I'm inquiring about the nature of leash laws for service animals in New Jersey. I know that under federal and state law, service animals are required to be permitted to many places of public accommodation that "normal" pets would typically not be allowed. I'm wondering what the law says about requiring (or not) service animals to be leashed in such places.

A specific case I'm wondering about: a lawn in an apartment complex. Pets using the lawn are required to be on a leash (and this law is backed up by a local ordinance). Can service animals also be required to be on a leash?

  • 3
    Unless there is a reason that a support animal needs to be unleashed to perform its support function, wouldn't it also fall under the local ordinance, barring an explicit exception in said ordinance (which then may make this a question of local ordnance conflicting with state and federal laws)?; to clarify, I'm asking if there is a reason why a service animal cannot perform their service function while leashed.
    – sharur
    Jan 14, 2019 at 21:30
  • @sharur your comment looks a lot like an answer - please don’t answer in comments
    – Dale M
    Jan 14, 2019 at 22:31

1 Answer 1


In general, service animals must be permitted to accompany their handlers (the people that they assist) wherever those people are allowed, subject to reasonable exceptions.

This document from the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT on "Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-Funded Programs](https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=servanimals_ntcfheo2013-01.pdf) discusses the rules which apply in housing situations. It says, after defining 'service animal" and "assistance animal, that:

If the animal meets the test for "service animal," the animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where persons are normally allowed to go, unless

(1) the animal is out of control and its handler does not take effective action to control it;

(2) the animal is not housebroken (i.e., trained so that, absent illness or accident, the animal controls its waste elimination); or

(3) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by a reasonable modification to other policies, practices and procedures.

This would seem to preclude a requirement for a leash, provided that the animal is 'under control"

Guide dogs for the blind usually have a harness with a grip or handle for the person being aided to grab, rather than a leash. Other kinds of service animal may have other sorts of gear.

This site collects and summarizes the NJ legal positions on "Assistance Animal/Guide Dog Laws" The only mention of a leash is in 18A:46-13.3, which is specific to Schools where students need such assistance, and it says:

c. The service animal shall be under a handler's control at all times by use of a leash, tether, voice control, signal, or other suitable means. The school shall not be responsible or liable for the care or supervision of the service animal.

So even that provision does not seem to suggest that a leash is required if other means of control are sufficient.

It would seem that the local leash law is preempted by the federal housing regulations as far as a leash requirement is concerned.

However, I am not a lawyer. If the apartment management attempts to insist on enforcing a leash requirement, you would do well to consult a local lawyer knowledgeable about disability law and housing.

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