Education Center


Protect Your Pet

Your local Animal Control office answers to the needs of both the citizens of your area and its animal population. Our goal is to protect the public health and safety by promoting responsible pet ownership.

What Does Animal Control Do?

To accommodate the needs of both people and animals in your area, an animal control agency promotes and may provide:

  • Control of stray animals
  • Vaccination against rabies
  • Quarantine of biting animals
  • Licensing of dogs and cats
  • Identification of owned animals
  • Spaying or neutering of pets
  • Removal of diseased animals
  • Identification of dangerous dogs
  • Investigation, education or prosecution of cruel or neglectful treatment.

It’s the Law

Pet ownership is a privilege, not a right of all people. Owning a pet means providing adequate care and treatment. Owning a pet also means protecting your pet from dangers in the community and in return, ensuring that your pet does not cause trouble in your neighborhood.

For the safety of your pet, your neighbors, and your family, there are many pet-related laws with which you must familiarize yourself. An Animal Control Official is charged with enforcing the animal related laws. Violation of these laws constitutes a misdemeanor, with penalties ranging from small fines to imprisonment. Each county and city has individual ordinances. These local ordinances are often more strict than state laws. Learn your responsibilities to your particular community.

Outlined here are some State Laws as well as some points taken from local ordinances. Although these items may not be required in your area they are aspects of responsible pet ownership. If you have questions about state laws or local ordinances, contact your local animal control agency.

Leash Law

Most counties have leash laws which state that you must confine your dog to your property and that any time it is off of your property it must be on a leash and under the control of a competent person. Some laws go further, stating that confining a dog to your property requires a fence, and that any dog which is loose and unattended will be impounded by animal control officers.

Rabies Vaccination

The State of Georgia requires that all dogs and cats three months of age or older be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. The State recognizes one and three year rabies vaccinations.

Animal License

All dogs and cats four months of age or older in your area may need to be licensed by your Animal Control department. An animal license would be issued upon proof of a current rabies vaccination and payment of the required license fee.
Application for any animal licenses, where required by law, would be available from your Animal Control department. License records are maintained to facilitate identification of lost or injured animals so the owner can be notified as quickly as possible.


The rabies / license tag should be worn around the neck of the dog for whom it was issued at all times. We also strongly recommend that all cats wear their rabies / license tag at all times.

Special Permits

Persons with four or more dogs over the age of four months at one residence may need to obtain a SPECIAL PERMIT. Permit fees, if required, vary.
Persons applying for a SPECIAL PERMIT, where applicable, must have their premises inspected by Animal Control to make sure they meet certain specifications. Please call for more information and inspection appointments.

Cruelty To Animals

It is unlawful for any person to overload, cruelly treat, poison, maim, ill use, torture, kill or abuse any animal or deprive such of necessary sustenance, medical attention, shade or shelter.

It is unlawful for any person to abandon any animal on any property or keep an animal under unsanitary conditions.

It is unlawful to transport any dog in an open bed truck except when confined in a portable kennel or safely restrained by harness or tether.


It is unlawful to create, maintain, support, aid or continue a nuisance. Specific nuisances include the keeping of diseased animals, barking dogs, unsanitary housing, and/or objectionable odors.

Animal Bites/ Quarantine

Any person having knowledge of an instance in which a person is bitten by a dog, cat or other animal must promptly report the bites to Animal Control. Any dog, cat or other animal which bites a person must be quarantined for a period of ten days or be submitted to the state laboratory to be tested for rabies. Any contact between warm-blooded wildlife and a domestic animal must be reported.

Dangerous/Potentially Dangerous Dog

An investigation of all dog bites to humans will be made to determine if the dog should be classified as dangerous or potentially dangerous.

Other Animals and Exotic Pets

Most counties have laws outlining the adequate confinement of livestock, cows, mules, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, geese and so forth and owners may be required to meet other standards.

Before you purchase an exotic pet, check with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Animal Control about legal requirements. Some animals require a special permit and some (for instance, wolf hybrids) cannot be kept at all. Contact Animal Control for more information.


Life on the street is no picnic for an animal. No one is around to provide adequate food and fresh water, veterinary care, or most of all, the love and attention our pets crave. Stray animals can also cause many problems in a community: accidents, garbage, frighten children, spread disease, and contribute to the number of unwanted animals.
Most areas have laws concerning stray animals which allow authorities to impound any animal which is loose and unattended. Animals are held according to the legal specifications. If an animal is wearing an I.D. tag, notification is sent to the owner when possible.

Penalties/Reclamation Fees

Any person who violates any provision of the Animal Control regulation shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and may be cited to court. Violation of the dangerous/ potentially dangerous dog provisions may be a felony.
Reclamation fees for animals impounded under the provisions of the ordinance may be applied and may vary.

You could be charged fees such as:

  • Impound fee (dogs & cats) License fee
  • Boarding fee (per day) Rabies vaccination credit
  • Replace valid license tag

Proof of current rabies vaccination and animal license may be necessary. Identification is required on all persons reclaiming an animal. The owner must be accompanied by guardian if under 18 years of age.

Disposition of unclaimed animals, after the legally required holding period, is the decision of the holding facility.

What if My Pet Gets Lost?

Thousands of stray animals that will never be reunited with their owners end up at animal shelters across the country each year. Animal control facilities do their part to protect stray animals from other animals, cars and other dangers that accompany life on the street. What would you do if you discovered you pet was missing? Think about it before it happens to you! Be responsible, prevent accidents and be prepared to take action if your pet does escape.

Abiding by state and local animal related laws will help you on your way to responsible pet ownership. Proper identification and confinement of your pet will assist you in making sure your pet does not get lost or that your pet can be easily identified if it does get out. Accidents do happen, so review this checklist and have a plan. Your preparation can make your experience with animal control go smoothly.


A few simple steps can make a difference in your pets safety. Your pet is worth the time it takes to secure doors and gates:

  • Never allow your dog to run loose.
  • Always supervise any off-leash activity (where such exercise is legal), even in your own yard. An unattended dog can be snatched or escape in a second.
  • Padlock gates, patios, porches, etc. where your dog is left unattended.
  • Never leave your pet alone in a public place, including in your vehicle.
  • Spay or neuter your pet; it is less likely to be tempted to roam.
  • ALWAYS keep identification on your pet which includes your name and telephone number, and possibly a cell number, the number of a friend or veterinarian in case you arent home when your dog is found. The average citizen may not know that the rabies and license tags that your dog wears are traceable, so your phone number is vital UPDATE AS NEEDED!
  • Microchips are a more permanent form of ID that are growing in popularity. Many shelters and veterinarians can read the chips and contact the registry for information. Remember to keep your registry information current so you can be reached immediately. A microchip should not be a replacement for a physical tag that your neighbor can read.
  • If your dog travels with you in the car, keep it on a leash at all times; it takes only a second for your pet to dash off into strange surroundings.
    Keep your dog confined in a safe area during parties or at other times when the doors are unusually active.


Just in case, keep an emergency record on your pet. In the event of an emergency, you want to be able to move quickly. Gathering information at that time will be frustrating. Your emergency record should include:

  • a full-figure color snapshot which clearly shows any distinctive markings, etc.
  • current rabies and license tag numbers
  • any tag/id numbers your dog may have on like s shelter id or a microchip number.
  • a complete written description including breed (if mixed, looks like…), color(s), age, sex, altered, approximate weight/height/length, details of tail/coat/ears, eye color, collar, and anything unusual.

If you lose your pet

Dont panic; use what you have prepared. You will appreciate the ease with which you can move through these steps by having your plan prepared. Take a few minutes to locate your pets records and keep them in a safe place.

  • Call your local humane society, animal shelter and/or animal control facility immediately. Do not wait a few days to see if your dog will return. Also call animal control agencies and shelters in surrounding areas.
  • Visit these shelters regularly. Do not rely on someone elses description. Many pets may fit your description, but you will know your pet immediately.
  • Duplicate a poster including the description you have prepared, a daytime phone number, a copy of the photograph, and last place and time seen.
  • Distribute posters to vet clinics, groomers, area convenience stores, mail carriers, neighbors, and children in the area.
  • Advertise in the newspaper for at least ten days. Post signs in the area where permissible. Drive around in a large area asking those who might be passing by if they have seen your dog.
  • Be cautious of callers responding to your notices and claiming to have your pet. Prepare a question that will let you know if the dog is yours AND if they actually have it with them.
  • Long shots can be worthwhile. Check into them if you can, especially if your dog is a mixed or uncommon breed. Remember that a large dog can cover quite a distance on its own and any dog may end up far from home under many different circumstances. Do not dismiss a possibility just because it was not found in your neighborhood.
  • Check back with your contacts every other day or so, and dont give up too soon. Most lost dogs that do not reappear in the first two days may not be identified until two weeks later when someone finally sees your poster. Stick to it!

How Can I Help?

As you can see, keeping pets safe in our community and keeping animal problems under control is a tough job. When pet owners accept the responsibility to abide by state and local ordinances, the animal control officers job goes more smoothly. Together, we can all do our part to reduce the number of unwanted, loose and stray animals in Georgia.

REMEMBER: It is a state law that all animals obtained from an animal control facility, an animal shelter or a humane society MUST be spayed or neutered!
Have YOU done YOUR part to combat pet overpopulation?

This information is part of the Atlanta Humane Society’s SmartHeart Educational Series. The AHS depends on friends to provide funding for our services and programs of animal aid, support for individuals with animal related problems, and community animal issues. The Atlanta Humane Society and Society For Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals, Inc. is a private nonprofit organization for the purpose of preventing cruelty, relieving suffering, and providing humane treatment of animals. The Society’s mission is to eliminate causes of animal suffering with an emphasis on education and the human/animal bond.