When to Call Animal Law Enforcement & Top Reasons to Call Animal Control

stray dog and stray cat travel the open road

Have you ever seen a stray dog without a collar running loose alongside the road, or a dog that appears neglected and wondered what you could do to help it? These situations can cause tremendous angst in any animal lover. Should you attempt to save the animal yourself or call the police or possibly animal control? The situation will dictate the best approach. Here are some things you can do and when it’s best to call animal control.

What Does Animal Control Do?

The purpose of your local animal control agency is to protect pets and wild animals from dangers they face, while protecting people and property from the nuisance and dangers of roaming uncontrolled animals.

Animal control definition is typically referring to a government agency or office that is responsible for responding to abused, neglected and stray domesticated animals (usually cats and dogs).

Animal control officer duties include enforcing laws related to the management and impoundment of animals. They are typically city employees or contractors. Responsibilities for these authorities include helping healthy or injured stray animals, investigating reports of animal abuse or cruelty, and removing undesired animals from neighborhoods and homes.

When to Call Animal Control

Not all circumstances involving dogs require involvement from animal control. For example, if you are annoyed because your neighbor’s dog barks every time it’s outside, try reaching out to your neighbor first. You may find a resolution without needing to call authorities about their barking dog.

What about situations that aren’t easy to resolve, like the stray dog running near a busy road or one that appears neglected? While you may be tempted to be the hero, you must consider your safety and the animal’s safety. If you can safely approach or restrain the animal (providing it’s on your property or public property), you can either reach out to the owner (if the dog has an ID tag) or take him to your local shelter to scan for a microchip.

On the other hand, if the dog is acting aggressively, and you fear approaching or restraining the loose dog, your best bet is to call animal control. Other circumstances in which you should contact your local animal control is when an animal is:

  • In immediate physical danger
  • Involved in a violent situation (with humans or other animals)
  • In danger of freezing to death
  • Trapped inside a hot car

Keep in mind that calling animal control is a last resort, so ensure the pet owner is not nearby before contacting authorities. If you see an animal being abused or neglected, you can request a welfare check on the animal while remaining anonymous. Officers will visit the address in question and decide whether to impound the dog. For communities that lack an official animal control agency, calling the police or 911 is the most appropriate method for getting help.

When Should You Call Animal Control Versus Wildlife Removal?

Although both wildlife officers and animal protection police serve a similar purpose in your community, animal control is typically a government-run department that handles domestic animals like dogs and cats. In contrast, wildlife removal agencies are businesses that remove wild (non-domesticated) animals such as raccoons, snakes, skunks, and bats. These for-profit companies can remove live or dead animals from a property, but you’ll have to pay for their services.

Understand How Your Local Animal Control Works

If your community doesn’t have animal control, you need to understand how your local government and animal control work. You will need to find out who oversees, provides, and funds your animal control services. You can find answers by contacting your county clerk, city hall, and local elected officials. Even your library may be able to help you.

How to Find Your Local Animal Control Agency

Because every state, county and municipality in the US has its own structure, it’s hard to succinctly answer where you will find your animal law enforcement agency.

Start by searching online for your city, township, or county’s official government site. You can also call your local law enforcement office and ask the operator who you should call for animal control problems. Never call 911 for animal issues. Some cities use 311, which is a citizens’ hotline for issues that include reporting noise ordinance violations, animal control concerns, graffiti, abandoned vehicles, debris blocking roads, and things like that.

Top Reasons People Call Animal Control

In no particular order, these are the top reasons that people call animal control, according to the US Humane Society:

  • Animal hoarding
  • Lack of veterinary care
  • Chained dogs
  • Inadequate shelter
  • Abandoned pets
  • Pets left in unattended vehicles
  • Physical abuse
  • Organized animal fights

So, should you call animal control? If you’ve exhausted all other efforts to save a dog, cat or other domestic animal without putting yourself or others in harm’s way, then it’s time to call your local animal control government agency.

If you have issues with non-domestic animals, you can try your local animal control agency; however, they may tell you that pest control is not within their jurisdiction. In case of nuisance critters like squirrels, rats, mice and raccoons, you might need to call a professional pest control agency (which means the fee comes out of your pocket).

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