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Boreal Community Media

The Legal Aspects of Letting Your Dog Roam Off-Leash

Mar 09, 2021 05:53AM ● By Editor

Photo: sidewalkdog.com


Editor's note: The second in our exclusive series to educate the public on the joys, challenges and responsibilities of pet ownership in the wilderness. From Boreal Community Media - March 9, 2021


We have all seen it around town.  People walking their off-leash dog near Artist Point or at the more popular spot in town, where on any given day, many locals choose to let their dogs run loose in the Grand Marais Campground as part of their daily walking routine, even though these areas fall under the City leash ordinance guidelines.  

According to Molly Hicken, Cook County Attorney, “The City of Grand Marais does have a related ordinance (10-8 Restraint within city limits) which you can find here. A violation of the leash restraint ordinance constitutes a petty misdemeanor (under 10-2). Our most recent court trial for violation of this ordinance led to a $25 fine (+ $85 surcharge), but there is no standard assessed or listed fine for this ordinance violation” .

 County Attorney Molly Hicken.  Photo:  Cook County

Not only are dog owners taking a chance on their dog running off, getting hit by a car, or attacked by wildlife, but there is always the danger of the dog attacking another animal or human.  Molly Hicken said that “Dog bites, especially those that are unprovoked and which injure a human, should be reported to law enforcement. Law enforcement coordinates with Cook County Public Health and our Environmental Health Officer to investigate the circumstances of the bite. The owner is to impose a 10-day quarantine of the animal (to discover any change in behavior)”.

She continued to say that “Chapter 347 of the Minnesota Statutes may also come into play if a dog injures a human or another animal (whether or not the dog is leashed). You can find that statute chapter here. Other than the public health response I’ve described above, the county does not have any role in disputes between owners of animals that have harmed one another. It would be up to the owner of the injured animal to pursue compensation from the owner of the animal which caused the injury, either through agreement or through court action”.  

 Sheriff Pat Eliasen.  Photo: Cook County

What happens if your pet is caught running loose within City limits?  According to Pat Eliasen, Cook County Sheriff, “We receive numerous calls annually about pets running loose in the county, but the leash law is only enforced within the city limits of Grand Marais. If an animal is reported to be running loose, a deputy responds and will first attempt to contact the owner for a safe return of the animal. If the owner cannot be located, the animal is secured in the pound and taken care of by members of Arrowhead Animal Rescue until it can be returned. If we receive multiple calls involving the same animal, we will issue a citation to the owner. The fee at the pound is $30/day.”

What are some options for those who want to safely let their dogs run off-leash?  The Gunflint Horse Arena and Dog Park is an enclosed safe place where dogs can run off-leash without the worry of traffic or running away.   

The Gunflint Horse Arena and Dog Park.  Photo: Boreal Community Media


On the West end of the County behind the Lutsen Town Hall, a former baseball field is now an enchanted playground for 4-legged friends.  A fully-enclosed space allows for plenty of space for dogs to run and socialize with others..

 The Lutsen fenced in dog park.  Photo: Boreal Community Media


Ultimately, everyone wants their pet to stay safe.  The intent of local ordinances is to protect not only the health and safety of others but your four-legged pet as well.


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