Field Services - Animal Laws in Orange County
The following summarized provisions of the Orange County Codified Ordinance (OCCO) are made available for the purpose of encouraging responsible pet ownership in Orange County. As a pet owner, you must be familiar with these laws as they are intended for the safety and wellbeing of your pets, your family, and all members of the public that you come in contact with. Click here for a complete list of Title 4 Health Sanitation and Animal Regulations. It is recommended that you read through all provisions, but the following links will allow you to view specific laws:
Dogs must be on a leash “No person owning or having charge, care, custody, or control of any dog shall cause or permit, either willfully or through failure to exercise due care or control, any such dog to be upon any public property unless such dog be restrained by a substantial chain, or leash not exceeding six (6) feet in length, and is under the charge of a person competent to exercise care, custody, and control over such dog” (OCCO 4-1-45). You must keep your dog leashed anytime your dog is off your property. Your dog must be on a leash no longer then six (6) feet in length and in the care of a competent adult. There are designated ‘dog parks’ throughout Orange County that lawfully allow the absence of a leash.
Dogs on school property, county parks & beaches “No person having the charge of any dog, except a guide dog or service dog, shall permit said dog to be under any circumstances within public school property, certain county parks, or any public beach” (OCCO 4-1-46). It is unlawful to be on any public school property with your dog. Setting your dog loose to play, even within a fenced area, at a public school is a direct violation of this ordinance. See OC Harbors, Beaches and Parks for county parks that permit dogs that are leashed.
Barking Dogs / Nuisance Animals
Pets on private property “No person owning or having care, custody, or control of any animal, shall permit, either willfully or through failure to exercise proper control, such animal to trespass or be upon any private property of another person without the consent of such person” (OCCO 4-1-49). Although there are no leash laws for cats, you do have the right to trap a cat that is trespassing on your property. “No person shall, without the consent of the owner, hold or retain possession of any animal for more than twenty-four (24) hours without first reporting the possession of such animal” to OC Animal Care (OCCO 4-1-106). If you find a stray animal, please call OC Animal Care immediately. It is unlawful for you to keep a lost pet. If Animal Care Services is unable to locate the owner, you may place a hold on the animal for legal adoption at the end of its retention period.
Dogs to be curbed “A person having custody of any dog shall not permit, either willfully or through failure to exercise due care or control, any such dog to defecate or urinate upon any public area, private property, County park or beach. The person having custody of any dog shall immediately remove any feces deposited by such dog” (OCCO 4-1-50). Please clean up after your pet.
Rabies vaccination required “Every person owning or harboring a dog four (4) months of age or older, for fifteen (15) days or more, shall, if not currently vaccinated, have such dog vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian with a vaccine approved by the California Department of Health” (OCCO 4-1-60). The County of Orange is a declared rabies area (OCCO 4-1-61) with certain wildlife testing positive for the Rabies Virus each year. If you own a dog four (4) months of age or older, you must obtain a rabies vaccination immediately to ensure the health and well being of your pet.
Quarantine of animals “The Director or his/her authorized agent is hereby empowered to enter upon any private property, including the home or residence where the animal is kept or has strayed, to inspect, and if necessary, to seize and impound any animals suspected of being rabid for a period of 10 days” (OCCO 4-1-61). Any pet dog or cat involved in a bite or scratch to a human must be quarantined for a period of 10 days. Quarantine is the isolation of the pet from people and animals it normally sees. Depending on the circumstances of the bite, and if a rabies vaccination is current, a pet may be quarantined at the owner’s residence. Any person having knowledge of the location of an animal suspected of having rabies, or of any person having been bitten or scratched by any warm-blooded mammal, or of any signs of disease or unusual behavior in any animal under quarantine, shall immediately report such facts to OC Animal Care (OCCO 4-1-62). If you know of someone who has been bitten or scratched by a warm-blooded animal, it is unlawful to keep or hide that information from Animal Care Services.
All dogs must be licensed “Every person owning or having custody of any dog four (4) months of age or older shall procure for said dog an Orange County dog license. Such license shall be procured within fifteen (15) days” (OCCO 4-1-70). All dogs four (4) months of age and older must be licensed. A current rabies vaccination certificate is required to purchase a dog license, and your license will need to be renewed every year. Licenses at a reduced price are available for dogs that are spayed or neutered. “Each dog required to be licensed shall wear at all times the current license tag assigned to that dog” (OCCO 4-1-71). Upon purchase of a dog license, you will receive a county license tag that must be visible on your dog at all times. For a license application, see Pet Licensing.
Animal permit required “Every person owning or having custody of four (4) or more licensed dogs or four (4) or more cats, over the age of four (4) months, for any purpose shall procure an animal permit from OCAC” (OCCO 4-1-76). Simply put, if you own more than three (3) dogs or three (3) cats over the age of four (4) months, you must apply for an animal permit from OC Animal Care. See Animal Permits for more information on obtaining an animal permit.
Cat licensing “The owner of any cat may, upon submission of proof of rabies vaccination, certified to by a licensed veterinarian, be issued a license certificate and tag. The obtaining of such a license shall be optional on the part of the owner, except as provided in OCCO 4-1-76” (OCCO 4-1-85). Cat licensing in Orange County is strictly voluntary, although, lost cats without ID or license tags are seldom united with their owners. If you choose not to license your cat, OC Animal Care recommends that you vaccinate your cat for rabies and place a collar with an ID tag on your cat to ensure that it has a better chance of being returned if lost.
Exotic pets “No person shall have, keep, or maintain any wild, exotic, dangerous or non-domestic animal without first applying to and receiving a license…. The keeping and maintenance of such animals shall also conform to the zoning regulations of Orange County” (OCCO 4-1-94). Please note that there are many laws, licenses and permits required to own an exotic animal. In addition to County ordinances, individual city zoning codes will also pertain to permits on exotic pets. You must check all requirements and regulations in your area prior to purchasing and maintaining an exotic pet. Ferrets are illegal to own in the State of California.
Inhumane treatment of animals “Every person who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, tortures, or wounds a living animal, or maliciously and intentionally kills an animal, is guilty of an offense punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, by a fine, or potentially by both. Every person who overloads, overworks, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter, cruelly beats or subjects any animal to needless suffering is guilty of a crime punishable as a felony” (CPC 597). If you observe someone abusing an animal, or suspect an animal of being abused, immediately contact Animal Care Services and an Animal Control Officer will respond. All ‘founded’ cruelty investigations are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.