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Animal Nuisances

This page provides examples of city and county nuisance control provisions in Washington State related to animal noise and waste, feral cats, bids and wildlife, and the disposal of dead animals.

It is part of MRSC's series on Animal Control and Nuisances: Regulation and Abatement.


Among the most difficult and recurring problems faced by municipal officials through the years has been regulation and control of animals. It continues to surface at the public policy-makers level and across neighborhood fences.

Animal Noise

Animal noise ordinance provisions require adequate notice and uniform enforcement. In Spokane v. Fischer, 110 Wn.2d 541 (1988), the Washington Supreme Court held a Spokane ordinance void for vagueness. The ordinance provided that "No owner of a dog or owner or occupant of premises upon which a dog is kept or harbored may allow such a dog to disturb or annoy any other person or neighborhood by frequent or habitual howling, yelping or barking. Whoever harbors such a dog maintains a nuisance." The court held that the ordinance did not provide adequate notice of unlawful conduct or adequate standards to prevent its arbitrary enforcement.

The sample ordinance provisions below provide some degree of specificity. Have your legal counsel review any proposed regulation or model ordinance to see if the provision meets the legal standard.

  • Bainbridge Island Municipal Code Sec. 6.04.060 - Howling and Barking
  • Bremerton Municipal Code Ch. 7.15 - Infractions - Animal Noise - Measure: Duration, distance, no. incidents in 7 days
  • Clark County Code Ch. 8.11.060(1) - Nuisances - Measure: Duration
  • Fircrest Municipal Code Sec. 7.03.030 - Animal Noise - Measure: Number of persons disturbed
  • King County Regional Animal Services - Submitting Complaints about Barking Dogs or Other Noisy Animals
  • Poulsbo Municipal Code Sec. 6.02.030 - Animal Noise - Measure: No quantitative but see Barking Ledger below
  • Skagit County Code Ch. 7.14 - Public Disturbances - Measure: Volume, frequency, duration, time and location
  • Vancouver Municipal Code Sec. 8.24.130 - Animal Noise Control - Measure: Duration
  • Vancouver Report Animal Cruelty or Nuisances - See Vancouver and Clark County Noise Petitions. Submission of a noise petition or a video that includes audio of the violation and the exact address of the animal
  • Waterville Municipal Code Ch. 6.04 - Animal Noise - Measure: Duration, time of day and distance
  • West Richland Municipal Code Ch. 6.08 - Responsibility of Owner - Measure - Time of day and distance

Animal Waste

Most nuisance and animal control ordinances have provisions that require pet owners to properly dispose of animal waste. Failing to do so interferes with the public's use of sidewalks, parks, and other public areas and can create unsanitary conditions on public and private property. This problem is most often addressed through adoption of "pooper scooper" provisions that make the pet owner or other person in charge of an animal responsible for removing wastes deposited by the animal on public or private property, other than the premises of the owner. Some communities make it a violation for a pet owner to fail to have in his or her possession the equipment necessary to remove animal wastes while accompanying the animal on public property. See examples from Edmonds and Seattle.

Ordinance Provisions

Feral Cat Control

For some communities, the presence of wild domestic cats, or feral cats, is the source of many nuisance complaints. Feral cat management programs known as "trap, neuter, release" (TNR) or "trap-test-vaccinate-alter-release-and-monitor" (TTVARM) programs are presented as a solution to the problem. Such programs aim to reduce the number of feral cats while concurrently reducing the number of animals killed in shelters and animal control facilities.

Pigeons and Other Roosting Birds

Pigeon control can be controversial, especially if the local government chooses an approach that involves killing. A number of cities regulate the number of pigeons a person can maintain. From a health view, pigeons can carry infectious diseases, though the incidence is low. There are state laws relating to certain types of pigeons - Antwerp Messenger or Racing Pigeon:

  • RCW 9.61.190 - It is a class 1 civil infraction for any person, other than the owner thereof or his authorized agent, to knowingly shoot, kill, maim, injure, molest, entrap, or detain any Antwerp Messenger or Racing Pigeon, commonly called "carrier or racing pigeons", having the name of its owner stamped upon its wing or tail or bearing upon its leg a band or ring with the name or initials of the owner or an identification or registration number stamped thereon.
  • RCW 9.61.200 - It is a class 2 civil infraction for any person other than the owner thereof or his authorized agent to remove or alter any stamp, leg band, ring, or other mark of identification attached to any Antwerp Messenger or Racing Pigeon.

While a local government can regulate citizens feeding pigeons (see ordinance provisions on feeding wildlife below), the solution thought to be most effective is pigeon eradication programs, which can be controversial.

  • Pigeon Control, Alameda County, CA Vector Control Services District, revised 04/13/2001
  • Pigeons, by Judy Loven, USDA, APHIS, Wildlife Services, Purdue University Department of Entomology, ADM-1
  • Pigeons (Rock Doves), by David E. Williams, State Director, USDA, APHIS, Animal Damage Control, Lincoln, Nebraska; and Robert M. Corrigan, Vertebrate Pest Management Purdue University, Internet Center for Wildlife Damage, University of Nebraska, 1995
  • Toronto, Canada Staff Report on Pigeon Feeding, from Medical Officer of Health, to the Board of Health, 05/2008
  • Ordinances

Wildlife Nuisances

Some interaction with wildlife is regulated by the federal and state governments. Wildlife species classified as threatened or endangered in Washington are listed in WAC 232-12-011 and WAC 232-12-014. Most of the state regulations governing wildlife are found in Title 77 RCW.

Geese, Ducks, and Other Waterfowl

A number of municipalities have created regulatory provisions regarding the feeding of wild geese. Most ordinance provisions address the feeding of birds and other animals on public, usually park, property, to control their numbers and reduce property damage and health hazards.

Canada Geese

Canada geese are considered a "migratory" species and are federally protected under four bilateral migratory bird treaties. Regulations allowing the take of migratory birds are authorized by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 703-711), which implements the four treaties. The Act provides that, subject to the treaties, the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to determine when, to what extent, and by what means it is compatible with the conventions to allow hunting, killing, and other forms of taking of migratory birds, their nests, and eggs. The Act requires the Secretary to implement a determination by adopting regulations permitting and governing those activities.

In recent years, numbers of Canada geese have undergone dramatic growth to population levels that are increasingly coming into conflict with people and causing personal and public property damage. The Fish and Wildlife Service believes that resident Canada goose populations must be reduced, more effectively managed, and controlled to reduce goose-related damages. New rules went into effect on September 11, 2006 that authorize state wildlife agencies, private landowners, and airports to conduct (or allow) indirect and/or direct population control management activities, including the take of birds, on resident Canada goose populations.

Feeding Wildlife

  • Burien Municipal Code Ch. 6.40 - Feeding of Birds and Wildlife
  • Bellevue Municipal Code Sec. 3.43.090 - Feeding of Animals
  • Everett Municipal Code Ch. 8.52 - Feeding Ducks
  • Ocean Shores Ordinance No. 775, passed 05/2004 - Human Feeding of Wild Birds

Additional Wildlife References

Disposal of Dead Animals

This section provides references and sample regulations on the disposal of dead animals. Provisions relating to animal control services and the disposal of dead animals from animal control facilities or veterinarians have not been included.



Ordinance Provisions

6.0 Policies - 6.2 Individual dead animals weighing less than 15 pounds may be disposed in the general waste stream. Dead animals weighing more than 15 pounds, or dead animals disposed in quantity should be taken to a rendering plant, veterinary clinic, animal shelter, pet cemetery or buried on the property owners property, so long as no nuisance is created. If none of these methods are available, dead animals may be accepted at the Cedar Hills Landfill or other designated facility when accompanied by a Waste Clearance Decision
  • Benton City Municipal Code Sec. 6.04.040 - Dead Animals - Requires removal within 24 hours; provides burial regulations
  • King County Solid Waste Division Solid Waste Handling Facilities Waste Acceptance Rule, PUT 7-1-6-PR (2017)
  • West Richland Municipal Code Sec. 8.04.100 - Dead Animal Disposal

Last Modified: January 27, 2023