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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I report complaints or request information?

Contact us Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at (850) 606-5400, or report your complaint through the County 'Citizen Connect' system that can be found on the County's main web page. Animal Control Officers are dispatched with service requests throughout the day, and will respond as soon as possible, taking into consideration the priority of the call. All calls not responded to the same day are typically completed the following day.

Copies of the County's Animal Control Ordinance are available upon request.

How can I get assistance after normal office hours and on holidays?

Contact us through the Consolidated Dispatch Agency at 850-606-5800. A dispatcher will ask a few questions and if the information provided meets the emergency criteria for a response, the dispatcher will contact the Officer working that day and forward the information. An Officer is available after hours every weekday, weekend and holiday. Officers respond to emergencies only after hours and on weekends, and emergencies will be answered as soon as possible after contacting Consolidated Dispatch.

How do I find out who complained about my pet?

Complaints are public records and are available for inspection at our office. We do not give this information over the phone or in the field.

If I call in a complaint, can I be anonymous?

All calls coming into this office are subject to the public records laws, and are subject to public inspection. There are exceptions, such as information identifying juveniles, medical information, and information about on-going criminal investigations in which a violator has not yet been charged with the crime. We do not give information about complainants over the telephone or in the field, but anyone wanting that information can come to our office to obtain the information.

Where are animals from the unincorporated area housed?

At the Tallahassee-Leon Community Animal Service Center, 1125 Eastwood Drive, near Tom Brown Park. The City manages the animal shelter. Leon County contracts with the city to house animals from the unincorporated area of the county, so all animals, with the exception of wildlife and livestock, are housed at the animal shelter.

Where do wildlife and livestock go for care?

Wildlife which appears healthy are referred to local wildlife rehabilitators. Livestock is transported to the livestock holding facility in eastern Leon County.

What about animal control in the City?

The City of Tallahassee provides full-service field services within the City limits with an ordinance different from the County. There is only one animal shelter in the community, and all animals found or brought in from anywhere in Leon County are housed there. Call (850) 891- 2950 for current shelter hours.

What kind of training do Animal Control Officers receive?

Pursuant to state law, all Animal Control Officers must successfully complete a minimum 40-hour Basic Animal Control Officer Certification Course prior to issuing citations, although other services can be provided prior to certification. Leon County animal control staff are required to obtain an average of 20 additional hours of training each year. Leon County Officers receive other training, such as Chemical Immobilization Technician Certification, and national certification in cruelty investigations. Some Officers have specialties, such as national certification as Horse Abuse Investigators, as well as national certifications as general Cruelty Investigators.

Does the County permit ride-alongs for citizens interested in learning more about animal control?

Yes. Ride-alongs offer an opportunity to see first hand how animal control laws are enforced and how services are provided. Ride-alongs may be scheduled for weekday or weekend shifts. Adults 18 and over must sign a Waiver of Liability prior to the ride-along. Mature teens over 16 can also ride-along, if the parent or guardian gives permission and signs a Waiver in person at the Division's office. Call to schedule a time and day, wear comfortable, casual clothing, and be prepared to stay out 4-6 hours.

Citizens wishing to ride along with an Officer must understand that animal control field work can be emotionally and physically challenging, and sometimes dangerous. We have regular contacts with hostile, emotionally upset, or mentally unstable persons. Officers occasionally confront violators with a history of violence to people and/or animals. Work is done in all kinds of weather. Officers also regularly handle dangerous, injured or rabid animals. Citizens will not be able to handle the animals impounded by Officers, and because of safety reasons are not allowed to help capture or restrain animals.

What is a citation, and how does it differ from a Courtesy Notice or warning?

A Courtesy Notice is provided to complainants and owners to advise them of the nature of the complaint against an owner, the results of the Officer's visit, and corrective actions to be taken when necessary to resolve a problem. Warnings can take the form of verbal instructions to an owner or through written instructions to an owner by means of a Courtesy Notice. There is no fine involved when warnings are given.

Citations are notices of a violation of law which result in fines or court appearances. Citizens receiving citations can contest the citation to the County Court or pay the fine. Citations are similar to traffic tickets issued by law enforcement officers. Failure to contest the charge(s) or pay the required fine will result in the Court entering a judgment against the owner and/or the Court issuing to the owner an Order to Show Cause why the owner has not responded to the Court's directive. Failure to obey a Court's directive can result in the Judge charging the owner with Contempt of Court. This charge may result in additional fines or arrest.

Signing and accepting a citation issued by an Officer is mandated by state law. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor. Signing and accepting a citation is not an admission of guilt, but an acknowledgment of the charge(s) against the owner and a promise to answer to the charge, either by paying the fine or by contesting the charge in County Court, thereby requesting a hearing before a Judge.

I came home to find a Courtesy Notice on my door about my animal being a problem. I do not have a pet. Why did I receive this Notice?

Officers leave Courtesy Notices at the homes of known and suspected owners. Sometimes, complainants point out houses to an Officer where they think the offending animal lives, even when they are not sure. The Officer leaves a Courtesy Notice if the suspected owner is not home. If you do not have a pet, you can contact our office and we will return to the area to try to find the right owner and we will remove any reference from the record that you are the owner.

How do bites get reported?

Animal bites or rabies exposures to potentially rabid animals, and scratches from wildlife and cats should be reported to the County Health Department at 850-606-8350. A Health Department representative will contact the owner and victim to complete a Bite Report.  The animal(s) involved may be quarantined and/or tested for rabies.  There are no quarantine protocols for domestic pets which bite other domestic pets.

Domestic pets, when involved in bites, are typically quarantined for 10 days from the date of the bite or exposure, including the day of the bite or exposure. Quarantines generally require confinement at the owner's home to prevent the animal from wandering, or from coming into contact with people or pets which do not live in the same household. Home quarantines are typically permitted in cases where the animal involved was not in violation of any of our animal ordinance requirements. If animals are not quarantined at home, they are confined at a veterinary hospital or the animal shelter. Quarantine sites are based on the circumstances of each incident on a case-by-case basis. Quarantine costs are borne by the owner.

In rabies exposure cases involving wildlife, wildlife is generally not quarantined. Raccoons, foxes, bobcats, bats and skunks are always tested if they can be identified, caught and picked up by Animal Control, even if they are deceased. Other wild or exotic animals are quarantined or tested on a case-by-case basis.

If animals are tested for rabies, Leon County Animal Control or Health Department personnel will contact the affected parties with the test results upon completion of the testing. Health Department personnel will notify the victim when quarantined animals are released from quarantine or if they become sick or die during quarantine.

If a domestic animal/pet is involved with a potentially rabid wild animal and the domestic pet is currently vaccinated against rabies, the Health Department may allow a 45 day quarantine at the owner's home.  The pet is usually revaccinated against rabies immediately going into quarantine.  The Health Department will check back periodically to ensure that the animal is properly quarantined and still appears healthy. If the quarantine is completed successfully, Health Department personnel will contact the owner at the end of the 45-day period to release the animal from quarantine.

If the domestic pet is not currently vaccinated against rabies, a 180-day home quarantine is typically conducted. The animal is vaccinated for rabies immediately going into quarantine, and again one month before quarantine release. The Health Department will check back periodically to ensure  the animal is properly quarantined and still appears healthy.  If the quarantine is completed successfully, Health Department personnel will contact the owner at the end of the quarantine period to release the animal from quarantine.

In both cases, quarantines are strictly enforced. Home quarantines are not an owner's right, but a courtesy extended to responsible owners.   All quarantines at locations other than the owner's home will be at the owner's expense.

If bite animals are not  located for quarantine or testing, we recommend contacting the Health Department to discuss post exposure treatment at 850-606-8350. 

What vaccinations do my pets need?

Pursuant to law, only rabies vaccinations are required, and they are required of both cats and dogs beginning at four months of age. Vaccinations administered by an owner are not recognized as valid. By law, only licensed veterinarians may vaccinate an animal against rabies. In the unincorporated area, we recognize the vaccine for its duration, so if the vaccine is of a one-year duration we recognize it for one year. If the vaccine is of a three-year duration, we recognize it for the full three years. A new rabies tag must be obtained each year so that pets are wearing current rabies vaccination tags.

Other vaccinations are important for your animal's health. Many preventative vaccinations are life-saving, such as those give to prevent distemper, parvo, and feline leukemia. Preventative heartworm treatment is imperative for dogs. Consult you veterinarian.

Can you recommend a good veterinarian?

We do not make specific recommendations. Consult your telephone directory. Two clinics are open nights for emergencies. There are many fine clinics in this area, with exceptional staffs. Treat selection of a veterinarian as you would your physician. We recommend that you discuss you pet's needs, history, and financial arrangements with prospective clinics and make a selection from those that meet your, and your pet's, needs.

What opportunities are available as a volunteer?

Citizens can volunteer to be part of the Speakers' Bureau, if they have the willingness to learn about general animal care and control issues. Demonstrated proficiency in selected topics could lead to presentations on a wide variety of topics, such as general pet care, livestock care, choosing the right pet, pet grooming, veterinary care, animal behavior, law enforcement, pet visitation, pet therapy, dog obedience, etc. Contact us to discuss the possibilities!

The Animal Control Education Specialists (ACES) provide bite prevention and humane education classes to elementary age children in schools, scouting groups, after-school activity classes, and other organized children's programs. Speakers are also available for adult groups and organizations who interact with animals or may come across during their daily activities.

How can I volunteer?

The Animal Control Division has some great opportunities to serve the community, especially children and pets. A criminal background check is required. Persons with a history of animal control violations, especially cruelty or neglect, cannot volunteer with the Division. Contact the Volunteer Center Director at (850) 606-1970 for an enrollment form and to schedule an appointment for orientation.

An Officer picked up an animal on my street. I'm thinking about adopting it. How do I do that?

Leon County does not hold owner-released pets and holds strays for six working days to give an owner time to redeem the pet. The six days do not include days the shelter is closed. After the stray holding period, the animal can be adopted. If you are interested in the animal, tell the impounding Officer so he or she can note your interest on the impoundment ticket. Also, contact the Animal Service Center at (850) 891- 2950, and tell them you want to be put on the "want list" for that animal, or any other animal at the shelter. You can ask to be put on the "want list" for a pet you know is there, or for a specific type of pet that may be sheltered in the future. The shelter also has a foster home program, so animals may be housed in the homes of private citizens and are available for adoption by means of adoption booths and personal contacts. Contact the Animal Service Center at (850) 891- 2950 to learn more about this service.

My pet has been impounded. What do I do now?

If the animal was impounded, contact the shelter in person to claim your pet. The Animal Shelter accepts cash or credit card for redeeming a pet. Fees include impoundment, boarding and rabies vaccination deposits, if the animal is not vaccinated against rabies. Fees change from time to time, so call for current costs. Boarding fees increase each day an animal stays at the shelter, so make arrangements to get your pet home quickly. Putting a tag on your pet will ensure a quicker reunion.

Current Leon County Fees as of June 1,2007 are:
Impound Fees:
First Impound     =  $25.00
Second Impound =  $50.00
Third Impound    =  $75.00
Forth Impound    =  $100.00
Firth Impound     =  $125.00
Sixth and Subsequent Impound  =  $250.00

Boarding Fees:
Regular Board  =  $15.00 per day
Bite Quarantine Board  =  $16.00 per day

About 30% of the animals from the unincorporated area are taken to the shelter by citizens. Therefore, be sure and check frequently even if we have not impounded the animal. It could still be there, and we know you want to be reunited as soon as possible. If owners have not picked up their pets by the end of the fifth day, or have not made arrangements to do so, the animals are euthanized or adopted to new homes.

My pet is missing. I don't know where to begin. Can you help me?

Always contact the Animal Shelter first! Animals are taken to the Animal Shelter both by Animal Control Officers and by the public, so the Shelter is the logical first step. Check the shelter daily for the first week, and then at least every other day for an additional ten days. After about ten days, check at least every four-five days. After a month, check at least bi-monthly. Many owners have found their pets weeks and months later, probably because someone found them after their initial disappearance and the pet was subsequently relinquished or got loose and was impounded. If your pet is not there, contact nearby veterinary clinics to see if it was taken there. A good Samaritan may have picked up your animal and taken it to a clinic. Sick or injured animals taken to veterinary clinics from the unincorporated area are usually immediately turned over to Animal Control, but check to be sure. Check the newspaper's lost and found ads every day. People finding animals can advertise for three days free, so many "finders" use this way to reunite pets and owners. Put flyers up around your neighborhood. Fill out a lost pet card at the Shelter. Staff will attempt to match incoming animals with the cards, but ultimately it is your responsibility to monitor the shelter for animals matching your pet's description. If your pet is still missing after two days, consider placing an ad in area newspapers. Keep rabies tags on your pets when they are outside. If they don't like collars, use a harness. Cat collars with elastic inserts can be used if you are concerned about cats hanging themselves with their collars. Tagged animals are returned quickly. Remember, too, that injured animals without known owners are euthanized if the veterinarian and we believe that the animal will experience undue suffering if held for the usual five-day holding period. The owner of a tagged pet can be contacted quickly and authorize treatment we cannot authorize ourselves. PLEASE TAG YOUR PET FOR ITS OWN SAFETY! A TAG IS A PHONE CALL HOME FOR A PET WITHOUT A DIME!

I found a stray pet. I don't know where to begin. Can you help me?

Contact the Animal Shelter and give them the information to fill out a "found card". Ask them to search their "lost cards" to find a match. If the animal is tagged, the veterinary clinic will provide you with the information you need to reunite the animal and owner. If you don't want to send the animal to the Shelter, you can place a found ad in the local newspapers. Some papers publish such ads as a public service at no charge. If you want to relinquish the animal, and you live in the unincorporated area, contact our office at (850) 606-5400, and we will pick up the animal for sheltering. If the animal is tagged, we will arrange for the owner to be contacted.

What can I do about my pet's behavior problems?

Patience and consistency are the keys to successful training and behavior modification, but you must start with good information. We strongly recommend dog obedience lessons for all canines, beginning from puppyhood. Many fine trainers work in this area. Consult local dog obedience clubs in the telephone directory, or contact breed or dog clubs for their recommendations. Consult local cat clubs or your veterinarian about behavior modification for cats.

Most pets turned into shelters are relinquished because of behavior problems, most of which are minor in nature and easily corrected. If you are going to be a responsible, good owner, you must be prepared to take the time to train your pet and maintain that training. Training makes your pet easier to live with, happier, better adjusted, and a welcome community member.

What kind of dog do you recommend for my kids?

We recommend that you contact the library for books on animal breeds, and choose one best suited for your lifestyle and the animal's needs. Good matching is absolutely necessary to ensure that you and the animal are happy with the arrangement. For instance, some dogs do not make good playmates for young children, and many breeds require lots of grooming and exercise. Be honest when assessing your lifestyle and the amount of time you have to devote to a pet, and choose accordingly. If you find that a pet does not fit your lifestyle now, do not adopt one.

You can also contact veterinarians and local obedience trainers or kennel clubs, all available in your telephone directory, for specific information about breeds, temperaments, life expectancies, dietary needs, care requirements, etc.

What do I do with an animal I can no longer keep?

We recommend screening new homes yourself, with relinquishment to the Animal Shelter as a last resort. Ask good questions of potential owners, such as their intentions for housing and care, their knowledge of the breed, and how much attention, grooming and exercise they are going to provide.

If you are unable to find another home, the animal may be taken to the Animal Shelter. We recommend that you do so in person, so that you are able to give the staff at the Shelter the types of information they need to match the pet to another home. Shelter staff will do their best to re-home the pet, but do not take sheltering lightly. Be aware that no animal is guaranteed a home. Animals not adopted are euthanized.

If you give up your pet to the Shelter and then change your mind, you may be able to reclaim the pet if it has not been adopted. If it has been adopted, it is too late to reclaim it, unless the new owner returns the pet to the shelter voluntarily. Contact the Shelter at (850) 891-6790 for more information.

What do I do about the aggressive dog in my neighborhood?

Contact our office and an Animal Control Officer will respond. If the owner is receptive to more carefully controlling the animal, the problem may be resolved immediately. State law and local ordinance provide for a process of classifying animals as aggressive or dangerous if their behavior, as defined in law, presents a physical threat to humans and domestic animals.

Dangerous Animal Petitions are available through our office, through Animal Control Officers in the field, or through this web page. Dangerous Animal Petition Form. Petitions must be completed and notarized prior to submission to Animal Control. An investigation will be conducted into the allegations.

After the investigation is completed, the Director of Animal Control will make an initial determination as to whether the animal's behavior is aggressive or dangerous as defined in law. If the Director makes the initial classification, the owner is notified in writing. The owner has 7 days to request a hearing before a Classification Committee, at which time the petitioner, owner and any witnesses are sworn in and interviewed. The Classification Committee is made up of three (3) members; one Sheriff representative, one local veterinarian, and one citizen. The proceeding is informal, but recorded. A majority vote of the Committee members is required for classification. If the Committee votes to classify the animal, the animal is ordered permanently confined or euthanized, depending upon the history of the animal and the severity of the attack(s). The owner can appeal the Committee's decision to Circuit Court. The animal must be confined in a manner approved by Animal Control during the appeal process.

How are cruelty cases investigated?

Officers are well trained in investigative procedures and are practiced at applying all applicable laws and procedures to such cases. They make initial contacts to ascertain the circumstances under which the animal is kept. If there are violations of the humane code, Officers instruct the owner on proper care and control. Follow-ups are conducted to make sure the animal receives proper care. The law provides that we can take animals, which are not given humane care, from their owners until the owner provides humane care, or until a Court finds the owner unfit and remands custody of the animal to Leon County.

Contact our office immediately when you suspect neglect or abuse. Most neglect cases are a result of owner ignorance or laziness. We can provide the information necessary to encourage the owner to provide properly for the animal.

My neighbors don't clean their dog's pen and it smells. What can be done?

Owner's are required to maintain good sanitation for their pets, both for the pet's sake and for the neighbor's sake. We can contact the owner and advise them of their options. If the owner chooses not to clean up the pen to prevent a sanitary nuisance, we can issue a citation to the owner for violating the County's Animal Control Ordinance. Another option is to contact the Environmental Health Section at the Leon County Public Health Unit at (850) 487-3166. Contact us first. If we are unable to resolve the issue, the Health Unit may be able to invoke state sanctions.

What do you do about animals whose owners have abandoned them?

Contact us for assistance. If the animal appears to be healthy and has shelter, we can feed and water it, leaving a 24-hour notice for the owner or caretaker to contact us. If, after 24 hours, we have not been contacted, an Officer will check back. The Officer, based on the circumstances, can impound the animal for its own safety when the 24-hour notice is left, or after the call back if we have received no response. The animal will be held the usual holding period, unless sooner redeemed by the owner. We will do a follow up to make sure the animal is being cared for.

Some animals are truly abandoned. In other cases, neighbors don't see visits by owners or caretakers and presume the worst. Contact us first. We would rather respond to a false alarm than miss the opportunity to rescue an animal in distress.

Do you respond to livestock complaints?

We investigate their neglect or abuse, and assist the Sheriff's Department in their capture and transport to the livestock holding facility. Nuisance livestock calls are handled through the Sheriff's Department (850-922-3300).

Are livestock taken to the animal shelter?

Sometimes poultry is, but generally livestock is taken to a livestock holding facility run by a Sheriff's Department employee. The facility is a farm with an environment suitable for the care and housing of livestock.

Potbellied pigs maybe considered domestic animals and, depending on their size, are usually taken to the Animal Shelter, where they are adopted to new homes after the usual holding period.

Will an Animal Control Officer contact me when he or she has completed the services I requested?

Generally, unless a caller is anonymous or requests not to be contacted, the Officer will contact you before or after the call has been worked to let you know what has been done. You can also call in the following work day and request that information.

How do I request a trap?

Call our office at (850) 606-5400. We will put you on a trap list. Because this is one of our most requested services, and because traps are not set in inclement weather, there is a waiting period, sometimes 2-4 weeks long. We will leave a Trap Agreement at your home for your signature and your instructions on where to set the trap.  Or, you may print a Trap Agreement Form and follow the directions written. It must be set where it can be chained to an immovable object, such as a tree. We will freshen the trap and monitor it daily. If an animal is caught, you can contact us for removal as soon as possible. We do not set traps for nuisance wildlife. Contact Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at (850) 488-6251 for information about, or traps for, nuisance wildlife.

During inclement weather, traps are either not set or are tripped, except in emergencies. This is to protect the animal from injury as a result of being trapped without shelter. Traps are usually left until the target animal is caught or for one week, whichever is shorter. You can ask to be placed back on the trap list if you have recurring problems.

To prevent bites, we ask that you not handle trapped animals or attempt to release them. Call our office for assistance. Persons wishing traps should be prepared to keep their own pets inside or securely confined away from the trap so the pet does not enter the trap.

It is a misdemeanor for owners or others to release pets from traps or damage the traps.

How are animals at the animal shelter put to sleep? Why are so many killed?

Obviously, the best way to handle this problem is not to allow pets to breed, creating millions of unwanted puppies and kittens each year. Over 6,000 animals are killed at the local shelter each year, and many are put to sleep at veterinary hospitals. Unfortunately, until each citizen commits to preventing their pet from adding to the burden of pet overpopulation, the trend will continue to worsen.

When animals are euthanized, a lethal injection of sodium pentobarbital is used. State law prohibits any other form of euthanasia to be used in shelters. Additionally, any person who performs euthanasia in a shelter must successfully complete a 16-hour state-mandated Euthanasia Technician Certification Course. This legislation was strongly supported by the Florida Animal Control Association, and was written and presented by your Leon County animal control officials to the State Legislature. By requiring sodium pentobarbital for lethal injection, which unusually takes only 3-8 seconds to work, and by requiring such procedures to be performed only be veterinarians or certified technicians, animals are ensured a painless and non-traumatic death.

Neutering your pet at sexual maturity is the best way to stop pet over-population and the necessity of killing millions of unwanted dogs and cats. Do your part to stop this senseless waste of life: neuter your pet at sexual maturity, and do not allow it to breed, even once!

Who do I call for wildlife complaints?

Nuisance wildlife is handled by Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They can be reached at (850) 245-7716. Wildlife calls, except for potentially-rabid wildlife or calls involving raccoons, foxes, bobcats, bats and skunks, are referred to local wildlife rehabilitation groups which are licensed to rescue and release wild animals. The exceptions noted above are handled by Animal Control in the unincorporated area of the County, and by the Animal Shelter within the City limits. Animal Control can make exceptions to rabies control laws and allow raccoons, foxes, bobcats, bats and skunks which are not ill or which do not display neurological damage to be turned over to wildlife rehabilitators. Call us first for such animals.

Nobody owns a cat. Why is there a leash law for them?

People have owned cats for 5,000 years and laws are clear about the obligations and rights of owners. Owned cats are considered property in the state of Florida but many cats are not owned and have been roaming neighborhoods looking for resources, like shelter, food and water for years. These unowned cats are often referred to as Community Cats. When a cat actually has an owner and the owner can be identified, they are legally responsible for any damage caused by their cat. While there is not a true "leash law" for cats, they can be a public nuisance if they roam from the owner's premises. It’s always best to keep your cat indoors to prevent your cat from getting hit by a car, getting attacked by a stray dog, or having a confrontation with wildlife that may carry the rabies virus.

Consider these facts before allowing your cat to roam free: 

  • Cats carry rabies 37% more often than dogs, and are less likely to be vaccinated against rabies than are dogs. 
  • Because cat owners rarely put ID on their cats, only 3% of the cats turned into shelters are claimed, compared with 60% of dogs. 
  • Cat collars with elastic inserts or harnesses should be used. 
  • Cats decimate wildlife populations, especially affecting songbirds, rabbits and squirrels. 
  • Cat's litter can carry toxoplasmosis, adversely affecting pregnant women. 
  • Cats carry garbage from one location to another, causing unsanitary nuisances. 
  • Free-roaming cats suffer abuse from humans, especially kids looking for "thrills". 
  • Cats frequently are victims of dog attacks, are hit by cars and incur illness from environmental hazards, such as licking antifreeze or eating rotting garbage. 
  • Cats scratch paint jobs on cars and dig up plants and bulbs. 
  • The average life expectancy of outside cats is 18 months. 
  • Indoor cats live an average of 16 years, testimony to the importance of control and good care.
  •  Owners of roaming cats are accustomed to their cats being gone for several days, becoming concerned about the cat's welfare too late. 
  • Un-neutered cats breed indiscriminately, creating more thousands of kittens which will be unwanted.