Know Your Rights if Animal Control is at Your Door

If someone knocks on your door and says he is an animal control officer, you won’t immediately know if he is at the wrong address, is someone impersonating an ACO or if he has legitimate cause to knock on your door.  Regardless, your response should be the same:  Do not let the person into your home unless he produces a warrant granting him entry.  If you decide you feel safe speaking to the ACO face-to-face, get your house key, a pen and paper, and secure any loose pets.  Inform the ACO you will be coming outside and politely ask him to step back from your door.  Lock the door behind you.

keep-calm-and-remain-silentOnce outside, listen to whatever the ACO has to say.  Do not answer any questions outside of your name.  Do not lie.  If necessary, reiterate the fact that you are not giving permission for the ACO to enter your home.  Exercise your right to remain silent.  Do not admit owning any banned breed or pets over the local limit.  Do not defend yourself against any accusations.  Remain silent.  Write down the ACO’s name, badge number, and the agency he represents (county animal control, city police department, etc.).  If there is more than one person present (another ACO, a police officer, a humane society staffer, a neighbor who saw what was going on and came over, etc.), write down all their names and organizations.

If the ACO had no warrant and you refused him entry and refused to answer his questions, you should expect a return visit.  In the meantime, find a family member, friend or other safe place for any dogs who may fall under a local breed ban as well as any pets in your home that put you over the legal limit if your area has one.  Tidy up your animals, crates, x-pens, litter boxes and your home in general.  Make sure your animals’ records are in order so that you can produce documents if required (e.g. proof of rabies vaccination, proof of neuter if your area has MSN, local license if applicable).  Don’t panic.  Contact an attorney for advice if you are able.

For detailed advice that goes beyond the basic points mentioned here, read “What to Do When Animal Control Comes Knocking” by attorney George J. Eigenhauser Jr.

37 thoughts on “Know Your Rights if Animal Control is at Your Door

  1. This is an EXCELLENT article & so is the one you cite in last sentence. I would just add one more thing — if they get a warrant, gain entry, & seize animals” She did & they were promptly killed.

  2. isn’t it a darn shame that we even have to have this information? I have Georges info posted right by my front door.. everyone who owns a pet should too. I would add that membership in the Calvary Group will help if you are raided.. and with the shelter population dwindling (YEAAAAA) you can expect more raids to seize pets to keep the larger places up and running.. they do not like empty kennels

  3. Somehow cut off previous comment — Important, so I’ll continue. If they seize animals, do NOT sign them over. — there is nothing to be gained by surrendering them. In one case caregiver was told that was “the only way to keep them safe” so she surrendered them & they were promptly killed

  4. Excellent article, don’t forget this is not Mayberry USA,
    It’s AMERIKA!!!!
    Jan thank you for the advice on the cavalry group,
    It’s something we all need to know about,

  5. I did just this in N. Las Vegas, NV when i was over my limit on foster dogs. Neighbor called ACO saying they saw 10 dogs in my yard. Did not complain that the dogs were barking or doing anything wrong so i refused to let ACO in my house. ACO then called the NLV Police and they showed up an hour later asking to enter my home. Again, i refused. Was outside in my robe and had a chewed up piece of wooden spoon in my hand and dropped it onto the ground. The police were all over the splintered wood and said “this is marijuana, we need to search you.” They searched my ROBE pockets and found more chewed up wooden spoon. No drugs, just kindling! So they left and I sent the dogs to boarding the following day. When they returned, i was given a warning for being over the limit on dogs (had 6 of my own with a dog limit of 3). My dogs were all well cared for and my house was not full of poop or anything like that, so they could not seize my dogs. They told me i had to get rid of 3 of them, so we put our house on the market and moved. There are no limits on the number of children people can have and not take care of!

    1. Julie, just to read your account of what happened to you infuriates me! I have renamed America *China Jr.* In my area, if we have four or more pets, we must have a Multi-Pet license. There is no limit with the license. However, Just the fact that the limit is set at four for mandatory license is of serious concern to me. We definitely have gravitated towards a Fascist government when it comes to animals.

      The other serious issue, in your case, is your neighbor. I suspect your neighbor/s had an issue with you, so , they set out to truly hurt you by taking their anger out on your animals. That’s pretty vicious and evil, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve grown so disappointed with many humans.

      1. i never had a problem with that neighbor but made it a point to report them to our HOA when they would put their big screen tv in the window so they could watch porn in their yard. I could also see the porn! HOA told me there were no rules against that and told me to shut my shades. So glad i moved!

      2. In a way I understand the limits on how many dogs because of hoarders and people who try to take care of to many and don’t have the means to. People who fight dogs also will have many dogs. I myself due to my community and my lease can have only 2 dogs. For me that is good because I would have more and would not be able to properly vet more than 2.We must not forget some of these limitations were brought about by people who did not care properly for their dogs and had more dogs than resources or were irresponsible dog guardians. I hate saying owners . I own a car or a coffee table but I do not own my dogs I am their guardian .

      3. I reject the validity of that argument, sassybrat1904. Not that I don’t see the reasoning, but issues of neglect and/or abuse could be addressed without arbitrary limits that are, when it comes to that, more honored in the breach – and inequitably enforced, to the bargain.

  6. I also moved after some harrowing encounters with animal control. Now I won’t even drive through the county I used to live in with my dog in the van.

  7. What a sad state of affairs in this country when seizures *under color of law* become so frequent, every multiple animal owner needs to guard against the thieves in uniform.

  8. Also to add – if you’re pushing for shelter reform in your area, you may be specially targeted by vindictive shelter staff/ACO’s. Take care to protect your pets and yourself.

    1. thank you, we are going through this because we have 10 cats when the limit is 2. somebody called in and pretended to be us and said we were surrendering due to a hoarding situation. They claimed we had hundreds of kittens and were swimming in filth. so we paid our licencing fees, vaccinations, multi-licence fees to a tune of over $1200. its now due again and last year we had to skip a housepayment to pay their fines. with the local shelter at 210%, they will surly euthanize or pets. We do not know what to do and cannot imagine life without these rescued cats.

  9. It needs to be emphasized as Casey Post wrote. If you are pushing for shelter reform – watch out for vindictive/retaliation from ACO and City leaders. This is not emphasized enough. Watch out for your pets and watch out for yourself.

  10. A question: is there a correlation between stringent animal laws and/or unreasonable seizures by animal control, and the percentage of the county or city budget provided by fines?

    1. That would seem a reasonable assumption to me although I know of no data on the matter. As was revealed in the federal investigation of the Ferguson PD, the unit was viewed by the city as a revenue generating mechanism, not a public service, and the officers behaved accordingly. It seems highly unlikely to me that Ferguson has the only revenue-not-public-service outfit in the country.

      1. Yes, and why *wouldn’t* animal control be involved? It seems to me that it’s likely to be among the least scrutinized of public services.

  11. Eucritta that’s exactly what we have been trying to find out in Pasco, Washington. i know for fact the Potentially Dangerous Animal/Dangerous Animal notices that are issued are in violation of the U.S Constitution, Washington State Constitution, case law and court rules. It was pointed out in court by a judge who requested an analysis of the ordinances. We worked hard – did a lot of research – wrote briefs to show the PD/DA were invalid. Then the judge recused himself due to a conflict of interest. The next judge who heard the case and read the brief found the analysis irrelevant (I guess) – then we went to a higher court – same thing not addressed. We were even fined for not having the transcript in order (the court’s microphone didn’t work) – but they miraculously came up with the trial transcript. (at our cost)

    I believe there is money being made with PD/DA fines (certainly here in the Tri-Cities, Kennewick, Pasco and Richland, Washington) – I have asked for documents and materials of pet-owners who appeal – haven’t received those documents/materials (my opinion is AC issues many notices to the Latino population – 60% approx Latino in Pasco) AC instills fear/threats …if an owner keeps the dog then the yearly permits can range from very costly depending on the town. Insurance requirement then too is pricey – so most likely surrender the dog – and in our area if the dog is seized then they can be sent to Washington State University – Veterinary School of Medicine (WSU – VSM) for research/surgery and body harvesting. We have asked how much a kick back AC gets for the animals….no documents and materials for that yet either. We did ask the IRS – EO (exempt organizations) to investigate….also the Justice Department as there is bias in issuing notices to the Latino Community (my opinion) But the PD/DA is invalid for anyone who is issued such a notice.

    thanks for reading.

    1. yeah fees are $65 just for rabies vaccination ($135 for a 3 year certificate) per animal, plus a $10 licence fee per cat, plus a $120 multi-pet license. We are facing over $1200 in fees, which is more than a housepayment. the cat limit is 2.

  12. Also I should say my client is Latino – his English is his second language – also his dog was issued a notice as a potential danger – the AC report was changed to create a case where none existed – the dog is a Shih Tzu – thankfully still alive.

    I think my client’s bravery to stand up to the AC bullies is what saved his dog’s life. The more public disclosure requests we have made the more corruption we see. AC is the agent for WSU-VSM – there’s money to be made in shelter animals. (research/cadavers, etc) The director went to a 3-day No Kill seminar in 2008 in Las Vegas…Nathan J. Winograd was a speaker among others. Tri-City Animal Control in Pasco, Washington is well aware of No Kill sheltering….apparently there is more money in high kill and sending animals to WSU-VSM. (my opinion)

  13. I understand the general goal of the article. I question, however, whether these tactics will work IF there is a warrant. I haven’t researched this so I don’t know for sure, but, with no warrant you can deny entry. They will be back soon though if you do. Will moving animals off your property get rid of them? I think they can likely still find and take you animals. They aren’t likely to just go away. This may be a good first line of defense but it isn’t going to keep them away. What then?

    Also, they may show up with a warrant. What if they have a warrant the FIRST time they show up? There’s no time to move animals. What do you do then?

    1. That site is actually an ad for LegalShield, a prepaid legal services plan. There is no actual information about this problem posted there — however, I think it is great that they are offering coverage on animal subjects to their members. There are lots of free informational sites on animal legal problems like dangerous dog hearings, animal control raids, etc. My own blog is Right now we are focusing on the question of coercion to surrender animals during raids. As I said in earlier comments, I strongly advise against surrendering them, but readers need to be aware that if you refuse to surrender you may be required to post a substantial bond for the “care” of the animals. I have such a bond hearing in one case set for April 14. They are asking about $5000 to increase monthly before case is heard on its merits.

  14. Sorry- I went to the Calavery Group and cannot in good conscience applaud their mission. Promoting soring. Promoting GMOs.
    Promoting the horrific living conditions of Puppy Mills.
    No thanks.

  15. Just had ACO here with 3 deputies 2 time in 3 months never even went out side to speak to them they stood at the gate 15 aussie’s out there didn’t let them in the yard. They yelled my name 15 minutes then realized I wasn’t coming out to speak to them. I just waived hello. Last time they were here I told them I had nothing to say unless they had a warrant I was going about my day good by. I took lots of pictures of them while they stood out there thinking what to do next. I called my lawyer first and was told I didn’t have to go out there And didn’t have to speak to them that if they had a warrant they come in some how or another. I’m a breeder 43 years now seen many things like this PETA HSUS Animal control U.A.C. Greenville NC. Look them up they were indicted Look this is nothing more than animal confiscation rackets nothing more. I have prove and am filing major law suit. This will be on CNN before the end of 2016. all the evidence is posted there on my web site. Need help call me.

  16. my issue is in ohio if you throw them 750 bucks a year they will license you to produce over 350 puppies a year now that’s literally giving a license to a puppymill. who can possibly care for that many dogs or puppies correctly its all a shaft for money and control also unconstitutional if you ask me because animals have more rights in the country then humans do anymore.

  17. our issue is that they came to our door last year and stated that we had called in to surrender our hundreds of cats and kittens due to a Hoarding situation. We had 8 payed, neutered, and vaccinated cats and were unaware there were cat limit laws of just 2 cats per residence. We complied and paid the vaccination fees and license fees, and multiple-pet license fees of over $1200 in total, thus skipping a house payment in order to keep our rescued cats. They entered our home while we were not home, but we cannot prove it, but our home was forced entered and all animals had been let loose, inner doors unlocked, etc. of course our home was spotless, animals well-cared for. We are not breeding or purposefully collecting animals. We keep finding kittens in our yard uncared for and know the local shelter euthanizes kittens on the spot.

    They have sent us 2 notices this year with warnings for seizure if we do not pay their fees. We cannot afford their fees, let alone legal fees to fight them. Their shelter is at 210% capacity. (is it any wonder why?) We provide for the cats well,they are kept indoors, our home is kept clean. They are not in any way a public health hazard nor would you even know there were cats in our home if we didnt tell you.

    We are unsure of what to do besides not opening the door to them when they show up. We cannot afford to kennel them, and the kennel requires proof of licensing and ownership too. But they have and will enter the home without permission, have threatened bodily harm arrest, etc.

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