Full Title Name:  State and Municipal Regulation of Dogs

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Rebecca F. Wisch Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Publish Year:  2003 Primary Citation:  Animal Legal & Historical Center

This paper overviews the general police power local municipalities have over the regulation of dogs. In doing so, the paper touches upon the subjects of local dog regulation and the associated caselaw. The paper also discusses preemption of local dog laws by overriding state laws.

I. Introduction

Dogs clearly occupy a special place in the hearts and homes of their human guardians.  But dogs, like any other form of property in our legal system, are subject to the authority of federal, state, and local laws.  Most laws that directly regulate the conditions of ownership of dogs fall at the local level.  This often strict exercise of police power over dogs by the state and its associated municipalities may well be rooted in the real fear of their sometimes vicious tendencies and their legacy of rabies infestation.  These local laws, often called ordinances, are almost universally seen as valid exercises of police power.  They can cover a number of areas related to dogs, including the restricting of loose dogs, the number of dogs one may harbor in his or her house, as well as the keeping of a vicious dog.  Perhaps the most difficult exercises of police power for owners are those ordinances that concern the seizure and destruction of dogs for violating any number of provisions.  It is the judicial interpretation of these ordinances that often provides the most litigation, as owners look to state law for a stay of execution.  Whether these laws seem harsh or inflexible, all have been generally held as valid exercises of police power. 

This paper will analyze the police power authority vested in local governing units, specifically examining those statutes that enable municipalities to enact ordinances affecting dogs (note that more specific dog ordinances subjects (impoundment and destruction of dogs, zoning issues, dangerous dogs) will soon be addressed in separate papers at the Web Center ).  It will further explore the constitutional challenges to these ordinances, noting that nearly all such challenges have been held as valid exercises of police power.  Within these challenges often emerges the issue of preemption, where state or even federal law usurps a municipal ordinance.  The article explores this conflict that occurs in concurrent regulation by state and local units of governments especially with regard to dangerous dogs and the destruction of loose dogs.  In the end, the paper concludes that legal challenges to this inherent police power to control animals almost always fail because of the presumptive constitutionality of such enactments.  Finally, the paper summarizes the relevant statutes for each state that specifically grant local municipalities the authority to regulate some aspect of dogs (a link to the full text of the statute is also provided). 


II. The Nature of Police Power

Police power, loosely defined, is that power of a state government to enact and enforce laws for the health, safety, and well-being of its citizenry.  This authority is an inherent one, neither conferred by the federal Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or even through most state constitutions.  Instead, this power is said to derive from the inherent reserved right of a state as a sovereign to enact laws that protect the general welfare of its citizens.  Police power is limited by the federal and state constitutions, especially with regard to due process rights.  These laws must meet constitutional standards as exercises of reasonable regulations.

Dogs are subject to state police powers because of their status as property.  In all states, dogs are assigned a property status.  (See, Oregon 's Dogs as Personal Property, OR ST 609.020  for an example).  Thus, states may regulate this form of property to protect the health and safety of its people.  In fact, ownership of an entire breed of dog may be outlawed under the guise of protecting citizens.

Dogs are subject to police power and may be destroyed or regulated to protect citizens. Thus, property in dogs is of an imperfect or qualified nature, and a harmless or inoffensive American Pit Bull Terrier may be banned in order to abate the threat presented by other American Pit Bull Terriers.

Rhoades v. City of Battle Ground , 114 Wash.App. 1062, *7, 2002 WL 31789336 (Wash.App. Div. 2), (Not Reported in P.2d).  This power, though often far reaching is based in a state's general police power.

From the states’ inherent police power rights, local governments may derive direct authority to regulate through the state’s constitution.  Because police power is inherent to the state, local authority to regulate dogs must be directly or even indirectly delegated.  This can be achieved through a constitutional amendment.  For example, the state of Washington Constitution provides:  "[a]ny county, city, town or township may make and enforce within its limits all such local police, sanitary and other regulations as are not in conflict with general laws." Wash. Const. art. XI, sec. 11. See also, Lenci v. City of Seattle , 63 Wn.2d 664, 667, 388 P.2d 926 (1964).  It is through state statute by which most states provide some grant of local authority.  Only a few states do not appear to provide any specific written reference as to the right of local government to regulate dogs (though the right may be derived from other broader sources dealing with animals in general).  More often than not, the power also rests within statutory expression that grants municipalities broad and specific regulatory powers.

Of related concern is the issue of whether a state confers “home-rule” power.  Home-rule power generally refers to a portion of a state’s constitution or even a legislative enactment that allows local government to self-govern with respect to the terms laid out in the article or legislation.  This apportioning of power typically allows local units to enact ordinances for the health, safety and welfare of its citizens.  While an explicit discussion of home-rule authority is beyond the scope of this paper, suffice to say that states may delineate bounds of home-rule authority.  Some states provide that a home-rule city may enact ordinances pursuant to its municipal charter, but the state legislature may limit or augment these provisions.  56 Am. Jur. 2d § 110.  Other states may leave the home-rule power open-ended, such that a municipality may exercise all powers that have not been expressly defined by the state constitution or statute. Id .  A state’s home-rule provisions inevitably determine the degree to which a municipality can enact ordinances and under what circumstances this can be done. 


III. Local Regulation of Dogs

Most states expressly allow local municipalities to enact ordinances concerning dogs.  In fact, most states have a form of legislation that gives localities specific authority regarding dogs.  This may be in addition to those general police powers under which dogs would normally fall.  Power may be limited to a few certain categories, with explicit state regulation in other areas of dog control (like vaccination against rabies or the procedure for declaring a dog “dangerous”).  Other states give broad latitude to local units in the regulation of dogs.  The statute in Arkansas provides:

Upon the written request of the governing body of a suburban improvement district, a county may by ordinance control and regulate dogs and cats within all or any part of the suburban improvement district.

AR ST § 14-16-701 .  In contrast, some states may even employ a comprehensive statutory scheme for regulating dogs, while at the same time providing a section that gives local units nearly plenary power with respect to dogs.   

Ironically, it is one of the smallest state that has the most comprehensive statutory schemes for regulating dogs at the local level.  Rhode Island gives local units the power to:

. . . make any ordinances concerning dogs in their cities or towns as the councils deem expedient, pertaining to the conduct of dogs, which ordinances shall include regulations relating to unrestricted dogs, leash laws, confinement, and destruction of vicious dogs.

RI ST § 4-13-15.1(a).  The scheme further ascribes individually listed towns the power the control and impound dogs.  See, RI ST § 4-13-1.1 .  Most states do not delegate local power to regulate dogs to this specific of a degree. 

The power to control dogs has a long history in most states.  In fact, it was in 1896 that the General Assembly of Rhode Island enacted comprehensive legislation for the purpose of regulating the licensing of dogs, the liability of dog owners for damage caused by their animals, and the right of private citizens to defend themselves against dog attacks.  Vukic v. Brunelle , 609 A.2d 938 (R.I.,1992).  This legislation also provided for the summary destruction of unlicensed dogs found at large.  Former Section 4-13-12 provided:

Any person may, and every such special constable, so appointed, and every police officer and constable shall, kill or destroy or cause to be killed or destroyed, all dogs going at large and not licensed and collared according to law; and for each dog so killed, destroyed and buried, such special constable shall be entitled to receive from the town or city treasurer the sum of two dollars.

(General Laws 1956 (1976 Reenactment) § 4-13-12; repealed by P.L.1985, ch. 270, § 1, which became effective on June 19, 1985); Vukic v. Brunelle , 609 A.2d 938, 941 (R.I.,1992).  This grant of authority to local units also enabled cities and towns to enact “such ordinances concerning dogs in their respective cities or towns as they shall deem expedient." Section 4- 13-1, as amended by P.L.1983, ch. 286, § 1.;  Vukic , 609 A.2d 938, 941.

While Rhode Island and most states expressly provide for some form of local regulation, some states grant this power in the negative.  Rather than expressly stating that local units have the power to regulate dogs, these statutes decline to impose restrictions on local power.  More specific statutes regulating some aspect of dog law (i.e., dangerous dogs or impoundment) carve out an exception providing that the statute shall not limit local entities in enacting other measure that do not conflict with state law.  Kentucky law provides:

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit or limit the right of any city to pass or enforce any ordinance with respect to the regulation of dogs, the provisions of which are not inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter.

KY ST § 258.365 .  Similarly, California law pertaining to the regulation of dogs states:

(d) The provisions of this chapter shall not prevent the local authorities in any city, county, or city and county, by ordinance and within the exercise of the police power of the city, county, or city and county from imposing reasonable additional requirements necessary to regulate and control protection dogs according to their local needs and not inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter. 

CA BUS & PROF § 7582.5 .

It is the minority of states that do not provide some statutory language specific to local dog ordinances.  Instead, these states likely rely on general police powers granted to local governing units.  From whatever authority the power to regulate dogs is derived, the chief limit on the exercise of these powers is that of the state constitution.


IV. Constitutional Challenges

Municipal ordinances like most legislative enactments are deemed presumptively constitutional and the party challenging the ordinance has the burden of establishing its invalidity or unreasonableness.  While dogs occupy a significant place in their owners’ lives, they are still deemed property and do not affect a substantial interest in terms of constitutional challenges.  Thus, a party must demonstrate there is no rational or substantial relationship of the law to the health safety and welfare of the community.  In addition, a reviewing court will gave great deference to local laws and “[w]here the reasonableness of an ordinance is debatable, courts will refrain from interfering with the municipality's exercise of legislative discretion.”  State v. Schuler , 1997 WL 76337, *1 (Minn.App.,1997) (not reported in N.W.2d). 

Since localities are often affirmatively or implicitly granted broad police powers, these actions taken to protect citizens are not scrutinized to determine whether supported facts justified the actions.  In fact, a municipality “is not required to show affirmatively it enacted an ordinance based on empirical, factual evidence; rather, the party challenging the ordinance must demonstrate that there is no rational relationship between the ordinance and a health or safety goal of the community.”  Schuler , supra at *2. 

In Schuler , for example, the court upheld an ordinance that limited the number of dogs and cats one can own at a residence as a valid exercise of police power.  The court found that Schuler failed to offer evidence that regulating the number of dogs per household was unrelated to the public welfare, as controlling the problems of dog noise and odor affected the health and general welfare of the community.  Id .   Again, this case illustrates the presumptive constitutionality of animal ordinances even in the face of an individual’s right to own property.

Dogs are often regulated at the local level, in part because this power is derived from state statute, and because municipalities are in a better position than the state legislature to enact laws to meet its citizens’ specific needs.  This is often the case with loose dogs, or dogs found running at large.  Certain cities and towns may perceive loose dogs as a greater threat due to agricultural interests or the concern of dog attacks on people.  Likewise, cities with more multi-family or congested housing may see a need to limit the number of pets one may own in a single residence.  Dogs are also burdened by the past; many laws affecting dogs were enacted prior to the vaccination of dogs for rabies and other diseases that often turned loyal pets savage.  In any event, municipal corporations generally have broad latitude in enacting these measures. 

It is that inherent deference to municipalities that also makes a legal challenge to an ordinance an uphill battle.  Most constitutional challenges based on vagueness, overbreadth, or a general overreaching of authority will ultimately fail.  However, concerns of due process do arise in conjunction with challenges to local ordinances.  Generally, these result from owners challenging the impounding of their pets.  This topic and the associated constitutional challenges is discussed in greater depth in the Web Center 's Detailed Discussion of Dog Impoundment Laws .  Suffice to say that most courts now require a procedure that gives owners a notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard prior to euthanizing an impounded companion animal.

In evaluating the constitutionality of an ordinance, a reviewing court will give broad deference to the governing body’s decisions regarding animals.  Indeed, one case explained that a local legislative body can draw a different conclusion from the state’s supreme court in areas of public safety and the exercise of the local government's police powers.  Rhoades v. City of Battle Ground, 114 Wash.App. 1062 , 2002 WL 31789336 (Wash.App. Div. 2), (Not Reported in P.2d).  In Rhoades , defendant challenged a city ordinance that prohibited the ownership of exotic animals in the city limits while apparently allowing ownership of dangerous dogs under circumscribed conditions.  The court found that there was a legitimate interest in treating exotic animals and dangerous dogs differently, as the city council determined that exotic animals were more of a threat to the health and safety of its population.  The council determined "wild" animals are more dangerous when caged than when encountered in the wild.

A determination that exotic animals are more dangerous than dogs adjudged ‘dangerous’ is sufficient--on rational basis review--to justify the disparate treatment between these classes of pet owners . . . a legislative body need not approach every problem the same way; thus, it may treat the danger presented by dangerous dogs differently from the danger presented by exotic animals.

  Id . at *4.  The council’s justification clearly met the rational relationship test to uphold the constitutionality of the ordinance, despite the disparate treatment of animal owners.  This case also shows that courts will often defer to the municipalities assessment of its needs.

While most challenges to ordinances appear to be almost summarily upheld, one case has suggested that there needs to be at least some underlying rational basis for its adoption.  Even within the category of health and safety, an ordinance may need some demonstrated basis, or at least some language to that effect, to be valid.  In Com. v. Creighton , 639 A.2d 1296 (Pa.Cmwlth.,1994), a resident of the Borough of Carnegie in Pennsylvania challenged an ordinance limiting the number of cats and/or dogs that a person could keep within the Borough to a total of five (the respondent in this case had approximately 25 cats whom she testified were former “mousers” strays from area industrial plants that shut down).  The ordinance was enacted under the powers that permit Boroughs to “[t]o prohibit and remove any nuisance, including but not limited to accumulations of garbage and rubbish . . .” and those affecting “the health, safety, morals, general welfare and cleanliness and the beauty, convenience, comfort and safety of the borough.”  Id . at 1298-1299.  While the court first noted that:

[w]e are concerned here with living animals, rather than with the inert junk involved in most nuisance cases . .  for our purposes here, the critical consideration of whether the regulated activity constitutes a nuisance or is otherwise contrary to the public health, safety or general welfare is as pertinent to living animals as it is to junk materials.

Id. at 1299.  Since the ordinances under these provisions are required to affirmatively prove that a nuisance in fact exists, the court invalidated the pet number ordinance because the law did not indicate why more than five cats or dogs constituted a nuisance.  Id .   However, the court went on to analyze the law’s validity under the broad power to regulate the public interest.  In doing so, the court found that the Borough Code also failed to articulate what legitimate public health, safety and welfare goals the Borough sought to advance by enacting this ordinance.  “From the information before us, we simply cannot say whether the Borough ordinance here is a reasonable means to effectuate a legitimate governmental goal.”  Id . at 1301.  

One interesting area that has become ripe for challenges in recent years are ordinances targeting what can be termed “dangerous” or “vicious” breeds of dogs.  These controversial laws either prohibit or severely circumscribe ownership through the use of prohibitive insurance premiums and mandatory kenneling of certain breeds of dogs (typically Pit Bulls).  This is based both on the perceived threat these breeds present and the somewhat equivocal empirical data concerning their “inherent” dangerousness.  ( See Web Center Breed Specific Legislation Paper ).  Several states have specifically prohibited local governments from enacting breed-specific ordinances.  (See, Minnesota ( MN ST 347.51 ), Florida ( FL ST 767.14 ) and Virginia ( VA ST 3.1-796.93:1 ) for examples).  In those states that grant broad power to local units to adopt dog ordinances without limitation, it appears breed-specific ordinances are still viable.

Constitutional challenges to local ordinances usually fail, despite the severe or restrictive nature of the law.  There are several reasons for this.  First, as mentioned previously, state laws empower local entities to make laws governing their constituents, provided those laws do not preempt existing state or federal laws.  For example, in Blackwell , defendant challenged a local Pierre City ordinance pertaining to the regulation of dangerous dogs.  City of Pierre v. Blackwell , 635 N.W.2d 581 (S.D.,2001).  In ruling that defendant failed to demonstrate the Pierre City Ordinance was unreasonable or arbitrary on its face, the court found that the South Dakota legislature empowered cities to regulate dogs through SDCL 9-29-12, which provides that a city may regulate, prohibit, impound, and tax dogs “running at large.”  Id .  While defendant claimed that this circumscribed cities’ actions to only loose dogs, the court also found that additional power to regulate dogs stemmed from the cities general police powers to abate nuisances, and exercise jurisdiction for the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens.  Id.   “Thus, municipalities may freely exercise police power to regulate pet ownership so long as the ordinance is reasonable and the means employed are necessary to accomplish a legitimate governmental interest.” [internal citations omitted].  Id. at 585.  Here, the court found the Pierre City Ordinances at issue clearly focused on the public safety concern of “preventing the tragic consequences associated with uncontrolled dangerous pets.”  Id .

The second reason attacks on ordinances fail is that it is well established through many state court rulings that any legislative enactment is presumed reasonable, valid and constitutional.  Blackwell supra.; ( Jefferson v. Mirando , 719 N.E.2d 1074, 1075 (Ohio Co.,1999), “The village of Jefferson's ordinance benefits from a strong presumption of constitutionality, and defendant Mirando bears the burden of demonstrating unconstitutionality of this ordinance beyond any remaining fair debate on the issue.”).  This presumption creates a climate of deference to local regulations.  As noted in Mirando , even the United States Supreme Court has held that ownership and control of dogs may be regulated as needed for the protection of citizens. See, Sentell v. New Orleans & Carrollton RR. Co. (1897), 166 U.S. 698, 17 S.Ct. 693, 41 L.Ed. 1169; Nicchia v. New York (1920), 254, U.S. 228, 41 S.Ct. 103, 65 L.Ed. 235.  As a result, the party who attacks a municipal ordinance has the burden of overcoming this presumption by demonstrating that the ordinance is both unreasonable and arbitrary.  Mirando , supra.  Perhaps most telling was dicta by the court regarding the increasing number of pet ordinances:

From our extensive research on similar decisions throughout the country, we think it significant that with the growing urbanization over the past fifty years, courts have become increasingly deferential to local authorities in upholding diverse pet control measures.

City of Pierre v. Blackwell , 635 N.W.2d at 585.  Thus, a challenge to an ordinance must overcome the deference a court gives a local unit to regulate matters affecting the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens.

While the broad grant of power to local government to regulate dogs may, at first blush, appear unfettered, existing state and federal dog laws limit it.  One of the primary related challenges stems from a claim that a local ordinances has been preempted by a state statute. 


V. Preemption

To avoid confusion in the enforcement of such laws at all levels, there is an order of supremacy with each level of law.  This concept, known as preemption, ensures that laws at the highest level of government trump those conflicting laws at lower levels of government.  Thus, federal laws enacted by Congress will override state laws intended to regulate the same subject and local ordinances that conflict with state laws concerning the same matter will defer to the state legislation.  Because each level of government is empowered to enact such laws, the federal and individual state constitutions have preemption clauses that specifically state conflicting laws must yield to the higher federal or state laws.  The Supremacy Clause of the Federal Constitution states:

This Constitution and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof ... shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2.  Preemption on the federal level may be found where Congress's intent to preempt the field is either expressly stated or implicit in congressional policy. Brotherhood of Maint. of Way Employees v. Chicago & N.W. Transp. Co ., 514 N.W.2d 90, 93 ( Iowa 1994).

Claims of federal preemption of dog laws are unusual, as the federal government gives great deference to state laws that affect citizens’ health, safety, and welfare.  (However, see Black Hawk County v. Jacobsen , 2002 WL 1429365 (Not Reported in N.W.2d Iowa App.), 2002, where respondent alleged that local kennel licensing regulations were preempted by the federal Animal Welfare Act despite the fact the Act expressly contemplates state and local regulation of animals).  Moreover, the inherent sovereign nature of the state recognizes that a state is better equipped to address those things that affect the general welfare of its citizens.  Thus, preemption challenges to local ordinances typically involve concurrent regulation of dogs at the state level.

Preemption will generally occur where a local municipality attempts to regulate a subject matter for which the state has expressed exclusive control.  While the presumptive test is whether the ordinance on its face preempts existing state or federal legislation, courts often employ a multiple part test to determine preemption.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals articulated one such test with regard to a challenge to the state’s dangerous dog laws:

(a)        Generally, conflict occurs when "the ordinance and the statute contain express or implied terms that are irreconcilable";
(b)       more specifically, an ordinance conflicts with state law if it "permits what the statute forbids";
(c)        similarly, there is conflict if the ordinance "forbids what the statute expressly permits"; and
(d)       "no conflict exists where the ordinance, though different, is merely additional and complementary to or in aid and furtherance of the statute."

Hannan v. City of Minneapolis , 623 N.W.2d 281, 284 (Minn.App., 2001).  Similarly, the New Jersey Supreme Court has applied a multi-part test in its preemption analysis:

  1. Does the ordinance conflict with the state law, either because of conflicting policies or operational effect, that is, does the ordinance forbid what the Legislature has permitted?
  2. Was the state law intended expressly or impliedly to be exclusive in the field?
  3. Does the subject matter reflect a need for uniformity?
  4. Is the state scheme so pervasive or comprehensive that it precludes coexistence of municipal regulation?
  5. Does the ordinance stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of the Legislature?

State v. Smith , 685 A.2d 73, 76 (N.J.Super.L.,1996), derived from Overlook Terrace Management Corp. v. West New York Rent Control Bd., 71 N.J. 451, 460-62, 366 A.2d 321 (1976), referred to as the “Overlook Test.  Both of these cases involved the construction of local dangerous dog ordinances in light of comprehensive state schemes for controlling dangerous dogs.  However, each court came to a different result on the issue of preemption. 

In Hannan , supra, a local realtor contended that the city ordinance conflicts with state law, because the ordinance "permits what the statute forbids."  Id . at 284  The realtor’s dog in Hannan was adjudicated dangerous and sentenced to death for violation of a local ordinance.  The court found that realtor’s contention, however, fit squarely under point “d” in the Minnesota test above, in that the local provision was “merely additional and complementary” to the statute.  Id.   Thus, local action that may even be more severe than the overriding state statute will not be invalidated as long as the state has not expressly precluded local regulation of the area and there is no conflict with state statutes.  (See City of Duluth v. Evans, 158 Minn. 450, 452 197 N.W. 737, 737 (1924), "Ordinances may be valid when they relate to the same matter as a state law, even though the punishment prescribed in both be not the same." (citation omitted)). In fact, "statutes and ordinances on the same subject are intended to be coexistent." State v. Dailey , 284 Minn. 212, 215, 169 N.W.2d 746, 748 (1969)).  While concurrent regulation of a subject matter is often intended, state statutes may envision exclusive control.

A local ordinance may be invalidated for attempting to regulate a subject matter that is provided by law to be exclusively under state control.  While on its face the ordinance may appear to complement the statute, its procedural functioning conflicts with the state statute.  In State v. Smith , 685 A.2d 73 (N.J.Super.L.,1996), a dog owner challenged a Hoboken , New Jersey ordinance relating to vicious dogs.  Applying the Overlook Test , the court found that the state law preempted the local statute because the state law functions as the sole regulator of this subject matter.  (N.J.S.A. 4:19-17 through 4:19- 36, known as the “Vicious and Potentially Dangerous Dog Act”).  The court noted that, “[a]t a minimum, the plain language of N.J.S.A. 4:19-36 declares the State's intention that the statute constitutes the exclusive law in this area.”  Id . at 405-406.  But it was the procedural enforcement of the conflicting laws that led to the ordinance’s invalidation.  “Perhaps more importantly, however, is the danger that the procedural features of a municipal ordinance would conflict with the dictates of the statute--as they did in this case--thus inevitably leading to confusion among the parties and the inefficient enforcement of the Act.”  Id . at 406.  Also underlying the court’s decision that the ordinance was preempted, was the apparent denial of due process in the ordinance.

Challenges based on preemption claims will also fail unless the state legislature has evinced an intent, either expressly or impliedly, to exclusively regulate the activity.  The statute must  provide that, through its terms, the subject matter is solely a matter of state concern.  Hannan , 623 N.W.2d 281.  It is not enough that a state has merely provided a detailed statutory scheme.  In Hannan , the realtor whose dog was subject to impoundment argued that the state law in the area of dangerous dogs demonstrated an intent for state regulation, as the legislature fully and completely covered the subject matter.  Further, as stated by petitioner, “the subject matter is of such a nature that local regulation would have unreasonably adverse effects on the general populace.”  Id . at 285.  The court disagreed, finding instead that state law expressly provided for local regulation through Minn.Stat. § 347.53 (2000), which gives municipalities full authority to regulate "potentially dangerous dogs," as long as the regulations are not breed-specific. See, Minn.Stat. § 347.51, subd. 8 (2000).  In addition, the court found that “Minn.Stat. § 609.227 (2000), which mandates destruction if the owner has committed a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor for a crime involving the animal, specifies that the ‘section shall not preempt local ordinances with more restrictive provisions.’"  Id.   

The court’s analysis underscores the notion that a provision for local regulation can be implied by statute, even in the negative.  In fact, Minn.Stat. § 347.51, subd. 8 (2000) does not expressly provide that local regulation is permissible, but rather states that only ordinances based on breed-specific parameters are invalid.  As stated by the court, “[b]y providing only one express limitation to regulation--that regulation not be breed-specific--the legislature has implicitly given municipalities full authority to regulate dangerous dogs.”  Hannan at 285.  Thus, an exception, proviso, or savings clause will be construed to include all other provisions.  However, the ultimate test for determining whether a local ordinance conflicts with a state statute, is whether the ordinance permits or licenses that which the statute forbids and prohibits, or vice versa.  Jefferson v. Mirando , 719 N.E.2d 1074 (Ohio Co.,1999).

The previous cases demonstrate the prevalence of dangerous dog regulation at both the state and local level in recent years.  States usually provide for the regulation of dangerous or vicious dogs by statute.  Often, local units that are given broad police powers to regulate dogs may also create ordinances that regulate dangerous dogs.  States may provide for stricter local regulation of dangerous dogs by statute.  However, ordinances that “leave no room for concurrent jurisdiction” or cannot be harmonized with the state dangerous dog law will generally be invalidated.  Rabon v. City of Seattle , 957 P.2d 621, 626 ( Wash. ,1998).  This situation occurred in the case of Rabon .  Petitioner contended that the trial court erred by denying a preliminary injunction preventing destruction of his two dogs pursuant to Seattle animal control ordinances because the local ordinances conflicted with state statutes governing dogs.  Initially the court noted that the Washington Constitution, Article XI, section 11, provided that "[a]ny ... city ...may make and enforce within its limits all such local police, sanitary and other regulations as are not in conflict with general laws."  Id . at 624-625.  Thus, the court observed, a municipality may enact an ordinance touching upon the same subject matter, as long as the state law does not purport to be the exclusive regulator.  Id .

The ordinance at issue in Rabon demanded the destruction of the dogs who had not actually bitten a person, pursuant to SMC 9.25.030(A)(4) (which authorizes the City's finance director to order the humane destruction of a vicious animal where, among other things, the owner has been found guilty of owning a vicious animal).  The state law relating to dangerous dogs provided that “potentially dangerous dogs” shall be regulated only by local, municipal, and county ordinances. In fact, the statute provided that, "[n]othing in this section limits restrictions local jurisdictions may place on owners of potentially dangerous dogs." RCW 16.08.090(2).  While petitioner conceded that there was no express statement evincing preemption, the intent appears by necessary implication.  Petitioner contended that since the local ordinance did not distinguish between “dangerous dogs” and “potentially dangerous dogs,” instead using the term “vicious,” the local law was preempted by the state law dealing with dangerous dogs.  The court disagreed, finding that concurrent jurisdiction was provided by statute.  Further, the statutes do not merely provide for concurrent jurisdiction, but rather expressly provide that sole jurisdiction over "potentially dangerous" dogs lies only with local government.  Id .

The court finally rejected petitioner’s contention that the ordinance forbids possession of dangerous dogs while the state statute expressly allows such possession under RCW 16.08.080.  The court held that a local ordinance may require more than state law requires where the laws are prohibitive. Lenci v. City of Seattle , 63 Wash.2d 664, 671, 388 P.2d 926 (1964).  “In exercise of its police power a municipality may wish to provide further protection from dangerous or vicious animals.”  Rabon . at 292.

In a strong dissent, Justice Sanders states that RCW 16.08 sets out a comprehensive legislative scheme for regulating both the registration and execution of dangerous dogs. RCW 16.08.080; RCW 16.08.100.  The state statute classifies dogs into two categories (dangerous and potentially dangerous) whereas the local ordinance did not.  This creates confusion because the statute by its express terms only allows local authorities to place restrictions on potentially dangerous dogs.  Thus, “[b]y eviscerating RCW 16.08's dual definitions of dogs, the City directly clashes with state statute."  Id . at 299.  Further, RCW 16.08 indicates the Legislature did not intend municipalities to impose greater restrictions on "potentially dangerous" dogs than those applicable to "dangerous" dogs because RCW 16.08.100 allows for execution of a "dangerous" dog in only limited and specific circumstances.  This anomaly would encourage dog owners and defense attorneys to contend that the bite was so vicious that the dog qualifies as "dangerous" in order to spare the dog's life.   This case demonstrates the difficulty that can arise with concurrent jurisdiction, especially in a heavily regulated area such as dangerous dogs.

A claim of preemption will not necessarily be sustained even if there is complex legislative regulation by the state of the subject matter.  In fact, most courts will defer to the municipality’s exercise of police power.  In Muehlieb v. City of Philadelphia , 574 A.2d 1208 (Pa.Cmwlth.,1990), the court denied a homeowner’s claim of preemption where the city sought to restrain her ownership of more than twelve dogs at her residence as a violation of a city code.  Appellant argued that the state’s Dog Law, which apparently restricted ownership to less than 50 dogs, preempted the city’s Animal Control Law.  The test, according to the court, called for an analysis of:

. . . whether the field or subject matter in which the ordinance operates, including its effects, is the same as that in which the state has acted.  An affirmative answer calls for a further search for it is not enough that the legislature has legislated upon the subject. The ultimate question is whether, upon a survey of all the interests involved in the subject, it can be said with confidence that the legislature intended to immobilize the municipalities from dealing with local aspects otherwise within their power to act.

Id . at 1210.  In denying plaintiff’s argument for preemption, the court stated her interpretation would grant “the unfettered right to house up to fifty dogs in her home without regard to the City's legitimate interest in protecting the health, safety and welfare of its residents.”  Id. at 1211.  There was nothing so comprehensive and pervasive in the Dog Law to preclude the City from exercising its police powers to limit the number of dogs under its Animal Control Law for the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Philadelphia .  Indeed, the court found that the focus of the Dog Law is on the protection of dogs while the emphasis of the City's Animal Control Law is the protection of the health, safety and welfare.  As a result, the court found significant the different interests sought to be protected under each law. 

In a footnote, the court further added that the intent for local regulation is evidenced by the fact that that county and city treasurers play an important role in the collection of fees and in record keeping under the Dog Law.  “We believe this evidences an intent by the legislature to permit, rather than preempt, local action in the area of dog regulation.”  Id . at 1211.  Notably, nearly every state provides by statute for some collection of license fees and dog taxes by statute.  Under the Muehlieb reasoning, it can be argued that this legislative direction evinces an intent for local regulation of dogs, regardless of overriding state laws.

Many states provide that an empowered local official can summarily destroy loose and unlicensed dogs.  Because local authority is often provided by state statute to license dogs within a city, the companion authority to impound or even destroy any unlicensed dogs is also granted.  However, where a state statute provides for destruction of loose dogs, and a local ordinance suggests a different procedure to handle loose dogs, a preemption challenge may be asserted.    

In Vukic v. Brunelle , 609 A.2d 938 (R.I.,1992), such a preemption challenge was presented.  In that case, the dog owners challenged a state law that permitted local units to enact measures to destroy loose dogs after a dog officer shot and killed a Great Dane dog and her pup after the dogs escaped from the owners’ yard and wandered to another residence.  The defendants contended that the language of RI ST § 4-13-12 that directed specially appointed dog officers to destroy all dogs found at large without a license superseded any local ordinances to the contrary.  Id.   Thus, the officer was carrying out his duty when he destroyed the two dogs.  However, the plaintiffs argued that the terms of § 4-13-1 permitting municipalities to enact local dog ordinances "as they shall deem expedient" gave the town of Lincoln the right to create a procedural safeguard to ensure that prior to destroying unlicensed dogs every effort is made to find and notify the dog owners. See, Vukic at 941, citing Lincoln , R.I.Code § 3-26. Thus, the plaintiffs asserted that the Lincoln ordinance did not countermand the existing state statute, but rather attempted to mitigate the harsh result envisioned by the state statute.  The court disagreed, finding that the defendant acted according to law when he destroyed the Great Danes.  Thus, the Lincoln ordinance was superseded by the provisions of § 4-13-12.

The broad language of § 4-13-1 enabling municipalities the power to pass local dog ordinances "as they shall deem expedient" was not intended to supplant the statewide scheme for regulating dogs set out in chapter 13 of title 4 of the General Laws.  Id.   This intent, the court found, could be seen in the savings clause included in § 4-13-3, which provided that "[n]othing in this chapter shall be so construed as to repeal any ordinance concerning dogs, not inconsistent with the provisions hereof, which has heretofore been passed by any town or city council."  RI ST § 4-13-3.  Despite the statute’s harsh result, the court held that Section 4-13-12 mandated that dog officers and other appropriate officials "shall [ ] kill or destroy or cause to be killed or destroyed, all dogs going at large and not licensed and collared according to law."  Id . at 941-942.  Thus, any obligation that was created by the Lincoln ordinance to impound the dogs instead of killing them “must fall away in the face of the paramount state statute.”  Id . at 942.  (For more on local dog impound laws and due process, see Detailed Discussion of Dog Impound Laws ).

There appears one area of municipal dog regulation susceptible to preemption; that of the imposition of criminal sanctions against dog owners for violation of local codes.  In Responsible Dog Owners of Texas v. City of Richardson, 781 S.W.2d 667 (Tex.App.-Dallas,1989), the plaintiffs appealed an adverse summary judgment in favor of the City of Richardson that upheld a City of Richardson ordinance regulating vicious and dangerous animals, which specifically provided restrictions on the ownership of pit bull dogs.

Plaintiffs asserted that the ordinance was preempted by the enactment of the Texas Penal Code.  The court first observed that the criminal codes provides that “no governmental subdivision or agency may enact or enforce a law that makes any conduct covered by this code an offense subject to a criminal penalty. This section shall apply only as long as the law governing the conduct proscribed by this code is legally enforceable.”  Id. at 668; Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 1.08 ( Vernon 1974).  While the code provided for home rule authority by the city, the accompanying practice notes suggested that many previous laws employing a penal sanction enacted by municipalities have overlapped, duplicated, and conflicted with the state penal laws.  Responsible Dog Owners, supra.

In reviewing the state law and the City of Richardson ordinance, the court found the city was attempting to regulate the conduct of owners as well as the ownership of certain vicious animals, more particularly pit bull dogs.  In doing so, this ordinance attempted to regulate conduct already regulated by the Texas Penal Code.  In deferring to what it termed a “commendable effort” by the city to protect its citizens, “the proper avenue for relief from the dangers of pit bull dogs, if such dangers in reality exist, lies with the Texas Legislature.”  Responsible Dog Owners , 781 S.W.2d at 672  Thus, where city ordinances attempt to regulate dogs by providing criminal sanctions against the owners where state law already provides for a criminal offense, preemption occurs.

An examination of dog law litigation shows that preemption appears most likely to occur in those heavily regulated areas of state law, such as dangerous dogs or criminal laws.  This is to prevent confusion in the application of dog law.  There are, however, certain subjects that lend themselves to local control across most states.  Some of these areas are expressed by statute while others are implied.  Regardless of the nature of the control, constitutional parameters must be met.


VI.  Conclusion

Police power affords both local and state governments broad discretion to regulate dogs.  Most states go further by delegating this authority to local municipalities that are often better aware of what dog laws are needed.  However, conflict often arises when both levels of government attempt to regulate dogs.  While preemption of local laws is the obvious answer, it usually creates additional questions as to the procedural enforcement of many dog-related laws.  In any event, while the health, safety, and welfare of citizens are of paramount concern, the owner's right to have his or her claim fairly adjudicated is also important.  Indeed, the legal status of a dog as mere property exists to many as only a legal fiction. 


VII. State Statutes Concerning Local Regulation of Dogs

The following are state-by-state examples of the statutes that empower local municipalities to regulate dogs.  A link to the full text of the statute is also provided.


Alaska provides that a village council may destroy loose dogs and “may otherwise control dogs” to the extent that “first class cities” are allowed.  AK ST § 03.55.070    


 Arizona law gives a local boards of trustees the power to:

Pass ordinances for the government of the corporation, its officers and the people within its corporate limits not inconsistent or in conflict with the laws of this state.” And “Restrain, under penalties, the running at large of cattle or other animals, and provide rules for impounding them, and provide for taxing dogs and penalties for the nonpayment of such taxes, or the killing of dogs running at large in the corporate limits. 

AZ ST § 9-219.  

Further, “any county board of supervisors may Contract with any city or town to enforce the provisions of any ordinance enacted by such city or town for the control of dogs.”  Other provisions are also listed:

For the unincorporated areas of the county, by ordinance, regulate, restrain and prohibit the running at large of dogs, except dogs used for control of livestock or while being used or trained for hunting.

For the unincorporated areas of the county, by ordinance, regulate, restrain and prohibit the excessive and unrestrained barking of dogs. 

AZ ST § 11-1005 (3-5).



In Arkansas, upon the written request of the governing body of a suburban improvement district, a county may by ordinance control and regulate dogs and cats within all or any part of the suburban improvement district.

AR ST § 14-16-701


In California’s general regulations relating to local control, dogs are specifically enumerated as the proper scope for police power:

(d) The provisions of this chapter shall not prevent the local authorities in any city, county, or city and county, by ordinance and within the exercise of the police power of the city, county, or city and county from imposing reasonable additional requirements necessary to regulate and control protection dogs according to their local needs and not inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter. 

CA BUS & PROF § 7582.5


In Colorado, the board of county commissioners of any county may adopt a resolution for the control and licensing of dogs.  Local authorities are given broad latitude in creating dog control laws to:

(III) Define "vicious dog" and "vicious animal";

(IV) Establish a dog pound, or other animal holding facility, and engage personnel to operate it and otherwise to enforce the county dog control resolution or any other resolution concerning the control of pet animals;

(V) Provide for the impoundment of animals which are vicious, not under control, or otherwise not in conformity with the resolutions;

(VI) Establish terms and conditions for the release or other disposition of impounded animals;

(VII) Establish such other reasonable regulations and restrictions for the control of dogs and other pet animals as the board of county commissioners may deem necessary.  

CO ST § 30-15-101.

Colorado law specifically immunizes county officials from accidents or disease as the result of impoundment.  CO ST § 30-15-104.   This section also establishes who constitutes an animal control officers for purposes of the statute.  CO ST § 30-15-105.


As mentioned previously, the power to control dogs is provided to local government by negative implication.  In other words, statutes relating to local dog control do not prohibit the enactment of dog control laws.  This is demonstrated by statute in Delaware for dangerous dog laws: 

Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to prevent a county or municipality from adopting or enforcing its own program for the control of dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs.

DE ST TI 7 § 1740.

District of Columbia:

In the District of Columbia provisions for dog control are provided among the myriad of other regulations pertaining to local control:

(3) Making and modifying regulations to regulate the keeping and leashing of dogs, and to regulate or prohibit the running at large of dogs, including penalties for violations of such regulations, under D.C. Code, sec. 1-224b.

(4) Making regulations under D.C. Code, secs. 1-226 and 1-227. 

HISTORY OF DC CODE Reorganization Plan No. ; (32 F.R. 11669, F.R. Doc. 67-9507; Filed, Aug. 11, 1967, 8:45 a.m.; 81 Stat. 948)


While Florida law provides for local control of dogs, this control is limited by statute.  In one of the most unique statutes to address “breed-specific” regulations, Florida prohibits local governing units from enacting ordinances based on breed:

Nothing in this act shall limit any local government from placing further restrictions or additional requirements on owners of dangerous dogs or developing procedures and criteria for the implementation of this act, provided that no such regulation is specific to breed and that the provisions of this act are not lessened by such additional regulations or requirements. This section shall not apply to any local ordinance adopted prior to October 1, 1990. 

FL ST § 767.14.

It should be noted that Florida law also has an extensive statutory scheme regulating dangerous dogs.


Georgia law specifically provides that the statutory provisions for dangerous dogs are supplementary to local ordinances.  Thus, the statute overcomes preemption claims:

(b) It is the intention of this article to establish as state law minimum standards and requirements for the control of dangerous dogs and potentially dangerous dogs and to provide for certain state crimes for violations of such minimum standards and requirements. However, this article shall not supersede or invalidate existing ordinances or resolutions of local governments or prohibit local governments from adopting and enforcing ordinances or resolutions which provide for more restrictive control of dogs, including a more restrictive definition of a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog, than the minimum standards and requirements provided for in this article. 

GA ST § 4-8-29.


Hawaii also gives full force to local statutes that are more stringent than those provided by state relating to dangerous dogs.

b) Each county may enact and enforce ordinances regulating persons who own, harbor, or keep any dog that has injured, maimed, or destroyed an animal belonging to another person. No ordinance enacted under this subsection shall be held invalid on the ground that it covers any subject or matter embraced within any statute or rule of the State; provided that the ordinance shall not affect the civil liability of a person owning, harboring, or keeping the dog. Upon enactment of an ordinance, whether enacted on, before, or after June 30, 2001, the ordinance shall have full force and effect; provided that the ordinance is consistent with this section. 

HI ST § 142-74.


Idaho state law only speaks to the issue of local dog ordinances by stating that local governments may not enact measures that prevent owners from protecting their dogs (or property, as defined by statute) from loss through the use of an electronic locating collar.  ID ST § 25-2807.  


This Iowa statute provides that a county board has the duty to:

14. Provide for the seizure, impoundment, and disposition of dogs in accordance with chapter 351.

IA ST § 331.381.

Further, the chapter related to impoundment regulations and the right of any peace officer or even general citizen who catches a dog in the act of “worrying, chasing, maiming, or killing any domestic animal or fowl, or when such dog is attacking or attempting to bite a person” (per IA ST § 351.27) does not limit the power of any city or county to control dogs.  Specifically, cities and counties may prohibit dogs and other animals from running at large, whether or not they have been vaccinated for rabies, and may adopt additional measures for the restriction of dogs and other animals for the control of rabies and for "other purposes."

IA ST § 351.41.


In Illinois, a county board "is authorized by ordinance to require the registration and microchipping of dogs and cats and shall impose an individual animal and litter registration fee."  IL ST CH 510 § 5/3.   Further, more general powers are ascribed to counties regarding dogs:

(b) Counties may by ordinance determine the extent of the police powers that may be exercised by the Administrator, Deputy Administrators, and Animal Control Wardens, which powers shall pertain only to this Act. The Administrator, Deputy Administrators, and Animal Control Wardens may issue and serve citations and orders for violations of this Act. The Administrator, Deputy Administrators, and Animal Control Wardens may not carry weapons unless they have been specifically authorized to carry weapons by county ordinance. Animal Control Wardens, however, may use tranquilizer guns and other nonlethal weapons and equipment without specific weapons authorization. 

IL ST CH 510 § 5/5(b).

Fees collected by counties for dog registration may be used for the enforcement of "any county or municipal ordinance concurred in by the Department relating to animal control, except as set forth in Section 19" in addition to the other items described by statute.  IL ST CH 510 § 5/7.

Finally, under the Illinois Animal Control Act, municipalities are given broad discretion to control dogs at large provided the regulations are not breed-specific:

Nothing in this Act shall be held to limit in any manner the power of any municipality or other political subdivision to prohibit animals from running at large, nor shall anything in this Act be construed to, in any manner, limit the power of any municipality or other political subdivision to further control and regulate dogs, cats or other animals in such municipality or other political subdivision provided that no regulation or ordinance is specific to breed. 

IL ST CH 510 § 5/24.


Indiana grants power to municipalities to adopt dog ordinances in the negative.  The relevant state dog provisions explicitly provide that they do not prevent local political subdivisions from enacting laws.  IN ST 15-5-12-6.  


Kentucky also provides for the authority of municipalities to regulate in negative terms.

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit or limit the right of any city to pass or enforce any ordinance with respect to the regulation of dogs, the provisions of which are not inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter.

KY ST § 258.365. 


In Louisiana, “[t]he governing bodies of all parishes and municipalities may levy and collect annual per capita license taxes on all dogs, enact ordinances for the regulation of dogs running at large, and maintain pounds for the impounding of dogs.”  LA R.S. 3:2731.   Also, the statutory notes state that:

[t]he LA Act 198 of 1910 provided that police juries are authorized to impose annual license taxes on dogs and to make such regulations as are deemed fit. Act No. 225 of 1926 authorized a commission in cities of over 100,000 to impound dogs running at large and to use proceeds of tax imposed by city ordinance. The provisions of these two statutes were integrated in this Part to establish the authority of all local governments to regulate pertaining to dogs. Regulation by local governments would be in addition to any state-wide regulations imposed.

L.A.R.S. 3:2731.


Maryland law establishes local control by county.  In fact, the specificity as to local control of dogs varies depending on the county.

In Carroll County and Frederick County, county commissioners can enact any laws relating to by ordinance, may provide for a comprehensive system for the regulation of domestic animals, including dogs, and wild animals held in captivity, within the county, including licensing and control.  MD CODE, Art. 24, § 11-511(b).

In Washington County, the specifics of what types of dog ordinances commissioners may adopt are much more detailed.  They include ordinances to:

(1) Create a quasi-judicial deliberative animal control authority for Washington County to:
(i) Hold public hearings to decide citations, complaints, and other controversies arising under the animal control ordinance, other than those filed with the District Court of Maryland for Washington County, subject to the right of a party to file a petition for judicial review in the circuit court for Washington County; and
(ii) Adopt rules and regulations for the governance of its hearings;
(2) Designate an appropriate private agency or department of County government to:
(i) Enforce the provisions of the ordinance;
(ii) Maintain records regarding the licensing, impoundment, and disposition of animals coming into the custody of the private agency or department of county government; and
(iii) Enter into contracts or agreements to provide for the disposal of animals;
(3) Provide for the designation of animal control shelters in Washington County;
(4) Specify rules and regulations that may include:
(i) The licensing of dogs, kennels, and pet shops;
(ii) The control of rabid animals; and
(iii) The disposition of uncontrolled, vicious, and sick animals; and
(5) Provide penalties for a violation of the animal control ordinance.

MD CODE, Art. 25, § 236A.

Further, in Maryland, county commissioners may pass dog control ordinances for dogs-at-large.  However, this action must be completed by a petition and referendum process:

(c) The County Commissioners may provide by ordinance that owners of dogs may not permit the dog, whether licensed or unlicensed, to run at large within the confines of any platted subdivision or district zoned residential, except when the dog is under the control of the owner or an authorized agent of the owner by leash, cord or chain. However, a petition requesting such an ordinance shall be submitted to the County Commissioners and signed by a majority of the residents of the platted subdivision or district zoned residential, with a designation of the boundary limits of the specific area. Further, the County Commissioners, after advertising the proposed ordinance and a public hearing on that ordinance for 2 consecutive weeks in 2 newspapers of general circulation in Calvert County, shall designate the boundary limits of each area as part of any enacted ordinance.

MD CODE, Art. 24, § 11-510.


Massachusetts grants broad power to local units to enact ordinances:

Any city or town which accepts the provisions of this section is hereby empowered to enact by-laws and ordinances relative to the regulation of dogs.

M.G.L.A. 140 § 147A .  Further, “[a] town may make additional ordinances or by-laws relative to the licensing and restraining of dogs, and may affix penalties of not more than fifty dollars for a breach thereof; but such ordinances or by-laws shall relate only to dogs owned or kept in such town.   M.G.L.A. 140 § 173.


In Michigan, “[a] city incorporated under the provisions of this act has, and the council may pass ordinances relating to the following general powers:

. . .
(ff) To provide for the issuing of licenses to the owners and keepers of dogs and to require the owners and keepers of dogs to pay for and obtain such licenses; and to regulate and prevent the running at large of dogs, to require dogs to be muzzled, and to authorize the killing of dogs running at large or not licensed in violation of an ordinance of the city. 

MI ST 91.1.

Michigan is also unique in that it has a wolf-dog cross-breed act.  See, MI ST 287.1004 .  The companion statute to the act also allows cities to adopt stricter ordinances regulating wolf-dog cross-breeds. 

A local unit may adopt an ordinance governing wolf-dog crosses that is more restrictive than this act provided they comport with state and federal laws. 

MI ST 287.1021.


In Minnesota, a statute explicitly provides that any statutes relative to the regulation of dogs are supplemental to all other laws affecting dogs and “shall not part or provision of any such laws not expressly repealed therein or to prevent municipalities from prohibiting, licensing, or regulating the running at large of dogs within their respective limits by law.”  MN ST § 347.21.   Further, electors at town meetings may, by statute, create regulations pertaining to pounds and make orders and bylaws on restraining horses, cattle, sheep, swine, and other domestic animals from going at large on roads. They may also make orders and bylaws on the impounding of domestic animals going at large and fix penalties for violations of the orders and bylaws.  MN ST § 365.10.

There are also broad general provisions for local control of dogs and cats.  "The electors may let the town board pass an ordinance for licensing dogs and cats and regulating their presence, keeping, and running at large in the town."  MN ST § 366.01, Subd. 2.  These specific provisions are in addition to the general allowance of ordinances for health, safety, order, and convenience, and the general welfare of the community.  Further, the town board supervisors may regulate the presence or keeping of dogs or domestic animal when deemed to be in the "public interest."  MN ST § 366.01, Subd. 2.


In Mississippi, local governments are given broad discretion to adopt dog ordinances.


In Missouri, a council within city limits may “regulate or prohibit the running at large of cattle, hogs, horses, mules, sheep, goats and other animals and domestic geese, ducks, chickens and turkeys, and cause such as may be running at large to be impounded and sold in such manner and time as may be provided by ordinance.”  MO ST 77.510.   The council may also tax, restrain and prohibit the running at large of dogs, and provide for their destruction when at large contrary to ordinance, and impose penalties on the owners or keepers thereof.  MO ST 77.510.

Further, the board of aldermen may also regulate or prohibit the running at large of cattle, hogs, horses, mules, sheep, goats and all other domestic animals, also geese, ducks, chickens, turkeys and all other domestic fowls and cause such animals or fowls as may be running at large to be impounded and sold in such manner and at such time as may be prescribed by ordinance.  MO ST 79.400(2). The board of aldermen may also “tax, regulate and restrain and prohibit the running at large of dogs, and provide for their destruction when at large contrary to ordinance, and impose penalties on the owners or keepers thereof.”  Id.


In Montana, a statute specifically provides for the county control of dogs. 

(1) The governing body of the county may regulate, restrain, or prohibit the running at large of dogs by the adoption of an ordinance which substantially complies with the provisions of 7-5-103 through 7-5-107 and which may provide for the wearing of a license tag upon the collar of the dog and the keeping of a record which will establish the identity of the person who owns, keeps, or harbors the dog.
(2) Violation of an ordinance adopted under subsection (1) is a misdemeanor.
(3) The county governing body is authorized to impound, sell, kill, or otherwise destroy dogs found at large contrary to ordinances.
(4) Nothing in this section restricts the governing body from enacting dog control measures in a portion of the county only. 

MT ST 7-23-2108.   State law allows for the licensing of dogs by municipal ordinance.  MT ST 7-23-4103.   Montana also provides for local control of vicious dogs. 

(1) The county governing body may regulate, restrain, control, kill, or quarantine any vicious dog, whether such dog is licensed or unlicensed, by the adoption of an ordinance which substantially complies with the provisions of 7- 5-103 through 7-5-107.
(2) A violation of any ordinance established as provided in subsection (1) is a misdemeanor.
(3) For purposes of this section, a "vicious dog" is defined as one which bites or attempts to bite any human being without provocation or which harasses, chases, bites, or attempts to bite any other animal. The term "animal" includes all livestock and any domestic pet. 

MT ST 7-23-2109.   Finally, Montana law provides that:

The city or town council has power to regulate, restrain, or prohibit the running at large of horses, cattle, swine, sheep, goats, and dogs or other animals and to authorize the impounding and sale thereof if found at large contrary to ordinances. 

MT ST 7-23-2109.


In Nebraska, “[a] primary city shall have power, by ordinance, to regulate or prohibit the running at large of cattle, hogs, horses, mules, sheep, goats, dogs, and other animals and to cause such as may be running at large to be impounded and sold to discharge the cost and penalties provided for violation of such prohibitions and the fees and expenses of impounding and keeping the same and of such sale.” 

NE ST § 15-218. 

Nebraska also specifically provides for dogs running at large: 

A primary city shall have power to regulate, license, or prohibit the running at large of dogs and other animals and guard against injuries or annoyances therefrom, and to authorize the destruction of the same when running at large contrary to the provisions of any ordinance. Any licensing provision shall comply with subsection (2) of section 54-603 for dog guides, hearing aid dogs, and service dogs. 

NE ST § 15-220. 

A city is explicitly given the power to kills dogs found running at large contrary to any ordinance.  In addition to providing for local units to license dogs, a municipality may regulate, license, or prohibit the running at large of dogs and other animals and guard against injuries resulting from them.  It may then authorize the destruction of dogs running at large contrary to the provisions of any ordinance.  NE ST § 17-526.  Additionally “. . . violation of licensing provisions enforce the same by appropriate penalties, and cause the destruction of any dog or other animal, for which the owner or harborer shall refuse or neglect to pay such license tax.  Id.   Further,

(1) Any county, city, or village shall have authority by ordinance or resolution, to impose a license tax in an amount which shall be determined by the appropriate governing body, on the owner or harborer of any dog or dogs, to be paid under such regulations as shall be provided by such ordinance or resolutions. 

NE ST § 54-603.   With regard to local control of dangerous dogs, “[n]othing in sections 54-617 to 54-623 shall be construed to restrict or prohibit any governing board of any county, city, or village from establishing and enforcing laws or ordinances at least as stringent as the provisions of sections 54-617 to 54-623."  NE ST § 54-624.


In Nevada, each board of county commissioners may enact and enforce dog ordinances related to:

(a) Fixing, imposing and collecting an annual license fee on dogs and providing for the capture and disposal of all dogs on which the license fee is not paid.
(b) Regulating or prohibiting the running at large and disposal of all kinds of animals.
(c) Establishing a pound, appointing a poundkeeper and prescribing his duties.
(d) Prohibiting cruelty to animals.
(e) Designating an animal as inherently dangerous and requiring the owner of such an animal to obtain a policy of liability insurance for the animal in an amount determined by the board of county commissioners.

NV ST 244.359.

New Hampshire:

In New Hampshire, state law provides that a city may adopt a resolution pertaining to dogs running at large through a referendum.  Interestingly, the statute provides the language with which the referendum must be phrased. 

I. (a) Any city or town desiring to adopt the provisions of RSA 466:30-a may do so by approving as described in paragraph II or III the following question: "Shall we adopt the provisions of RSA 466:30-a which make it unlawful for any dog to run at large, except when accompanied by the owner or custodian, and when used for hunting, herding, supervised competition and exhibition or training for such?"

NH ST § 466:30-b. 

New Jersey:

In New Jersey, state law also allows local units to fix dog taxes.  NJ ST 4:19-1.  However, it states that “[t]his article shall not apply to taxing districts wherein the running at large of dogs is or shall be restrained or regulated by ordinance.”  Id.  The moneys collected from this tax are then put into a fund used to reimburse livestock owners for damage done by dogs.  NJ ST 4:19-4.  

In New Jersey, a local ordinance can fix the costs related to impounding and destroying a vicious dog.  Further, if a dog is declared vicious or potentially dangerous, the owner of the dog shall be liable to the municipality in which the dog is impounded for the costs and expenses of impounding and destroying the dog. The municipality may establish by ordinance a schedule of these costs and expenses. NJ ST 4:19-26(a). 

Also, state statute provides that every municipality may, by ordinance, fix the sum to be paid annually for a potentially dangerous dog license and each renewal thereof, (not less than $150 nor more than $700). In the absence of any local ordinance, the fee for all potentially dangerous dog licenses shall be $150.  NJ ST 4:19-31.   However, state law explicitly provides for preemption:

The provisions of this act shall supersede any law, ordinance, or regulation concerning vicious or potentially dangerous dogs, any specific breed of dog, or any other type of dog inconsistent with this act enacted by any municipality, county, or county or local board of health. 

NJ ST 4:19-36. 

New Mexico:

In New Mexico, state law provides that each municipality shall enact ordinances to provide for the control of loose dogs.

Each municipality and each county shall make provision by ordinance for the seizure and disposition of dogs and cats running at large and not kept or claimed by any person on their premises.  

NM ST § 77-1-12.   Further, every municipality and each county may provide by ordinance for the mandatory licensure of dogs over the age of three months. License fees shall be fixed by the responsible municipality or county.  NM ST § 77-1-15.1.   Every municipality and each county shall provide for the impoundment of rabies-suspect animals and shall designate a part-time or full-time animal control officer who shall be deputized to enforce animal control laws, orders, ordinances and regulations.  Id . at B.

New York:

In New York, local units may adopt licensing ordinances.

4. a. Any town or city or any village issuing licenses pursuant to the provisions of this article may, by local law or ordinance, set license fees in addition to those set by subdivisions one and two of this section.

NY AGRI & MKTS § 110.   State law also provides for the seizure of dogs found in violation of local ordinances:

2. Any dog control officer or peace officer, acting pursuant to his special duties, or police officer in the employ of or under contract to a municipality may seize any dog in violation of any local law or ordinance relating to the control of dogs, adopted by any municipality pursuant to the provisions of this article. 

NY AGRI & MKTS § 118.   Municipalities are also empowered to enact ordinances to prevent dogs from running at large.  These ordinances may also impose civil and criminal penalties.

1. Any municipality may enact a local law or ordinance upon the keeping or running at large of dogs and the seizure thereof, provided no municipality shall vary, modify, enlarge or restrict the provisions of this article relating to identification, licensing, rabies vaccination and euthanization.
2. Such local law or ordinance may:
(a) impose penalties for violation of such restrictions to be recovered in a civil action in the name of such municipality;
(b) provide for enforcement by fine or imprisonment for any such violation; or
(c) provide for the issuance pursuant to the criminal procedure law of an appearance ticket, or in lieu thereof, a uniform appearance ticket, or in lieu thereof, a uniform appearance ticket and simplified information, as provided in section one hundred fourteen of this article, by any dog control officer, peace officer, acting pursuant to his special duties, or police officer, who is authorized by any municipality to assist in the enforcement of this article for any such violation.

NY AGRI & MKTS § 124.

New York state law also gives municipalities some ability to enact ordinances to deal with stray pets:

The provisions of this article shall apply to all municipalities, including cities with a population of one million or more, and shall supersede any local law, rule, regulation, or ordinance regulating or licensing pet dealers as defined in this article. Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit or restrict any municipality from enforcing any local law, rule, regulation or ordinance of general application to businesses governing public health, safety or the rights of consumers. 

NY GEN BUS § 753-e.   Further, local units may provide through ordinance that stray pets are donated:

1.      A municipality may by local law or ordinance provide that stray or unwanted dogs be given to an agency which trains seeing eye dogs or to a police department which trains dogs as guards. 

NY GEN BUS § 753-e.   Finally, town boards are given a broad grant of authority to enact dog control measures under their general police powers.

The town board after a public hearing may enact, amend and repeal ordinances, rules and regulations not inconsistent with law, for the following purposes in addition to such other purposes as may be contemplated by the provisions of this chapter or other laws.
. . .
9. Animals. Regulating the keeping of calves; regulating and prohibiting the keeping of swine and mink, restraining the running at large of horses, cattle, sheep, unmuzzled dogs, whether licensed or not, fowls and other animals and authorizing the impounding and sale of the same for the costs of keeping, proceedings and penalty, or the killing of unmuzzled dogs.

NY TOWN § 130.

North Carolina:

In North Carolina, local authority with regard to dogs is virtually unlimited as long as it is not inconsistent with state law.  NC ST § 67-4.5.   Cities may also adopt dangerous dog regulations:

Nothing in this Article shall be construed to prevent a city or county from adopting or enforcing its own program for control of dangerous dogs.

NC ST § 160A-186.   Further,  “[a] city may by ordinance regulate, restrict, or prohibit the keeping, running, or going at large of any domestic animals, including dogs and cats. The ordinance may provide that animals allowed to run at large in violation of the ordinance may be seized and sold or destroyed after reasonable efforts to notify their owner.  NC ST § 160A-186.  

Cities and counties are also given the authority to create taxes relative to dog licensing:  “[a] city shall have power to levy an annual license tax on the privilege of keeping any domestic animal, including dogs and cats, within the city. This section shall not limit the city's authority to enact ordinances under G.S. 160A-186.”  NC ST § 160A-212.

North Dakota:

North Dakota law provides that a city council and the board of city commissioners, in addition to the powers possessed by all municipalities, shall have specific powers to regulate dogs.

22. Dogs. To license dogs and to regulate the keeping of dogs including authorization for their disposition or destruction in order to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the public; provided, however, that license fees are waived in the case of an assistance dog.

ND ST 40-05-02.


In Ohio, state law provides that:

. . . except as otherwise provided in section 955.221 of the Revised Code regarding dogs, a municipal corporation may regulate, restrain, or prohibit the running at large, within the municipal corporation, of cattle, horses, swine, sheep, goats, geese, chickens, or other fowl or animals, impound and hold the fowl or animals, and, on notice to the owners, authorize the sale of the fowl or animals for the penalty imposed by any ordinance, and the cost and expenses of the proceedings.

OH ST § 715.23.  

The relevant section 955.221 provides the scope of dog ordinances that municipalities can enact:

(A) For the purposes of this section, ordinances or resolutions to control dogs include, but are not limited to, ordinances or resolutions concerned with the ownership, keeping, or harboring of dogs, the restraint of dogs, dogs as public nuisances, and dogs as a threat to public health, safety, and welfare, except that such ordinances or resolutions as permitted in division (B) of this section shall not prohibit the use of any dog which is lawfully engaged in hunting or training for the purpose of hunting while accompanied by a licensed hunter. 

OH ST § 955.221.

Further, the Ohio statute provides for the order of preemption on the local level with regard to conflicting local ordinances. 

(2) A board of township trustees may adopt and enforce resolutions to control dogs within the township that are not otherwise in conflict with any other provision of the Revised Code, if the township is located in a county where the board of county commissioners has not adopted resolutions to control dogs within the unincorporated areas of the county under this section. In the event that the board of county commissioners adopts resolutions to control dogs in the county after a board of township trustees has adopted resolutions to control dogs within the township, the resolutions adopted by the county board of commissioners prevail over the resolutions adopted by the board of township trustees. 
(3) A municipal corporation may adopt and enforce ordinances to control dogs within the municipal corporation that are not otherwise in conflict with any other provision of the Revised Code.

OH ST § 955.221.


In Oklahoma, local municipalities are given the power to regulate dogs in several respects.

The municipal governing body may regulate or prohibit animals from running at large. Animals which are running at large may be impounded and sold to discharge any costs and penalties established by the governing body and the expense of impounding, keeping or sale of such animals. The governing body may also provide for the erection of pens, pounds, and buildings for the use of the municipality, within or without the municipal limits, and appoint and compensate keepers thereof, and establish and enforce rules governing the pens, pounds or buildings. The governing body may also regulate and provide for taxing the owners and harborers of dogs, and authorize the killing of dogs which are found at large in violation of any ordinance regulating the same.

OK ST T. 11 § 22-115.   In Oklahoma, a board of county commissioners in larger counties (200,000 or more) may regulate or prohibit the running large of dogs.  These ordinances can provide that dogs found in violation may then be “impounded and disposed of as otherwise provided for by law or sold to discharge the costs and penalties provided for the violation of such prohibition and the expense of impounding and keeping the same for such sale; and may also provide for the erection of all needful pens, pounds and buildings for the use of said county at any place within said county.”  OK ST T. 11 § 22-115.  

Moreover, the board of county commissioners is mandated to establish a taxing and regulation system for dogs.

It shall be the duty of the board of county commissioners of any county undertaking the regulation and taxation of dogs in said county under this act [FN1] to establish and enforce rules governing the same.

OK ST T. 4 § 43.   Other local dog regulations may be established by local government and violation thereof will result in a misdemeanor violation, according to statute.  While the county board may establish the ordinances regulating dogs and dog owners, it appears a county board cannot fix the penalty to owners.

The board of county commissioners may also regulate and provide for taxing the owners and harborers of dogs, and authorize the humane killing or disposal of dogs, found at large, contrary to any ordinance regulating the same. Any person, firm or corporation who violates any rule or regulation made by such board of county commissioners under the authority of this act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished as provided by the laws of this state in any court of competent jurisdiction, provided that in the case of continuing offenses, each day on which the offense occurs shall constitute a separate offense. 

OK ST T. 4 § 43 .  This limitation on the creation of local criminal ordinances may avoid the invalidation of dog ordinances as seen in Responsible Dog Owners v. City of Richardson, 781 S.W.2d 667, supra. 

State law also provides that a municipal ordinance can abrogate the duty of the local pound to deliver unclaimed animals to licensed institutions for scientific research. 

A.     Except as otherwise provided by municipal ordinance, it shall be the duty of the pound supervisor to deliver from among the available impounded animals on the demand of an institution possessing a license, such number of animals as the institution may demand and be reasonably required effectively to carry on its activities, subject to the following conditions:
B. Any city may adopt an ordinance setting the number of days an animal must be impounded and setting restrictions or prohibitions on the delivery of animals for scientific research. 

OK ST T. 4 § 394.


In Oregon, several statutory sections relating to dogs (ORS 609.030 and 609.040 to 609.110) provide that they do not limit the powers of cities and counties to adopt ordinances and regulations relating to the control of dogs. 

Local control at the city level for dog licensing is also provided by statute:

(2) A county dog licensing and control program shall not apply within the limits of a city that has its own dog licensing and control program.

OR ST § 609.015.

Finally, a municipality can provide through ordinance to prohibit the running at large of dogs if proper notice is given:

(1)       If a majority of all votes cast in the election provided for by ORS 609.040 is against permitting dogs to run at large, or if the governing body of the county by ordinance prohibits dogs from running at large, the county shall give notice, by publication in some newspaper having a general circulation in the county, and in the election precinct if the prohibition of dogs running at large affects any one precinct only, for three consecutive weeks. 

OR ST § 609.060.


Pennsylvania law gives general powers to local governments regarding dog regulation:

To regulate and provide for taxing the owners and harborers of dogs, and to destroy dogs found at large contrary to any ordinance. 

PA ST 53 P.S. § 23144 .  Further, ordinances may be enacted regarding loose dogs. 

The board of supervisors may by ordinance prohibit and regulate the running at large of dogs. 

PA ST 53 P.S. § 66530.

However, Pennsylvania law explicitly abrogates local ordinances dealing with dangerous dogs or breed-specific enactments:

(c) Local ordinances.--Those provisions of local ordinances relating to dangerous dogs are hereby abrogated. A local ordinance otherwise dealing with dogs may not prohibit or otherwise limit a specific breed of dog. 

PA ST 3 P.S. § 459-507-A.

State law also provides that certain cities dog ordinances will be given full force and effect even where state law regulates the activity:

(a)Cities of the first class, second class and second class A.--Insofar as this act provides for the individual licensing of dogs and the payment of damages for domestic animals injured by dogs or for licensed dogs illegally killed, it shall not apply to cities of the first class, second class and second class A. Such individual dog licensing and payment of damages in cities of the first class, second class and second class A shall continue to be carried on under the provisions of existing laws.
(b) Cities of the third class.--Insofar as this act provides for the individual licensing of dogs by the department, the payment of damages by the department for domestic animals injured by dogs or for licensed dogs illegally killed and for the performance of duties and functions of dog law enforcement by the department under Articles I and II, except sections 206, 207, 209, 211 and 218 [FN1] as it pertains to kennel inspections; Article III, except section 301; [FN2] Articles V through IX; this Article; Articles XI and XII, the foregoing responsibilities shall not apply to the department within a city of the third class that does both of the following:
(1)       Adopts its own dog licensing ordinance establishing individual dog licensure on a calendar year basis or on another basis consistent with that in use by the department. 

PA ST 3 P.S. § 459-1201.

Puerto Rico:

In Puerto Rico, municipalities are given authority to manage the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens:

Each municipality shall order, regulate and resolve whatever is necessary and convenient to attend to its local needs and for its greater prosperity and development.
. . .
(g) Regulate whatever concerns stray domestic animals, dispose for their euthanasia and disposal in interest of the public health, establish the rules and conditions under which they can be rescued by their owners, as well as the muzzling and licensing of dogs, and the adoption and implementation of such precautionary measures that are necessary or convenient to protect the public health as it may be affected by domestic stray animals; and establish, operate and manage animal shelters according to §§ 1094 et seq. of this title. 

PR ST T. 21 § 4054.

Further, municipal councils are granted broad authority to regulate dogs:

Authority is hereby conferred upon the municipal councils of Puerto Rico to regulate by ordinance, in accordance with such regulations as may be drafted by the Secretary of Health as provided in § 179 of Title 3, the running at large of domestic animals, and the destruction and impounding of same; and to regulate the muzzling and licensing of dogs, the destruction of the same in the interest of public health; and, further, to provide the terms and conditions upon which impounded animals may be redeemed by the owners thereof; and, generally, to enact all needful ordinances having in view the protection of the public health as affected by the running at large of domestic animals. 

PR ST T. 24 § 651.

Rhode Island:

In Rhode Island, there is an extensive statutory scheme that enables local municipalities to enact dog ordinances.  Generally, city or town councils have broad power in this field:

(a) City or town councils may make any ordinances concerning dogs in their cities or towns as they deem expedient, to be enforced by the destruction or disposition of the animal, or by pecuniary penalties not exceeding ten dollars ($10.00) for the first offense, not exceeding fifteen dollars ($15.00) for the second offense within a year, not exceeding twenty-five dollars ($25.00) for the third and any subsequent offense within a year to be recovered by action of debt, or by complaint and warrant, to use as that city council or town council may prescribe.

RI ST § 4-13-1 .  In fact, the grant of authority is broken down by city or town with regard to what powers each has to adopt dog related regulations.  An examination of the authority vested in several town council is illustrative:

(b)(1) Barrington town council is authorized to enact an ordinance:
(i) Permitting the animal control officer in the town to issue citations to the owners of dogs for violation of any animal control ordinance which may be paid by mail and;
(ii) To prescribe pecuniary penalties as follows:
(2)(i) Bristol town council is authorized to enact an ordinance permitting the dog officer in that town to issue citations to the owners of dogs for the violation of any dog ordinance which may be paid by mail, and to prescribe pecuniary penalties as follows:
(ii) The Bristol town council may by ordinance prescribe the number of licensed dogs and their breeds which may be kept at any single-family residence other than a breeding kennel licensed under § 4-13-10, and may enforce those ordinances by pecuniary penalties not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250).
(3) Coventry town council is authorized to enact ordinances permitting the dog officer in the town to issue citations to the owners of dogs for the violation of any dog ordinance which may be paid by mail.

RI ST § 4-13-1.   The town councils are listed alphabetically under this statute in a similar fashion as above. 

Despite the specificity in describing the power granted to each town council, State law does provide that “[n]othing in this chapter shall be construed as to repeal any ordinance concerning dogs, not inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter, which has been passed by any town or city council.”  RI ST § 4-13-3.   Every city and town shall enact an ordinance requiring the licensing of dogs.  RI ST § 4-13.1-9.   Towns and cities may also adopt ordinances or regulations concerning the use of money received for dog licenses.  RI ST § 4-13-8.  Cities and towns, however, are mandated by state law to adopt ordinances related to rabies control.

Each city and town is required to provide for the control of rabies in cats, dogs, and ferrets within its boundaries. The municipality may elect to adopt into ordinance provisions at least as stringent as this chapter and the regulations adopted by the board or it may choose to accept delegation of the authority of the board as provided in § 4-13-29.

RI ST § 4-13-29.1

South Carolina:

South Carolina provides a broad grant of authority to enact dog ordinances.

The governing body of each county or municipality in this State may enact ordinances and promulgate regulations for the care and control of dogs, cats, and other animals and to prescribe penalties for violations. 

SC ST § 47-3-20.

South Dakota:

South Dakota law limits the scope of dog ordinances to dogs running at large and taxation.

The board of county commissioners of each of the counties of the State of South Dakota shall have the power to regulate, restrain or prohibit the running at large of dogs and to impose a license or tax on all dogs not licensed or taxed under municipal ordinance, owned or kept by any person within the county. 

SD ST § 40-34-5.


Tennessee law allows counties with a population between 825,000 and 830,000 to adopt local ordinances authorizing the municipality or the county to appropriately petition in a general sessions court to provide for the disposition of dangerous dogs and/or dogs causing death or serious injury to humans or other animals. TN ST § 44-17-120.

Tennessee also has a provision similar to Idaho that limits both state and local government’s ability to enact measures to prevent the use of electronic locating collars for dogs.  TN ST § 44-17-401.


In Texas, a municipality may adopt ordinances requiring the registration of dogs and cats within its jurisdiction.  TX HEALTH & S § 826.031.   Further, municipalities are empowered to enact ordinances requiring that:

(1) each dog or cat be restrained by its owner;
(2) each stray dog or cat be declared a public nuisance;
(3) each unrestrained dog or cat be detained or impounded by the local rabies control authority or that officer's designee;
(4) each stray dog or cat be impounded for a period set by ordinance or rule; and
(5) a humane disposition be made of each unclaimed stray dog or cat on the expiration of the required impoundment period. . .

TX HEALTH & S § 826.033.

Texas law also allows municipalities to enact measures that provide stricter standards for pet sterilization.  TX HEALTH & S § 828.013(2).


Under the chapter, “Powers and Duties of All Cities,” Utah law provides that:

They may license, tax, regulate or prohibit the keeping of dogs, and authorize the destruction, sale or other disposal of the same when at large contrary to ordinance. 

UT ST § 10-8-65.


Vermont allows local governments to adopt regulations concerning dogs .

For the purpose of promoting the public health, safety, welfare and convenience, a town, city or incorporated village shall have the following powers:
. . .
(10) To regulate the keeping of dogs, and to provide for their leashing, muzzling or restraint. 

VT ST T. 24 § 2291.  


Virginia has a multitude of statutory sections that relate to local control of dogs.  The pertinent language of each type of statute authorizing local ordinances for several dog-related subject areas is provided.

Licensing and Taxation:

The governing body of any county, city or town may, by local ordinance, require a person operating a pet shop or operating as a dealer in companion animals to obtain a permit.  VA ST § 3.1-796.84.  Local units may also adopt licensing ordinances for private owners of dogs.  VA ST § 3.1-796.86.  However, the governing body of each county or city shall impose by ordinance a license tax on the ownership of dogs within its jurisdiction.  This statute also provides that "the governing body may establish different rates of taxation for ownership of female dogs, male dogs, spayed or neutered dogs, female cats, male cats, and spayed or neutered cats."  VA ST § 3.1-796.87.

Local Regulation of Dangerous Dogs:

Virginia law allow local governments to enact ordinances regulating dangerous and vicious dogs, provided they comply with the statutory requirements.  See, VA ST § 3.1-796.93:1(C).   The statute also outlines the provisions that may be enacted but do not appear to be required.  See, VA ST § 3.1-796.93:1(D).   Further, "[a]ny county with the urban county executive form of government may enact an ordinance which prohibits persons from training dogs on residential property to attack."  VA ST § 3.1-796.93:2.   Local governing bodies are not prohibited from adopting more stringent ordinances related to animal control than are provided in this chapter.  VA ST § 3.1-796.94.

Finally, the governing body of any county, city or town may adopt an ordinance to provide for the confinement of dogs which kill other dogs or domestic animals other than livestock or poultry. 

. . . The ordinance shall provide that any animal control officer who has reason to believe that any dog is killing other dogs or domestic animals other than livestock or poultry shall apply to a magistrate of the county, city or town wherein the dog may be located for the issuance of a warrant requiring the owner or custodian, if known, to appear before a general district court at a specified time. The animal control officer or owner shall confine the dog until such time as evidence shall be heard and a verdict rendered. If it appears from the evidence that the dog has habitually killed other dogs or domestic animals, the court may order the dog killed in accordance with the provisions of § 3.1-796.119.

VA ST § 3.1-796.117.

Animal Shelter Provisions:

State law allows municipalities to adopt ordinances related to selling of adopted animals:

Any city, county or town which supports, in whole or in part, an animal shelter may by ordinance provide that no person who acquires an animal from such shelter shall be able to sell such animal within a period of six months from the time the animal is acquired from the shelter. Violation of such an ordinance shall constitute a misdemeanor.

VA ST § 3.1-796.94:2.

Leash Laws:

The governing body of any city may adopt regulations or ordinances requiring that dogs within the confines of any such city be kept on a leash or otherwise restrained.  It may also by resolution request the court to order a referendum as to whether any such ordinance so adopted shall become effective in the city.  Interestingly, the statute states that "[t]he results of the referendum shall not be binding upon the governing body of any such city but may be used in ascertaining the sense of the voters."  VA ST § 3.1-796.95.

Rabies Laws:

Localities are given broad police power to adopt ordinances when a rabies epidemic presents itself:

When there is sufficient reason to believe that a rabid animal is at large, the governing body of any county, city or town shall have the power to pass an emergency ordinance that shall become effective immediately upon passage, requiring owners of all dogs and cats therein to keep the same confined on their premises unless leashed under restraint of the owner in such a manner that persons or animals will not be subject to the danger of being bitten by the rabid animal. Any such emergency ordinance enacted pursuant to the provisions of this section shall be operative for a period not to exceed 30 days unless renewed by the governing body of such county, city or town. The governing body of any county, city or town shall also have the power and authority to pass ordinances restricting the running at large in their respective jurisdiction of dogs and cats which have not been inoculated or vaccinated against rabies and to provide penalties for the violation thereof.

VA ST § 3.1-796.98 .  Further, state law provides that the governing body of any county, city or town may adopt such ordinances, regulations or other measures as may be deemed reasonably necessary to prevent the spread within its boundaries of the disease of rabies, and to regulate and control the running at large within its boundaries of vicious or destructive dogs.  VA ST § 3.1-796.100.


City or town council powers to adopt ordinances related to dogs are explicitly provided by Washington statute:

The council of said town shall have power:
(1)To pass ordinances not in conflict with the Constitution and laws of this state, or of the United States;
. . .
(7) To impose and collect an annual license on every dog within the limits of the town, to prohibit dogs running at large, and to provide for the killing of all dogs found at large and not duly licensed;
. . .
(16) To make all such ordinances, bylaws, rules, regulations and resolutions not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the state of Washington, as may be deemed expedient to maintain the peace, good government and welfare of the town and its trade, commerce and manufacturers, and to do and perform any and all other acts and things necessary or proper to carry out the provisions of this chapter.

WA ST 35.27.370(1), (7), and (16).

Further, a local government’s power to enact ordinances pursuant to its police power are also described by statute.

The council, or other legislative body, of all cities within the state of Washington which were created by special charter prior to the adoption of the state Constitution, and which have not since reincorporated under any general statute, shall have, in addition to the powers specially granted by the charter of such cities, the following powers:
(2) To impose and collect an annual license not exceeding two dollars on every dog owned or harbored within the limits of the city.
. . .
(8) To make all such ordinances, bylaws and regulations, not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the state of Washington, as may be deemed expedient to maintain the peace, good government and welfare of the city, and to do and perform any and all other acts and things necessary and proper to carry out the purposes of the municipal corporation.

WA ST 35.30.010.

In Washington, county commissioners are mandated to establish ordinances for control and licensing of dogs:

The county commissioners shall by ordinance promulgate the regulations to be enforced within a dog control zone. These shall include provisions for the control of unlicensed dogs and the establishment of license fees. The county sheriff and/or other agencies designated by the county commissioners shall be responsible for the enforcement of the act, including the collection of license fees. Fees collected shall be transferred to the current expense fund of each county.

WA ST 16.10.040.

West Virginia:

West Virginia law allows county commissions or municipalities to adopt ordinances to prevent the running at large of vaccinated dogs and cats.  Interestingly, state law appears to permit cats and dogs to run at large unless prohibited by local ordinance.  In fact, localities are prohibited from enacting ordinances that prohibit hunting dogs from running at large.

Dogs or cats vaccinated in compliance with the provisions of this article may run at large in any area or locality: Provided, That the commissioner of agriculture may, pursuant to article nine of this chapter, exercise his discretion to establish a quarantined area or locality and to require all dogs and cats within the limits of any quarantined area or locality to be confined as provided in article nine: Provided, however, That a county commission or a municipality may adopt and enforce ordinances not inconsistent with the provisions of article twenty of this chapter of the code, as it considers necessary or convenient for the control and management of all dogs in the county, or a portion thereof, vaccinated or not, except as further provided herein: Provided further, That any county commission or municipality may not adopt any ordinance which purports to keep any vaccinated dog from running at large while engaged in any lawful hunting activity; from running at large while engaged in any lawful training activity; or from running at large while engaged in any lawful herding or other farm related activity: And provided further, That the provisions of this section shall not exempt any dog from any quarantine established by or any confinement order required by the commissioner relating to the establishment of a quarantine.

WV ST § 19-20A-8.


State law provides that a town board of each respective town may enact ordinances to prevent dogs from running at large.

(20) Dogs running at large. The board may enact ordinances regulating the keeping, apprehension, impounding and destruction of dogs outside the corporate limits of any city or village, but such ordinances shall not conflict with ss. 174.01 and 174.042, and such ordinances may not apply in any town that has enacted an ordinance under s. 60.23(30).

WI ST 59.54.

Another provision also echoes this authority of towns.

(30) Riding horses, dogs running at large. Enact and enforce ordinances, and provide forfeitures for violations of those ordinances, that are the same as or similar to ordinances that may be enacted by a county to regulate riding horses and commercial stables under s. 59.54(19) or to regulate dogs running at large under s. 59.54(20).

WI ST 60.23.


Local control of dogs is provided by state statute, which allows the governing bodies of all cities and towns to regulate dogs and other animals.

(a) The governing bodies of all cities and towns may:
. . .
(xiv) Regulate or prohibit the running at large within the city limits of any animals, impose a license fee for the keeping or harboring of dogs and establish and provide for the operation of a pound;
. . .
(xli) Adopt ordinances, resolutions and regulations, including regulations not in conflict with this act and necessary for the health, safety and welfare of the city or town, necessary to give effect to the powers conferred by this act and, except as provided by paragraph (xlvi) [of this subsection], enforce all ordinances by imposing fines not exceeding seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00), or imprisonment not exceeding six (6) months, or both. . .

WY ST § 15-1-103.

In Wyoming, local control of loose dogs is also addressed through nuisance law.  A board of county commissioners may declare any specified animals (presumably including dogs) a public nuisance in order to regulate them.

(a) A board of county commissioners may declare the running at large of any specified animals in unincorporated areas within the county limits a public nuisance.
. . .
(iii) Dogs or other animals, whose ownership cannot be determined, may be destroyed.
. . .
(d) A dog injuring or killing livestock may be killed by the owner of the livestock or his agent or any peace officer.
. . .
(g) A board of county commissioners may enact regulations relative to dogs running at large, vicious dogs, dogs running wild game or livestock or acts by other animals which shall carry out the purposes of this section. The county sheriff shall and a county animal control officer or any other peace officer may enforce these regulations to protect persons and property.
(h) A board of county commissioners may require an annual county license or tag for dogs within their jurisdiction upon payment of a fee of not more than five dollars ($5.00). Funds collected pursuant to this subsection may be used for dog control or for the maintenance of dog control centers for either purpose.
(j) A board of county commissioners may establish and provide for the operation of animal control districts which may encompass all or parts of the unincorporated area of the county and may cooperate with municipalities in a joint animal control program. Joint animal control programs may employ joint animal control officers who have the authority to enforce the animal control regulations and ordinances of each of the participating entities.
(k) As used in W.S. 11-31-301 "animal" means a dog or cat.

WY ST § 11-31-301.

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