Pet Legal

Tulsa Dog Park RULES

posted July 15th, 2009 by
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By Lloyd Benedict

Although Tulsa is very fortunate to now have off-leash parks for our dogs, those who wish to use the parks need to be aware that there are many strict rules. In fact the City of Tulsa has adopted the rules as law and violators of these laws are subject to fines and penalties. This article will examine only a few of those rules, however the full list can be read online at as well as being posted at the parks. The website also has a page devoted to dog park etiquette. One should take time to read the rules and etiquette before using the dog park as this will make the parks’ use more safe and enjoyable.

Recently I was retained by a woman whose dog was attacked by another dog at one of Tulsa’s new dog parks. Apparently my client had just arrived at the dog park for the first time to see what it was all about. While her dog was still on-leash, another dog attacked and injured her dog. The encounter could have been easily avoided had the owners of the attacking dog been watching and had control over their dog. Needless to say, I was able to persuade the attorney for the other dog owner to settle the matter without a lawsuit. The moral of this story is that knowing the rules before using the dog park may save you a headache or worse.

In my reading of the rules I felt the most important rule is number 4 which states “An owner bringing a dog into an off-leash area is liable for and assumes the risk for the dog’s conduct.” This means that if your dog injures another dog or a person at the park, then you are responsible for the damage.

Rule number 8 is the rule I used to argue with the other attorney I mentioned above. Rule 8 says “A dog within an off-leash park area shall be under the owner’s immediate control. All patrons of the Dog Park must carry their leash with them at all times.” This rule would likely have the Court find against negligent dog owners who think they can just let their dogs run about within the park without supervision.
I also feel a few of the rules could be worded a little differently. For example, I love the thought process in rule 9 which states “An owner of a dog creating a disturbance or not being properly controlled can be evicted from an off-leash park area. Upon leaving an off-leash park area, an evicted owner shall also remove his or her dog.” This is what we attorneys refer to as the legal term “Duh.”

One should also be aware that there are a few rules in which, if disobeyed, could make it difficult for you to recover damages if your dog is harmed. Specifically, rules 11, 12, 13 and 14. Rule 11 says “Any dog within an off-leash park area shall not be under four (4) months of age, and shall be currently vaccinated against rabies and have a current City of Tulsa license affixed or attached to the dog’s collar or harness.” Rule 12 holds that “No dog more than six (6) months old which has not been spayed or neutered shall be permitted.” Rule 13 prohibits dogs that are in heat at the park, and rule 14 prohibits dogs that are injured or diseased.


Upon my reading rule 19, I realized that owners of large and small dog have different responsibilities. Rule 19 states that “No dog weighing more than 30 pounds shall be permitted within an area designated for small dogs. Owners allowing their small dogs to enter a designated Large Dog Area do so at their own risk and assume responsibility for whatever damage or injury may result.” The rule basically says that the dog owner of a large dog can not place his dog in the small dog area but a small dog owner can place their dog in the large dog area. Again as a lawyer, I can’t help but criticize their wording and rationale in writing this law. So it’s okay to place the Chihuahua in with the Great Dane, but not the Great Dane in with the Chihuahua.

Finally, rule 28 appears to be more like advice than a rule. It states that “Dog behavior can be unpredictable around other dogs and strangers. For the safety of all the dogs at the parks, immediately leash your dog if it exhibits aggressive behavior and leave the dog park area. Protect yourself and your dog. If aggressive behavior is observed, take immediate action: either move your dog to another part of the park, or leave the park.” In any event this is sound advice.
If you find yourself or your dog a victim of someone who ignores the rules then you should immediately contact the Police or Animal Control. However, I do believe that if everyone acts responsibly and follows the rules, your experience at the dog park will be treasured. Lloyd Benedict is a principal in the Benedict Law Office, Tulsa, and is a member of the Tulsa County Bar Association Animal Committee.

Veterinary Malpractice in Oklahoma

posted April 15th, 2009 by
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Tulsa is fortunate enough to have some of the most caring and gifted Veterinarians in Oklahoma.  However, like any other physician, Veterinarians are capable of providing negligent care to their patients.  Although their patients are not human, a serious injury or the loss of life to your pet by substandard or negligent care can be emotionally devastating to the pet owner.  Laws in Oklahoma concerning veterinary malpractice appear to be few and far between and not as progressive as many other States. In fact, Oklahoma does not even have any appellate cases on point to provide guidance and authority to our Courts.

The reason veterinary malpractice cases do not make it to the appellate courts is because thedamages in these cases typically are too small to economically pursue that far. That is to say, in Oklahoma pets are treated merely as household property, thus the value of your damages for the loss of a pet is usually limited to the cost of its replacement, plus the cost of the veterinary bills arising from the negligent care, or additional bills incurred for corrective veterinary care.  Because these damages are typically not extensive, they usually can be recovered in Small Claims Court.

In addition to damages for replacement of your pet and veterinary bills, it may be possible to also recover damages for emotional distress.  Oklahoma law has long recognized damages arising from the negligent infliction of emotional distress. However, to recover this damage the law requires that some sort of physical manifestation accompanies the emotional distress, such as stomach disorders, headaches, nervous disorders, heart palpitations, etc.  Depending on the individual’s circumstances  resulting from the tragic loss of their pet, the damages awarded for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress could be substantial and worthy of pursuing in a Court level higher than Small Claims. 

In addition to legal action, or in the alternative, pet owners may wish to file a complaint with the Oklahoma Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.  Information concerning complaints can be obtained by visiting their web site at or by calling (405) 524-9006.  

According to their website, the most frequent types of allegations received by the agency are: substandard care, poor bedside manner, unprofessional conduct, substandard facilities, inadequate record keeping, and negligence in the practice of veterinary medicine.  It is also important to know that unless there is clear and convincing evidence of fraud, the Board does not handle disputes over veterinary fees. 

 After a complaint is received, the Board will then investigate the matter and ask the accused Veterinarian to respond to the allegations. If the Board then determines that the Veterinarian acted negligent or unprofessional according to their standards of practice and the law, then they have the authority to impose sanctions and penalties.  These include fines, suspension or even revocation of the Veterinarian’s license to practice.

The Board can also be a useful tool to obtain much needed information about a Veterinarian that you may be considering.  This service may assist you in being able to avoid a Veterinarian that has a history of substandard care or unprofessionalism.     

In any event, before a person brings legal action or files a complaint, they should first speak with the Veterinarian and see if the matter can be resolved or settled fairly.  It is also important to understand that there are many risks associated with medical care for pets that are beyond any Veterinarian’s control and that there are no guarantees of a successful outcome.  

Overall, most pet owners would probably agree that as a whole, Oklahoma Veterinarians do their best to provide excellent and quality care for their pets.

Lloyd Benedict is a principal in the Benedict Law Office, Tulsa, and is a member of the Tulsa County Bar Association Animal Committee.

Tulsa Laws for Paws

posted January 15th, 2009 by
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Story by Lloyd Benedict

Pet owners should take time to read and understand Tulsa’s many strict Ordinances concerning their furry little friends since many of the laws carry some pretty lofty fines. This article will briefly examine a few of our more common animal laws. Tulsa’s Ordinances can be read in their entirety at

I have read and dealt with these laws for many years, yet every time I read them, I am again reminded of how many folks are not aware of them.  I am equally amazed to see how many pet owners are aware of these laws but choose to ignore them. For example, it is unlawful in Tulsa to own any dog or cat over 4 months old, unless such dog or cat has a current vaccination against rabies and is licensed.  A license for one year, which requires a one-year rabies vaccination, is $3.00.  Alternatively, Tulsa allows you to obtain a three-year license for $9.00 ($3.00 per year) as long as your pet receives a three-year rabies vaccination.  A violation of this Ordinance could cost you a$75.00 fine per each unlicensed dog or cat and another $75.00 fine for each that is unvaccinated. For further information concerning how to obtain a license for your dog or cat, contact Tulsa Animal Welfare at 669-6299.

Another law most pet owners are familiar with, but many choose to ignore, is Tulsa’s mandatory Leash Law. The law states that dog owners cannot allow any dog to run at large. What many people do not realize is that this law applies to cats too. An exception to this law is that a dog is allowed to be unleashed when it is obediently at heel.  I presume that if your cat can heel, then the same exception would apply. (Now that would be one talented cat.)  In any event, violators of the leash law may find themselves receiving a $200.00 fine and the risk of having their pet impounded.  Having your pet impounded will cost you more substantial fines and fees in order to redeem your pet, especially if he/she is is unlicensed and unvaccinated, and unspayed or unneutered.  Worse yet, impounded dogs and cats are only boarded for three days before they are euthanized if not claimed by the owners within that time. 

Tulsa also doesn’t take kind to dumping pets either.  In fact, in addition to dogs and cats, the law prohibits abandoning “any” domestic animal along any private or public roadway or in any other private or public place. Tulsa defines domestic animals to mean dogs and cats, as well as horses, donkeys, mules, burros, cattle, sheep, goats, swine, rabbits and fowl. 

Another law that Tulsa Police regularly enforce is the “Barking Dog Law” also known as the Animal Nuisance Ordinance. This law prohibits owning or possessing any animal which is a nuisance. A Nuisance is defined as any animal which habitually commits any one or a combination of the following acts:

  • a. Scratches or digs into any flower bed, garden, tilled soil, vines, shrubbery or 
    small plants and in so doing injures the same;
  • Overturns any garbage can or other vessel for waste products or scatters the
    contents of same;
  • Chases any person or domestic animal, or kills any domestic animal;
  • Barks, howls, brays or makes any other loud or offensive noise common to
    its species or peculiar to itself, so as to disturb the inhabitants of the community;
  • Runs at large.

It is probably safe to say that “habitually” means more than once and rather frequent. Violators of this offense could face imprisonment in the City Jail for 30 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.

Tulsa law requires every pet owner to attach a current license tag, for the animal, to collars or harnesses worn by their dogs or cats, unless the dog or cat is permanently and uniquely identified with a microchip implant or tattoo. Violators of this offense can be fined $200.00.  

Tulsa pet owners must keep every female dog or cat “in heat” confined in a building, veterinary hospital or boarding kennel in such a manner that another dog or cat cannot come into contact with it except for controlled breeding purposes. Violators of this law can also be fined $200.00.

You may wish to also take note it could cost a hefty $200.00 if you violate Tulsa’s Pooper Scooper law. No animal owner shall allow their animal to defecate (without the owner removing the excreta deposited) on public or private property other than that of the owner.  The law is not specific to dogs and cats, so I presume the fine would be the same regardless whether the perpetrator is your Yorkie or a pet horse, however I am almost certain your neighbor may not measure those results in the same manner.

If you were wondering how many pets you may own in Tulsa, it is unlawful to own, keep or possess in any one household more than a combined total of five dogs and cats over the age of four months; provided that no more than three of such animals shall be dogs over the age of four months. Violating this law can land you 30 days in jail or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.

One of the most important laws pet owners need to be aware of is that Tulsa requires every dog and cat over the age of six months to be spayed or neutered, unless the owner has secured a hobbyist exemption permit. The fine for this is also $200.00, which typically exceeds the cost for spaying or neutering at your local vet.  

As you can see, being aware of these offenses can save you substantial penalties or possibly give you the knowledge needed to report irresponsible neighbors. After all, these laws are not just to punish wrongdoers, they were also designed to protect our animals. 

Dog Owner Liability

posted October 15th, 2008 by
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Being a dog owner in Oklahoma requires more than providing tender loving care for your animal.  There are many legal issues to consider with dog ownership. For instance, what if your dog harms someone? Can a person go to jail if their dog attacks someone? Do dog owners have a duty to warn people that their pet is dangerous? Does insurance cover injuries or damages caused by your dog?

Problems may arise if a dog owner falls into a false sense of security by ignoring the fact that his/her dog can potentially cause very serious injuries. This false sense of security may occur because the dog has never shown any unprovoked aggression to family members or strangers.  Although some may believe that only certain dog breeds are more predisposed to cause harm, the reality is that any dog has the potential to do so.  Granted, an attack from a small breed of dog may not be as severe as an attack from a larger breed.  The fact is Oklahoma laws do not discriminate against any particular breed or size, so the likelihood of getting sued is the same regardless of the breed.  Obviously, a more powerful dog may cause greater harm, thus greater consequences await that dog owner.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually, resulting in an estimated 800,000 injuries that require medical attention. Because dog attacks are not an uncommon event, all dog owners should be aware of Oklahoma’s State and local laws that concern liability of the dog owner.

One of the most important Oklahoma laws is a statute concerning dog owner liability.  The law allows a dog owner to be sued and held liable to pay all damages caused when their dog, without provocation, bites or injures any person while that person is in or on a place where they have a lawful right to be.  The law further states that postal workers, meter readers and utility workers have a lawful right to be on your property.1

If your dog has previously bitten another person or dog, you should be aware that your responsibilities may be even greater.  Oklahoma law defines a dangerous dog as one that has severely injured a person before, whose owner has already been notified by an animal control authority that the dog is potentially a dangerous dog.  A potentially dangerous dog is defined as one that when unprovoked inflicts bites on a human or other dogs either on public or private property.2

If a person is found to own a dangerous dog, the law requires the dog to be securely confined indoors, or enclosed in a locked pen.3 If you allow a dangerous dog to run loose and it harms a person, you could be found guilty of a misdemeanor, or a felony if a death results, and punishable by imprisonment and large fines.4

Another common concern is whether a dog owner is required to post warning signs on the fence.  Although no state statute requires such, Tulsa has an ordinance that requires a dog owner to post a warning sign on a secure enclosure if the dog has been classified as dangerous. In addition, the owner must carry at least $50,000 of liability insurance that covers injuries caused by the dog, and pay a $10.00 fee to register the dog.5

Although a warning sign is not otherwise required, dog owners still have a legal duty to warn visitors to beware they have a dog that could cause harm.  Warning anyone who has a lawful right to enter your property, such as the meter reader, may lessen your liability for them should they become harmed.

Dog owners, whether they are homeowners or renters, should also understand liability insurance issues.  If you already have insurance it is important to find out from your insurance agent whether the policy would cover injuries or damages caused by your dog.   If you do not have coverage,  you may wish to shop around for another insurer.

While considering how much liability insurance you should carry, make sure the amount is adequate to pay for serious injuries. It is not unusual for dog attacks to cause tens of thousands of dollars in damages. In 2007 the average cost of a dog bite insurance claim was $24,511. If you are not properly insured to cover those types of damages, you could find yourself filing bankruptcy or having your wages garnished for a very long time.

In my practice as a lawyer I am frequently confronted with many dog bite cases where the dog owners have no liability insurance whatsoever.  Typically the victim is attacked by a dog that either escaped from a poorly maintained fence or the owner allows the dog to run loose.  It is also my experience that people are not injured just from bites alone, as harm can be caused during a person’s attempt to escape an attack, such as breaking a leg.  Injuries caused to a person while escaping expose dog owners to the same liability as bites do.

If you live near such an irresponsible dog owner, take immediate action by asking them to properly secure their dog.  Explain to them that doing so will not only prevent injuries to people, but to their dog as well. If the dog owner is uncooperative then you should either contact your local police or animal control.

By taking time to understand your liability as a dog owner, you will lessen your risks from a potential lawsuit, and hopefully prevent harm to others.

Story by Lloyd Benedict

Is Your Corgi Covered by Car Insurance?

posted April 15th, 2008 by
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Many of you have seen the television ads by Progressive Insurance touting that they are providing collision coverage for your pet – up to $500 – if Fluffy or Fido is injured or dies in a car accident.  And while this is not an endorsement of any particular company, my initial reaction was “Wow, that’s great – and they do it for no extra premium!”

Then the legal side of my brain kicked in and I began wondering why pets were not already covered.  As pet lovers know, the law treats dogs and cats as personal property.  If my beloved briefcase or favorite shoes were in my car at the time of the accident, wouldn’t they be covered?  Yes, but probably under my homeowner’s insurance, subject to my deductible and assuming the item of personal property was not excluded (such as electronics) or covered only with a special rider (like jewelry).  Typically, auto insurance coverage – liability and collision – will cover the insured person’s damage to his or her vehicle in an accident, the damage to the other person’s auto or property if the insured was at fault, as well as medical bills, all up to the maximum stated in the policy and subject to the deductible.  At this point in time, only Progressive is covering pet injuries – dogs and cats only – under their auto policy, in hopes of distinguishing their company in a highly competitive market.

So why don’t other companies offer this coverage?  The jury is still out as to what this will cost Progressive and whether it attracts new customers to offset these costs.  At the time of this article, the local office had not had any pet claims yet submitted.  In our informal and totally unscientific telephone polling done as part of the preparation of this article, only Geico admits that they are looking into offering something similar (like what else is a company with a gecko spokes“person” going to say).  Allstate, Farmers and State Farm all said pets were not covered.  Interestingly, dogs, cats and pets are generally excluded from home-owner’s coverage as “property,” although most homeowner’s policies do cover instances where the pet has caused injury to a person or someone else’s property.  You should not just assume that this is the case, however.  I was surprised to discover that about one third of all homeowner claims involve dog bites so companies are beginning to refrain from selling insurance to households with dogs or to persons who have certain breeds of dogs, or they are starting to exclude damages from dog bites from their coverage altogether.  Since there is no “standard” form of policy – and they vary even between people with the same company – each person must review his or her own policy to see what is covered and what is excluded.

One of the companies we spoke with – State Farm – said that if you have “appraised” animals, such as show dogs or pedigreed breeder stock, you can obtain coverage under the “Personal Articles” portion of a homeowner’s policy, but indicated that, in general, pets were not covered.

Keep in mind, this Pet Injury coverage is different from general pet insurance which is basically health insurance for your pet.  With pet insurance, you purchase a health policy from a company and then submit the vet bills when your pet has a covered illness or procedure, and they reimburse you, less the deductible.  Depending on how you view the world, the Pet Injury coverage offered by Progressive Insurance elevates your dog or cat to a “semi-person” or an extension of your automobile, up to a value of $500.

My opinion of all of this is that all automobile insurance companies should cover pets while they are being transported in your family vehicle, regardless of whether you view them as fuzzy children or personal property that eats.  If Progressive’s campaign is successful, you will see other companies falling in line.  However, insurance is like all other businesses – they will only provide a service if they know that such coverage is desired and only we can make them aware of this fact.

Story by D. Faith Orlowski

Reporting Animal Cruelty and Neglect

posted October 15th, 2007 by
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Story by D. Faith Orlowski

From your back porch, you can tell that your neighbors’ dogs have not been fed or watered for days.  Or on your way to work, you see the same dog on the same short chain out in the sun and weather sitting in a puddle on a concrete pad.  
Or you notice things even worse.  What should you do?

If you witness animal abuse or neglect, you should always report it.  In the Tulsa metropolitan area and surrounds, there is always confusion as to who to call.  My advice – call everyone until you are sure that the matter has been investigated.

Start with the Tulsa Animal Shelter (phone: 918-669-6299) or the Tulsa Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (the “TSPCA”, phone: 918-428-7722).  While the TSPCA’s cruelty investigator is part time due to funding restraints, do not let that dissuade you.  The important thing is that the problem is reported and the animal is assisted.  

There are actions you can take to assist the local authorities.  First, gather the facts – the location of the animal (exact address) and a description of the situation (lack of food and water, injuries or sores, inhumanely confined or chained, generally neglected, etc.).  The more specific you can be, the better the chance you have of persuading the authorities to investigate.  If possible, document the incident with photographs or videos.  Learn how to use your cell phones for this purpose.  If the animal cruelty is not witnessed directly but is suspected, document all you can, with all specificity possible (note dates, times, circumstances, type and number of animals, persons involved, addresses, detailed description of the animals and person(s) involved) and report the cruelty to the authorities immediately.

The very slight possibility of having to testify should never outweigh the concern of acting and reporting the abuse.  The main interest is to remove the animal from the situation.  So few of these cases go to Court that your main concern should be for the animal’s welfare and providing the authorities enough information to substantiate your concern so they will investigate.

If the sheriff or police must be involved, the problem is finding someone who has the time to investigate.  The main reason given for not prosecuting animal abuse and neglect cases is that it takes the officers the same amount of time to investigate and gather the evidence for an animal investigation as it does for crime investigations involving people. Unfortunately, animal cruelty matters – especially neglect issues – rarely get much attention from County Sheriffs or police officers for a variety of reasons.  Secondly, pursuing animal abuse issues must be important to the local district attorney, because all the investigating you do will mean nothing if the DA is not interested in prosecuting these matters.  

Now most animal lovers will face a “Catch 22” of sorts when it comes to animal neglect – especially as to the lack of food, water or blankets from the freezing conditions.  If you provide the animal with assistance and then the officer goes to investigate, all he or she will see is an animal that has food, water or bedding.  First, never put yourself in physical danger – from the animal or from the animal’s keeper.  Second, if you fear for the animal’s life prior to an officer investigating the situation and you do not feel you will be in danger, then use the buddy system.  Take a friend with a video camera shooting the scene as it is when you approach.  Then continue videotaping while you place the food, water or bedding within reach of the animal.  Continue videotaping showing the animal’s reaction.  At least this way, the tape will show that you supplied the necessities.  Law officials will never tell you to do this because you are more than likely trespassing, as well as placing yourself in harm’s way.  I am not recommending this action.  I just understand how many of us react to situations like this.

Please be aware that if the animal appears to be suffering from extreme starvation, you should not feed them, since their excessive overeating could cause harm or death.  If horrendous starvation is observed, call authorities, local television stations, newspapers, veterinarians, city officials – anyone and everyone – so that enough excitement is created to remove the animals to emergency care.

“Cruelty” under the Tulsa city ordinances is defined as actions intended “to willfully or maliciously overdrive, overload, torture, torment, destroy or kill or cruelly beat or injure, maim or mutilate, any animal in subjugation or captivity, whether wild or tame, and whether belonging to himself or to another, or depriving any such animal of necessary food, drink or shelter; or causing, procuring or permitting any such animal to be so overdriven, overloaded, tortured, tormented, destroyed or killed, or cruelly beaten or injured, maimed or in any way furthering any act of cruelty to any animal or in any act tending to produce such cruelty.”  The state statute is very similarly worded, but allows such acts to be treated as a felony calling for imprisonment of up to one year in a county jail or up to five years in a state penitentiary and/or a fine of up to $500.00.  Any officer finding an animal so maltreated or abused may also take possession of the animal and is able to place a lien on it which must be paid prior to its reclamation.

The main solution for many animal neglect situations lies in education.  And, fortunately, society has begun to recognize that those who intentionally abuse animals often continue that cycle of violence on humans.  Until it stops, please be vigilant.  If you see a neglected or abused animal, please take action – it could save a life.

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