may be subject to more specific legislation. Both state and local legislation requiring pet owners to clean up after their animals is common in most US states and cities.
In some cases, letting your dog poop on public property can be a bigger issue. For example, the state of Washington requires that animal handlers “pick up the animal's feces in developed recreation facilities, along designated recreation trails, and where posted by the department.” This includes places like public parks and the yards of government buildings. The law further requires that you “dispose of feces into a designated receptacle or take feces with [you] for disposal off-site.”
Most cities have similar laws requiring pet owners to clean up after their dogs anywhere they go. Some penalties are steep, such as in Austin, TX, where owners failing to clean up can be fined up to $500, or in Washington, DC, where the fine can be as high as $2,000. Some cities, like Seattle, can even fine dog owners for walking their dogs without carrying poop disposal bags with them.
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