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Comprehensive Animal Control Regulations

This page provides examples of comprehensive animal control and licensing regulations adopted by local governments in Washington State.

It is part of MRSC's series on Animal Control.


Most Washington cities and counties have regulations governing the keeping of animals and the majority have some type of licensing provisions. 

Washington State Statutes

  • Title 16 RCW – Covers regulations related to animals and livestock, including county dog licensing and dog control zones, stock-restricted areas, and dangerous wild animals.
  • Ch.16.52 RCW – Addresses prevention of cruelty to animals
  • WAC 246-100-197 – Addresses rabies and measures to prevent human disease
  • WAC 246-203-121 – Addresses the disposal of dead animals

Examples of Comprehensive Animal Control Provisions


  • Bellevue Municipal Code Title 8 - Regulates animal care and control, including dog leash and waste removal, rabies control, disposition of fowl and rabbits, exotic animals, and guard dogs. Requires all dogs and cats to be licensed and requires licenses to be worn at all times; provides for alternative tattooing of license numbers. Authorizes contracts with King County to sell animal-related products and services at the King County animal shelter and at other county facilities and events. Regulates animal-related businesses such as kennels, animal shelters and grooming parlors. 
  • Edmonds Municipal Code Ch. 5.05 - Regulates animal care and control, including dog and cat licensing, wild animals and dangerous dogs.  Requires open space for certain hoofed animals. Violations of the chapter are declared public nuisances.
  • Richland Municipal Code Ch. 7.03 – Requires licenses for both dogs and cats, provides detailed procedures for licensing, kennel requirements and dangerous animals.   
  • Seattle Municipal Code Title 9 – Covers rabies, gift, sale, or coloring of rabbits or fowl, animal control and animal fees. Sec. 9.25.050 covers animal licenses and permits including potbelly pig, miniature goat, cat, and dog licenses, guard and attack dog licenses, and exotic animal permits. Licenses are to be worn at all times; cats need not display a license identification tag if the cat is licensed, has been implanted with microchip identification, and the microchip number is registered with Seattle Animal Control.
  • Stanwood Municipal Code Ch. 8.02 – Offers provisions for animal control and licensing, including various types of livestock. Prohibits trespassing and noisy dogs and cats, and includes a requirement to remove fecal matter from public property, right of way, and private property of another.
  • Tacoma Municipal Code Title 17 – Offers very detailed animal care and control provisions, and covers various type of problems and nuisances, including a section on problem pet owners (Ch. 17.06).
  • Walla Walla Municipal Code Title 6 – Covers general animal care and keep, including provisions on licensing, nuisance and trespassing animals, dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs, rabies control, prevention of cruelty to animals, bird protection, and miniature pigs. Regulates outdoor feeding of cats and dogs and limits the number and type (only neutered) of outdoor cats. Provides detailed procedure on impoundment and destruction of animals. 


Most counties provide for a dog control zone under Ch. 16.10 RCW. Some counties make the zone county-wide for the unincorporated areas. Others provide it for more densely populated areas or urban growth areas

  • Clark County Code Title 8 – Covers general provisions, stock-restricted areas, licensing of facilities and animals,dog leash areas, dangerous dogs, and enforcement. Dogs are required to be on-leash within the urban growth boundary and any other designated areas when off the owner’s property, unless within a permitted off-leash area.
  • Cowlitz County Ch. 6.12 – Comprehensive animal control including provisions for habitual violators.
  • Douglas County Code Ch. 6.04.200  – Designates animal control zones, provides requirements for registration and licensing, and lists prohibitions within these zones.
  • King County Code Title 11  – Provides for a Regional Animal Services Section in the records and licensing services division and designates it as the animal control authority.  Allows for the Regional Animal Services to sell pet licenses throughout the unincorporated areas of King County, as well as 25 contract cities.  
  • Kitsap County Title 7  – Covers general provisions, licensing, dangerous dogs, enforcement, and stock-restricted areas. All of the unincorporated area of Kitsap County is declared to be a single animal control zone.
  • Okanogan County Code Ch. 6.08 – Covers creation and deletion of dog control zones, requires dog identification tags, and provides regulations for impoundment, redemption and destruction of dogs.
  • Thurston County Code Ch. 9.10  – Covers animal care and control, including identifying a single countywide stock-restricted area and– requires licensing of dogs and cats.
  • Whatcom County Code Ch. 6.04  – Requires dog licenses in unincorporated areas of county, lists specific nuisance infractions, provides for exotic and/or wild animal permit procedures, and establishes an administrative fee schedule.

Animal Licensing

Most jurisdictions require licensing of domestic animals kept as pets. In the 2014 AWC Tax and User Fee Survey, 186 cities and towns (66%) responded that they had some kind of animal control licensing provisions. Licensing requirements vary. Some jurisdictions require only dogs be licensed, some provide for optional registration for cats, while others require licensing for both dogs and cats. Licensing requirements generally provide lower fee incentives for animals that have been spayed or neutered, and some require it as a condition of licensing. AWC's survey also lists the dog and cat license fees charged by each municipality.

Rabies Certification Required to License

As of January 1, 2012, all dogs, cats, and ferrets in Washington must have up-to-date rabies vaccines. The National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) has recommended methods or procedures which enhance rabies control. (See Adjunct Procedures in Compendium of Animal Rabies Control, 2016.)

Annual License Survey

Some jurisdictions survey neighborhoods for unlicensed animals.

Lifetime Animal License Provisions

Some cities and towns have provided for a lifetime altered dog and/or cat license. The 2012 AWC Tax and User Fee Survey listed 32 municipalities that issue lifetime licenses. (The 2014 survey did not specifically address this question.) If lifetime license provisions are enacted, consideration should be given to enforcing rabies control.

A few cities issue permanent tags but have annual fees, such as the City of Seattle.

Number of Animals Permitted in Urban Area Households

A number of jurisdictions establish limits on the number of animals that may be maintained by individual households. Some require that households having more than a certain number of animals (usually three or four dogs or cats) obtain a hobby kennel license. Others simply place a fixed limit on the number of animals permitted. And, there are other variations.

  • In Ramm v. City of Seattle, 66 Wn. App. 15, 830 P.2d 395 (1992), the court ruled that ordinances restricting the number of animals that can be kept at a single place of residence constitute a valid use of the local police power, if they are reasonable and not arbitrary.

Examples of Codes Permitting/Restricting the Number of Animals in Households

Last Modified: April 02, 2021