Dog laws - Part 1 ‘In Living Collar’

This series of columns covers some of the main dog laws in Tennessee.


Since most dogs don’t read well, these columns are for dog owners – and their neigh­bors.


Q. Does the law say my dog has to wear a col­lar?

Yes. Tennessee’s anti-rabies law says that all dogs must wear a collar with a metal tag or other evidence of rabies vaccination at all times.


Rabies vaccinations can only be given under a veteri­narian’s supervision. An official record is made of the annual vaccination.


The law allows two exceptions to this collar rule:


(1) Puppies younger than six months do not have to wear such a collar and tag.


(2) The collar and tag may be re­moved from hunting dogs “while in chase or return­ing from the chase.” The law prohibits hunters from using unvaccinated dogs in the hunt or the chase.


Q. What if I don’t make my dog wear a collar with a rabies tag. Is that a problem?

Many people don’t know that the law says it is a Class C misdemeanor for any person to “own, keep or harbor” any dog which has not been vaccinated as required by law.


Also, by law it is a Class C misdemeanor for a person to allow any dog to run at large without wearing a vaccination tag, except for hunting dogs as noted above.


Class C misdemeanors may be punished in Tennes­see by 30 days in jail or a $50 fine or both. So, the answer to this question is yes, an owner might get in trouble if her or his dog has no collar and rabies tag.


Q. So, what about cats and rabies tags?

“Cats are different.” Cats must be vaccinated against rabies, but are not required to be issued a rabies tag – or wear collars.


Jim Hawkins is a general practice and public interest law attorney based in Gallatin. This column represents legal information, and is not intended to take the place of legal advice.  All cases are different and need individual attention.  Consult with a private attorney of your choice to review the facts and law specific to your case. To suggest future column topics, call (615) 452-9200.

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