- 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
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 will.
3. Do not talk to them from an open doorway. Step outside an close
(and lock if possible) the door behind you. This is necessary because:
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
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
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 consequences.
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,
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 remaining silent.
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 actions.
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
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 present.
5. Note the names (and addresses) of any witnesses to the encounter.
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 appropriate
If You Are Arrested:
1. Remain silent. Answer no questions until you have consulted with a
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 know?".
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 in
1. Always keep you kennel clean and take good care of your animals.
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 screened them.
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
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
When in doubt, say nothing and speak to a lawyer afterwards.