Is it unlawful for a dog owner to allow their dog to defecate in a neighbors yard while on a walk, even if the owner picks up the dogs feces and disposes of it properly?

  • 2
    Laws vary around the world, so which jurisdiction (country, province, state, principality etc) does this relate to?
    – user35069
    Aug 4, 2021 at 18:26

1 Answer 1


In Washington State, Chapter 16.04 RCW covers trespass. If an animal trespasses, the owner may incur liability for the damage, so of course the plaintiff would have to prove that there was damage. However the first section provides that

Any person suffering damage done by any horses, mules, donkeys, cattle, goats, sheep, swine, or any such animals, which shall either trespass upon any land enclosed by lawful fence as provided in chapter 16.60 RCW or trespass while running at large in violation of chapter 16.24 RCW may retain and keep in custody such offending animals until the owner or person having possession of such animals shall pay such damage and costs, or until good and sufficient security be given for the same.

Damages are provided for under RCW 16.04.015, with reference to such trespass. Since the critters listed under that law are livestock, it is not obvious that pet dogs are "such" animals. Dogs are covered under other chapters of this title, but that particular title at least appears to be "about" stock. Ch. 16.08 is specifically about dogs, but more specifically about dangerous dogs, and the only trespassing provision regards possible trespass by a human. So there are no specific statutes regarding dogs crossing a property line.

Which leaves us with common law liability: if you damage a person's property, you can be held liable. Since an animal touching a person's dirt does not normally result in damage, the odds are against such a suit, but it is possible (clean-up is always a partial remediation at best). On the third hand, there could also be relevant a municipal ordinance. In Seattle, under SMC 9.25.084 it is unlawful to

Permit any animal, except cats and pigeons, to be at large or trespass upon the property of another

and you can be fined up to $500. Outside the city limits, under county ordinances there is no provision penalizing trespass by a pet.

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