ENFORCEMENT - What Every Dog Owner Needs to Know
Dog owners and ethical breeders are
increasingly being targeted. Disgruntled neighbors may
retaliate against dog owners and may other reasons drive
complaints, and anti-dog enforcement action, which many
times may be conducted illegally.
The following text outlines methods of
inquiry and enforcement which may be used by local officials
in attempts to enforce ordinances in your community and
suggested techniques of response. These techniques are
entirely legal and based upon the rights of citizens as
stated by the U.S. Constitution.
No breeder or rescuer wants to have Animal
Control come knocking on the door...but if they do, it will
help if you know what your options are.
Remember, Animal Control is law enforcement.
They are bound by the same Constitution as any other
government agency. To protect yourself, you need to know
your rights. These vary slightly one jurisdiction to
another, but some general principles apply. One rule applies
everywhere: never physically resist an officer.
When Animal Control is At Your Door:
1. Do not let them in, no matter how much they ask. Animal
Control generally cannot enter your home without a warrant,
or your permission. While regular police can enter in
emergency situations when human life is at risk (i.e. they
hear gunshots and a scream inside), there are few, if any,
situations in which Animal Control can enter your home
without a warrant. Simply tell them they may not come in.
2. If you let them in, anything they find in "plain
sight" can be used against you. In some circumstances
Animal Control officers, unable to find a legitimate reason
to make an arrest, have reported building or zoning
violations. This may include caging you attached to a wall
without a building permit, that extra outlet in the puppy
room, having more pets than allowed by zoning, even
extension cords in violation of fire codes! No matter how
clean your kennel, if they want to find a violation, they
3. Do not talk to them from an open doorway. Step outside an
close (and lock if possible) the door behind you. This is
A) Anything they see through the open door is "plain
sight" and may be the basis for an arrest, or probable
cause for a search warrant.
B) If they make an arrest or even feel threatened they are
usually permitted to search for weapons in your immediate
area. Do you keep a baseball bat inside the door for your
protection? Even if you don't, once they step inside to
look, they are in your home and may continue to search.
C) It is hard not to be intimidated by someone in authority.
Some animal control is even done by local police, who carry
guns. It is easy for them to get "in your face",
causing you to back up into the home. Once you go in, it
will be interpreted as an invitation to follow.
4. If they claim to have a warrant, demand to see it. In
general, a search warrant must be signed by a judge. A
warrant to search your home for dogs does not include an
inventory of your jewelry box. A warrant to search your
kennel in the garage or in the barn does not include a
search of your home.
5. In some locations dog owners may have obtained special
"breeder or rescue permits" that stipulate that
Animal Control has your permission to enter at any time. If
you have signed such a permit they still cannot enter
against your wishes, since you can revoke the permission at
any time. However, if you refuse permission it may allow
them to cancel your permit, so you have to weigh the
6. Warning - anyone in lawful possession of the premises may
be able to give permission for a search. Make sure your
roommate, babysitter, dog-sitter, housekeeper and other know
that they should not let animal control into your home or on
your property (i.e. backyard, garage, etc.).
How to Handle Questions:
1. Donít answer any questions beyond identifying yourself
for the officer. Anything you say to the officer in your
defense cannot be used in court (hearsay). Anything you say
that is harmful to you will be used in court (confessions
are not considered hearsay). You cannot win, except by
2. Be polite but firm. Do not argue, bad-mouth, curse,
threaten or try to intimidate the officer.
3. Do not lie to an officer, ever. However, it is NOT a lie
to exercise your right to remain silent.
4. Keep your hands in plain sight. People have been shot by
police when common objects, such as a wallet, were mistaken
for a gun.
5. Do not touch the officer in any way. Do not physically
resist an officer, no matter how unlawful his or her
6. Don't try to tell your side of the story, it cannot help.
7. Do not threaten the officer that you plan to file a
complaint for their actions.
8. If the questioning persists, demand to speak to a lawyer
first. Repeat as necessary.
Gathering the Facts:
1. Get the name and badge number of each officer involved.
If he/she does not volunteer this information, ask.
2. Ask the name of the agency they represent. Different
agencies have different enforcement responsibilities.
3. Ask why they are there. Request the factual basis of the
complaint and the identity of the complainant.
4. If they have other people with them (Humane Society,
press, etc.) get the names and organizations for all
5. Note the names (and addresses) of any witnesses to the
6. If you are physically injured by an officer, you should
take photographs of the injuries immediately, but do not
forego proper medical treatment first.
7. Write down all of the information, as well as the date
and time of the incident immediately, while details are
fresh in your mind.
8. If you rights are violated, file a complaint with the
If You Are Arrested:
1. Remain silent. Answer no questions until you have
consulted with a lawyer.
2. Don't "explain" anything. You will have time
for explanations after you have talked to a lawyer.
3. Within a reasonable time they must allow you to make a
phone call to get a lawyer or arrange bail. They are not
allowed to listen to your phone call to your attorney, but
they may "monitor" the rooms for "your
protection". Do not say anything you do not want them
to overhear; save that until after you are out on bail.
Telephone Inquiries or Threats:
You may receive telephone inquiries concerning the number of
dogs you own and whether any dogs or puppies are for sale.
Other questions may also be asked.
Your response should be to inquire "Are you interested
in a puppy?". If the answer is "yes", ask
that person for his/her name, address and phone number.
Suggest that you or a responsible breeder will contact that
person at a more convenient time for you.
If the answer is friendly and genuinely inquisitive, invite
the person to look at your puppies.
If the question asked is "What is the price of each
puppy?", simply say that puppies of this type are being
sold for between "X" and "Y" dollars.
Never say that you are selling them.
If the question asked is "Are these your
puppies?", you should ask, "Why do you want to
If your conversation indicates that the person is
representing the county clerk's office or allegedly
representing an official body, ask the caller for:
-Full name, title and phone number
-Agency's full name and full address
-Their supervisor's full name and phone number
-Nature of the inquiry (what it is about)
-Why the inquiry is being made
-How your name and phone number were obtained
-Ask that all future questions from that agency be submitted
1. Always keep you kennel clean and take good care of your
2. Consider a P.O. Box or other address for business cards
and advertisements. Keep descriptions of your location
general (i.e. Southern California, rather than the name of
the city where you live). The internet can provide anonymity
for initial contacts. You can even buy a "remote
prefix" to get a number from a nearby community
forwarded to your phone or to a voice mail. Avoid local
newspaper classifieds, they are often monitored.
3. Screen any potential puppy buyers carefully. Always be
alert that they may be Animal Control or even Animal Rights
working under cover.
4. Don't allow strangers into your home until you have
5. Be fair and honest in all of your dealings, and be on
good terms with your neighbors. Most animal control contacts
are complaint-driven. Some complaints may arise as
harassment by people with unrelated grievances against you.
It may be a disgruntled dog buyer or a cranky neighbor who
doesn't like you parking in front of his house.
6. Anything about you that can be observed in "plain
sight" from the street or sidewalk can become probably
cause for a warrant. Even areas on your property open to
visitors can be dangerous. Be aware of which areas of your
home are visible from the outside and plan accordingly.
7. If you are confronted by Animal Control and turn them
away, assume they will be back. Use the time available to
make sure everything is clean and presentable. If you are
over the limit on the number of pets, find friends who can
provide temporary shelter for your dogs.
Whatever you do, stay calm and keep your wits about you.
Just say "no", no matter what threats or promises
of leniency they make.
When in doubt, say nothing and speak to a lawyer afterwards.