Column: Running off-leash in public sounds good, but don’t allow your dog to do it


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Leash laws —love em’ or hate em’ — nearly every city and county in California has these codes on the books.

Our animal care and control service area is no exception. In Pasadena, for example, dogs must be kept on a leash (6-feet or shorter) in public spaces, trails and city parks, except in designated off-leash areas.

Pasadena Humane Animal Control Officers, who are responsible for enforcing leash laws, have used an educational approach in Pasadena up until now — giving warnings and reminding owners of the law and the importance of keeping dogs leashed.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of reports of unleashed dogs in Pasadena city parks have become a public safety concern. Thus, officers have begun issuing citations to owners of unleashed dogs at the City of Pasadena’s request.

As much as I might love to let my dog Sueshi run off-leash, I can name countless reasons — in addition to it being against the law —why it is not a good idea.

Even if your dog is excellent off-leash, letting them roam freely in public spaces can be dangerous, or worse, deadly. The best-behaved dogs may still run into the street ahead of an oncoming car, encounter a coyote, get into a fight with other dogs or go stray.

Let’s face it, not everyone loves our pets as much as we do.

Pedestrians, skateboarders, bicyclists, mobility device users, service dog owners and others walking their pets appreciate when all other pets are kept on a leash in public spaces.

Rochelle Guardado, Pasadena Humane’s Animal Training Manager, shared these tips for best practices in leashing your dog.

The best type of leash is one that fits comfortably in your hand and can be safely secured to your dog’s harness or collar. A flat, 6-foot-long leash is a safe and economical option recommended for most situations.

Retractable leashes are a popular choice for some dog owners but not one we recommend. These leashes infringe on the 6-feet leash law and pose safety risks for the dog and the handler.

One thing to keep in mind when walking your dog on leash is proper greeting etiquette.

“If you are lucky enough to have a dog who loves to greet others, it’s best to check with the other person if it’s okay that your dog approaches them,” explains Guardado. “Not everyone enjoys dogs who rush to greet, and for some it may even cause panic.”

Your dog may be well behaved and friendly around other pets, but for guardians who walk their nervous, shy or reactive pets, nothing sets off more alarm bells than hearing, “It’s okay, my dog is friendly!”

Even if you plan to keep your dog leashed at all times, accidents can happen. You might drop the leash, or your dog may escape a harness. So, it’s important to teach your dog to come when called. Our “Rockstar Recalls” training workshop can help in perfecting this skill.

Pasadena Humane loves to promote fun, on-leash experiences for people and their pups, like our annual “Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run” on April 21 around the Rose Bowl.

In addition this year, we are excited to partner with the Los Angeles Arboretum & Botanic Garden for their first-ever “Barks & Brews” event, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. March 10 in Arcadia. Pasadena Humane will be there with adoptable pets. Proceeds from the March 10 event will benefit both Pasadena Humane and the LA Arboretum Foundation.

You are invited to enjoy craft beers, delicious food and a stroll through the garden with your dog.

Admission to the event for dog attendees $10; human guests $15 ages 18-62; $11 ages 62 and older and students with ID; $5 ages 5-12. Learn more and purchase your tickets at


Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.

This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on March 1, 2024.