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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, including pet licensing.

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 246-203-121 – Addresses the disposal of dead animals

Pet Licensing

Many local jurisdictions require or encourage licensing of domestic animals kept as pets, although the licensing requirements vary. Local governments often incentivize pets to be spayed or neutered by charging lower licensing fees for altered animals, and some jurisdictions require spaying and neutering. Jurisdictions sometimes provide other discounts such as for seniors or people with disabilities.

Some jurisdictions also establish limits on the number of animals that may be maintained by individual households (either by species or total). 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.

Dogs, cats, and ferrets are required by state law to have up-to-date vaccinations against rabies (WAC 246-100-197), although enforcement is the responsibility of local agencies. For more information about this requirement, see the state Department of Health webpage Rabies Vaccination Requirements for Pets.

Some jurisdictions have provisions for a lifetime license for certain altered pets, although in such cases consideration should be given to enforcing rabies control.

Some jurisdictions provide community outreach to educate community members about licensing requirements and benefits as well as to increase compliance. Examples of such outreach efforts include automated phone calls to licensed pet owners reminding them of upcoming renewals, as well as door-to-door canvassing or surveys.

City Pet Licensing Examples

Below are selected examples of pet licensing provisions and fees adopted by cities and towns. In addition, the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) collects and reports information on pet license fees charged by cities and towns every few years in its Tax and User Fee Survey, although access to the full data is available to AWC members only.

County Pet Licensing Examples

Chapter 16.10 RCW authorizes counties to establish dog control zones within specific unincorporated areas, including licensing requirements and fees. Some counties have established dog control zones only for more densely populated areas or urban growth areas, while others have established countywide zones.

Some counties have also established licensing requirements for cats or other animals. Below are selected examples.

  • Clark County Code Ch. 8.07 – Includes licensing requirements for dogs, cats, wild animals (generally prohibited), and animal facilities
  • Cowlitz County Code Sec. 6.12.130 – Requires adult dogs within a dog control zone to be registered and provides for optional registration for cats and for dogs outside a dog control zone
    • Sec. 6.12.100 – Authorizes animal control authority to conduct annual surveys as to number of dogs within a dog control zone and whether such dogs are unregistered
  • Douglas County Code Sec. 6.04.220 – Requires each dog within unincorporated animal control zone to be registered

Leash Laws

Many jurisdictions have adopted regulations requiring dogs to be on-leash and under control in public, with certain exceptions such as designated dog parks or off-leash areas. Below are selected examples.


  • Bellevue City Code Ch. 8.05 – Requires dogs to be on leash and under control when off the premises of the owner, with exceptions
  • Lynnwood Municipal Code Sec. 6.02.070 – Prohibits certain domestic animals from running "at large" (off leash and not under immediate control), except in designated dog training areas


  • Clark County Code Ch. 8.15 – Establishes mandatory dog leash areas within urban growth boundaries and any other designated area, unless within a permitted off-leash area or with other exceptions
  • Douglas County Code Sec. 6.04.230 – Within animal control zone, all domestic animals except cats and birds must be restrained by leash or chain and under control of a responsible person whenever the animal is at large and off the premises of the owner/custodian

Examples of Comprehensive Animal Control Provisions

Below are selected examples of city and county animal control programs. 


  • Brier Municipal Code Title 6 – Includes animal licenses and regulations; animal bites and rabies; livestock, small animals, and fowl; animal nuisances; impoundment; dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs; and appeals and liability
  • 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.
  • Lakewood Municipal Code Title 6 – Includes chapters on animal control, dog/cat licensing, dangeous and potentially dangerous dogs, and exotic animals
  • Seattle Municipal Code Title 9 – Includes chapters on rabies, gift/sale/coloring of rabbits or fowl, animal control, and animal fees
  • 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 (chapter 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.


  • Clark County Code Title 8 – Includes general provisions, stock restricted area, licensing, animal housing facility conditions, dog leash areas, dangerous dogs, and enforcement
  • Cowlitz County Code Ch. 6.12 – Comprehensive animal control including provisions for habitual violators
  • Douglas County Code Ch. 6.04 – Animal Care, Registration, and Control
  • 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 contracted cities.
  • Kitsap County Title 7 – Covers general provisions, licensing, dangerous dogs, enforcement, and stock-restricted areas. The entire unincorporated area 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.

Number of Animals Permitted in Urban Area Households

Last Modified: January 24, 2023