Animal laws

​T​he City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have laws that describe what constitutes animal abuse. The ordinance is written so that the laws pertain to anyone that owns, possesses, or harbors any animal. The townships within Mecklenburg County don't all have the same laws as the city or county. Click here to go to your town website.

Animals that are kept outside must have access to fresh water all the time. Food is not required to be left outside, as long as they are fed at least once a day.

Animals that appear to be sick, diseased, or injured must receive medical attention immediately. Animal Care & Control Officers will determine the condition of the animal based on its body condition and request the owner provides any and all paperwork as proof that the animal is receiving medical care. If the owner cannot provide this proof then they will be given 24-48 hours to seek medical attention and the AC&C Officer will conduct a follow-up review inspection.

Animals may not be kept in unsanitary or inhumane conditions at any time. This includes an environment where an animal's health and general welfare is threatened, along with raising the risk of transmitting disease. AC&C Officers may inspect the animal's living conditions to make sure their environment is clean and sanitary. (This also applies to suspicion of ​puppy mills.)

Animals must have an adequate shelter so that the animal can be protected from extremes of weather (heat, cold, rain, etc.) and able to remain dry and comfortable. An adequate shelter is defined as an enclosed area accessible by an animal, of sufficient size and nature so as to provide the animal with reasonable protection from adverse weather conditions. It is not required that the adequate shelter provided be kept warm/cool or insulated during the cold/hot seasons. Items that are not considered adequate shelter: airline crates, wire cages, or anything with holes other than the main opening.

Animals that are outside for an extended period of time, or live outside, must have a shaded location when sunlight is likely to cause overheating and discomfort. An adequate shelter should be placed in a shaded location for this reason.

Animals must be contained by fencing, proper tethering or a properly sized kennel. To learn more about this law, visit our Tethering page.

Animals may not be left in a structure, property, or motor vehicle that can be considered dangerous for the animals' health or well-being due to temperature, and/or lack of food or drink. If an animal is discovered in such a location, an AC&C Officer will come investigate the situation, attempt to make contact with the owner using all available resources, and, in exigent circumstances, may be removed for its own protection/safety.

In the case of an animal in a vehicle and determined to be under extreme distress, an AC&C Officer must have a CMPD Officer present to forcefully enter the vehicle to remove it. Signs of distress include: excessive panting, excessive drooling, and unable to get up or move.

When a call for service is placed for an AC&C Officer to respond, a call will be placed for service and an AC&C Officer will come to observe the following:

  • The animal  is being fed appropriately based on its body condition and weight (keep in mind some dog breeds are bred to be thinner than others)

  • The animal has access to fresh water

  • The animal has adequate shelter

  • The tether/kennel is incompliance with the tethering law

  • In cases of suspect dog fighting, analyze the dogs wounds (To learn more about dog fighting visit our Dog Fighting page)

  • Make an attempt to contact the owners regarding observations and take appropriate action if necessary. If an owner cannot be contacted the AC&C Officer will conduct a follow-up inspection.

If there are any violations seen, or has a concern for an animal, please call 311.

​If you find us on Facebook or Twitter please DO NOT send us a private message or tweet about a cruelty concern. 311 is how we capture our calls for service and all concerns must go through them.​

North Carolina state law requires that all dogs, cats and ferrets who have bitten someone are to be quarant​ined for ten days. If the animal has a current rabies vaccination, this quarantine may take place at home at the discretion of Animal Care & Control. If the animal is not currently vaccinated against rabies, then this quarantine must be done at a veterinary hospital or the Animal Shelter. The purpose of this is to ensure that the animal did not transmit the rabies virus to the bite victim.

If a person is bit and chooses to go to the hospital, ER, family doctor, or urgent care the doctor is required by law to send in a bite report to Animal Care & Control where an officer will be dispatched to investigate.

If a wild animal bites or scratches a person and is apprehended, the animal will be euthanized so that its brain may be tested for the presence of the rabies virus. If the wild animal is positive or it cannot be caught, the bite victim will be advised to take the post-exposure rabies shots.

If a wild animal bites a dog (or any domestic animal), the course of action depends on the vaccination status of the dog. If the dog has a current rabies shot, the pet only needs to receive a booster vaccination. The wild animal will not be tested for rabies unless there is also a human exposure. If the dog is not currently vaccinated and the wild animal is apprehended, it will be quarantined at the Animal Shelter until the rabies test results on the wild animal come back. If the rabies test is negative, the dog may be reclaimed. If the rabies test is positive or the wild animal was not caught, the dog must be euthanized or quarantined for six months at the owner's expense. This is just one reason why rabies vaccinations for your pet are so important.


For Bite Prevention Classes visit the Humane Education page.

In a cockfight, two roosters fight each other to the death while people place bets. Cockfighters let the birds suffer untreated injuries or throw the birds away like trash afterwards. Besides being cruel, cockfighting often goes hand in hand with gambling, drug dealing, illegal gun sales and murder. 

What is cockfighting?
Cockfighting is a centuries-old blood sport in which two or more specially bred birds, known as gamecocks, are placed in an enclosed pit to fight, for the primary purposes of gambling and entertainment. A typical cockfight can last anywhere from several minutes to more than half an hour and usually results in the death of one or both birds.

Left to themselves, roosters almost never hurt each other badly. In cockfights, on the other hand, the birds often wear razor-sharp blades on their legs and get injuries like punctured lungs, broken bones and pierced eyes—when they even survive.

Sadly, people often bring young children to cockfights. Seeing adults relish such brutality can teach kids to enjoy violence and think that animal suffering is okay. - The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

Find out more about Cock Fighting and its history:
Cock Fighting Fact Sheet - HSUS
Cock Fighting - HSUS
Cock Fighting​ - ASPCA

There are two ways of helping to bring this horrible animal cruelty to an end right here in your own city.
Contact CMPD's Crime Stoppers to report any suspicious cock fighting activities.
Contact The Humane Society of the United States to report cock fighting.

*The HSUS and Crime Stoppers offer cash rewards only when tips lead to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in a dog fighting or cock fighting investigation.*

Signs of cockfighting could include:

  • Chickens being bred and kept outside of a farm setting in unsafe or unsanitary conditions​

  • A large number of roosters tethered to a crude shelter or confined in pens

  • Roosters whose combs, wattles, or natural spurs have been cut off

  • Untreated wounds and/or other signs of neglect

  • The sound of roosters crowing in remote areas, coupled with many people coming and going

  • Cockfighting magazines, such as The Gamecock, The Feather Warrior, and Grit & Steel​​

Citizens owning dogs determined to be dangerous  will be subject to a variety of protective measures to ensure the safety of people and other animals. They include the following:​

  • Privacy fencing or secure fencing (with a top)

  • Purchase of liability insurance

  • Warning signs on the owner's property

  • Muzzling the dog when off its property

  • Tattooing the dog to identify it as dangerous

All decisions relative to dangerous dogs will be subject to a due process review. 

If you have any questions about a possible dangerous dog situation, please call 311.​

Charlotte residents may request collection of either pets which have died or animals which have been killed on city streets. The solid waste special services division​ is ready to assist you.  To place a call for service in regards to dead animal pick up, call 311. Please remember these few helpful points:

  • Collection is made by request only; do not place any animals in your roll out container. 

  • Help us to serve you better: for animals which have been killed on the roads - please have a specific location for us to respond to. An address, intersection or block number is needed. 

  • City ordinance places requirements on any animal collected from homes or businesses. The animal must not weigh more than 100 pounds and MUST be placed at the curb. It is also helpful that the animal be placed in a trash bag if possible. 

  • City Ordinance forbids City personnel from entering any private property to remove animals.

If your pet has passed away and you wish to bury it, you may do so as long as it is buried at least 3 feet beneath the surface of the ground and not closer than 300 feet to any flowing stream or public body of water. Large animals may also be buried, but they must be at least 4 feet below the ground surface. An owner must bury a pet within 24 hours of learning of its death.

If your pet has passed away and you would like to get them cremated or buried in a pet cemetery you can do a search for local pet crematoriums and pet cemeteries in Charlotte. There are several in Charlotte and surrounding areas. Two are listed below:
Paws, Whiskers and Wags​​ 
Faithful Companion 
Good Shepherd 
Be sure to look into the services as some will come to your house and pick up your pets for you.​​

​Animal Care & Control Officers are charged with the responsibility of enforcing all City, County and State laws pertaining to the welfare and control of animals.

Enforcement activities range from investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty and neglect cases, leash law violations, to investigating potentially dangerous dogs.

To report a suspected violation of any of of these ordinances, please call 311.

To read the ordinance in its entirety click here (To see the townships, and other counties/states, go to municode.com​)

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control answers calls for service in the following areas:
City of Charlotte 
Mecklenburg County 
Town of Mint Hill ​
Town of Pineville  Upon request from Pineville Police Department.
Town of Davids​on – Upon request from Davidson Police Department.  Davidson also provides their own animal licensing at the Davidson Town Hall

The following townships have their own Animal Services and Animal Control Officer. If you live in these towns and have questions or need to place a call for service you can visit their websites to get the information you need:
Town of Matthe​ws 
Town of Huntersville 
Town of Cornelius

“Man’s best friend” may fight to the death in dogfights, often with tens of thousands of dollars at stake. Dogfighters sometimes kill the losing dogs, and even winning dogs may die from their wounds. Police often discover drugs, guns, and even murder in connection with dogfights.

What is dogfighting?
Dogfighting is a sadistic "contest" in which two dogs—specifically bred, conditioned, and trained to fight—are placed in a pit (generally a small arena enclosed by plywood walls) to fight each other for the spectators' entertainment and gambling.

Fights average one to two hours, ending one of the dogs will not or cannot continue. In addition to these organized dogfights, street dogfights are a problem in many urban areas.

Street dogfighting remains a problem in urban areas. Dog owners seeking status or bragging rights stage impromptu fights in back alleys or basements. - The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

Find out more about Dog Fighting and its history:
Dog Fighting Fact Sheet - HSUS
Dog Fighting - HSUS
Dog Fighting - ASPCA

There are two ways of helping to bring this horrible "contest" to an end right here in your own city:
Contact CMPD's Crime Stoppers to report any suspicious activities.
Contact The Humane Society of the United States to report dog fighting.

*The HSUS and Crime Stoppers offer cash rewards only when tips lead to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in a dog fighting or cock fighting investigation.*


Some indications on what to look for:

  • Dogs with scarring

    • Keep in mind that there are legitimate people who adopted/rescued Pit Bulls that have been involved in fighting rings. These dogs will have scars but are no longer fighting.

  • Multiple dogs separated on the property

    • Fighting dogs are to be kept separate and would not be running around the back yard with each other. If there are two/three dogs in a fenced in area running around with each other being barking at passerby’s doesn't mean that they are fighting dogs. These dogs could just be territorial.

  • Multiple dogs being rotated on the property. Example: One week there is a black dog and a red dog then three weeks later there is a blue dog and beige dog.

  • Significantly heavy logging chains restraining the dogs.

    • There could be dogs on logging chains that are not used for fighting. Regardless, the tethering law does not permit dogs to be on logging chains at all and can be reported via 311 as well. To learn more about the tethering law (what is and is not permitted) visit the Tethering Page.

  • Dogs restrained in the woods behind and away from the house (generally not typical for a everyday dog owner).

  • Training equipment such as treadmills, break sticks, tires or spring poles hanging from trees.

    • Some Pit Bull (or other bully breed) owners have break sticks in their homes. This does not mean that they fight their dogs but it is more of a measure to break up accidental fights between their dogs.

  • Dogs with weighted collars or weighted vest.

  • People coming and going at odd hours from the house and/or transporting dogs to and from the house at odd hours.​

The City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have strict leash laws that apply to all animals except cats (see the nuisance animal section for laws pertaining to cats).

Animals must be on a leash, contained within a fence or an operable and marked invisible fence. The invisible fence company should give owners a sign to place at the mailbox to indicate that there is an invisible fence present.

An animal may be loose in its own yard if there is an adult (18 years or older) immediately next to the animal and the animal responds to direct verbal commands of the person.

ALL dog owners that take their dogs for walks in their neighborhoods and/or in public parks (not designated as a dog park) are required to keep their dogs on leash and under physical restraint at ALL TIMES.  Please note that having the leash in your possession and not attached to the dog is not considered having the dog on a leash and you will still be subject to a fine. 

All regulations aim to protect the health and safety of our citizens. Please be a responsible pet owner and abide by the law. Violations will be investigated and stiff fines may be applied. Fines range from a $50.00 citation for the first violation and up to a $500.00 citation and permanent seizure of the animal for a fifth violation.

To report an animal at large, please call 311. Please note that it could take up to 4 hours for an officer to respond. Any information about where the owner lives would help greatly.​


There are dog parks in Char-Meck that will allow pet owners to let their dogs off-leash in a fenced in and controlled​ area. To find where these parks are located and the rules for participation, click on Dog Parks.​

Ordinance reads that it is unlawful for any person to own or maintain an animal in such a manner to cause a public nuisance. Examples of situations which would constitute a nuisance are:

  • Having an animal which disturbs the rights of or threatens the safety of a member of the general public, or interferes with the ordinary use and enjoyment of their property.

  • Allowing an animal to damage the property of anyone other than its owner.

  • Maintaining animals in an environment of unsanitary conditions which results in offensive odors.

  • Allowing or permitting an animal to bark, whine, howl, crow or cackle in an excessive, continuous or untimely fashion so as to interfere with the reasonable use and enjoyment of neighboring premises.

  • Failing to confine a female dog in heat.

  • Failing to remove feces deposited by a dog on any public street, sidewalk, gutter, park or other publicly owned or private property unless the owner of the property has given permission allowing such use of the property. Dog waste is raw sewage. Roundworms, E. coli, and Giardia are just a few of the many harmful microorganisms that can be transmitted from pet waste to humans. Some can last in your yard for as long as four years if not cleaned up. Children who play outside and adults who garden are at greatest risk of infection. Pet waste is one of the causes of bacterial contamination of streams in Mecklenburg County.
    The solution is safe and easy: 1) Scoop the poop, 2) put it in a plastic bag, 3) place it in the trash, and 4) wash your hands.

If you have any questions about a possible nuisance situation, please call 311.


Please note the following:

  • AC&C's response to first time complaints will be to notify the owner by mail that we received a complaint concerning their animals and recommendations to remedy the situation. If future calls are submitted, an officer will be dispatched to evaluate the validity of the complaint.

  • An AC&C officer must see or hear the violation when they respond to take any kind of civil action.​

​There are two situations in which you will need a permit to maintain your animals.

Livestock- If you wish to maintain any equine, cloven-hoofed animal (cattle, goats, etc.) livestock or domestic fowl (chicken, turkey, pigeon...) a permit is required. Before a permit is issued, the premises must be inspected to ensure that the animal(s) are a minimum distance from the property line. We will also make sure that the animal(s) does not endanger the health, safety, peace and quiet of nearby residents. A permit costs $40.00 and must be renewed annually. 

Three or More Dogs or Cats- If you have three or more dogs or cats (in any combination) four months of age or older frequently kept outside, you will need a permit. The main purpose of this permit is to make sure that noise or odor caused by the animals will not interfere with a neighbor's use and peaceful enjoyment of his property. This permit cost $40.00 and is valid as long as the owner is in compliance with the ter​ms of the permit.

Click here to fill out the online permit application.

​All dogs, cats and ferrets four months and older residing in Charlotte, Mint Hill, Pineville and the unincorporated areas of Mecklenburg County must be licensed annually. This same law applies to ferrets living in Charlotte, Mint Hill, and Pineville. Proof of a current rabies vaccination from your veterinarian is required to purchase a license.

License fees will vary depending on whether your pet is spayed or neutered. Fees for fertile animals are $30.00 and those for sterile animals are $10.00 for a 1-year license and $25.00 for a 3-year license. License fee exemptions may apply in certain situations:

    • Senior citizens 62 years of age and older may receive a free license for their pets, provided the animals have been sterilized. 

      • If your animal has medical problems that make it unable to withstand the sterilization procedure, you may purchase a license for $10.00 if you provide a statement from your veterinarian. 

        • Any disabled owner of a dog which is used for seeing, hearing or assistance purposes may receive a free license if the animal has been spayed or neutered. 

          • Owners of show animals may receive licenses for $10.00 provided they show proof of participation in at least three nationally recognized shows within the past twelve months.

          On  March 7, 2005, the Animal Control Bureau contracted with PetData, Inc. to manage the animal licensing program for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. 

          Animal licenses may be purchased by mail or on line from PetData.  Customer service representatives may be contacted by phone for questions and concerns. 

          For general information and to register your pet on line go to petdata.com 


          PetData Customer Service: 1-877-835-8523

          PetData Mailing Address:  
          Charlotte/Mecklenburg Police Dep​artment
          Animal Control Division
          Animal Licensing
          c/o PetData
          PO Box 141929
          Irving, TX  75014-1929



          Puppy mills contribute to pet overpopulation and cause countless dogs lifetimes of suffering in squalid wire cages. Help us stop this cycle of cruelty: Do your research before getting a puppy, and look into adopting a dog from your local shelter. -The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

          A puppy mill is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Unlike responsible breeders, who place the utmost importance on producing the healthiest puppies possible, breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality. This results in generations of dogs with unchecked hereditary defects. 

          Some puppy mill puppies are sold to pet shops—usually through a broker, or middleman—and marketed as young as eight weeks of age. The lineage records of puppy mill dogs are often falsified. Other puppy mill puppies are sold directly to the public, including over the Internet, through newspaper ads, and at swap meets and flea markets. - ASPCA

          Find out more about Puppy Mills:
          Puppy Mills - HSUS
          Puppy Mills - ASPCA


          There are two ways of helping to bring these puppy mills to an end right here in your own city:
          Contact CMPD's Crime Stoppers to report any suspicious activities.
          Contact The Humane Society of the United States to report dog fighting.

          *The HSUS and Crime Stoppers offer cash rewards only when tips lead to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in a dog fighting or cock fighting investigation.*

          Puppy mill puppies are usually sold online or in stores. How to know if that puppy you're looking at comes from a puppy mill:

          • The owner of the puppy will not let you see where the puppies are kept.

          • The owner will not have the one or both of the parents on sight so you can see what the puppy will look like when they grow up.

          • The owner may have you come to their house but beware if they bring the puppies to you instead of taking you to the litter.

          • Responsible breeders will ask you questions about your interest in the breed and the care that you plan to give to your new puppy. Most responsible breeders even have you sign a contact in regards to spaying or neutering your puppy within a certain time period.

          • If, for any reason, you feel that you need to rehome your pet, the breeder will ask you to bring the pup back to them instead of rehoming them or sending them to a shelter.

          • Owners of puppy mills will generally have more than one breed for sale. Some breeders will breed two breeds at a time if they are small breeds but if there's more than two listed then they could be a mill.

          • Responsible breeders will have health guarantees and even offer you the chance to bring your puppy back if health issues arise. Puppy mill owners will make all sales final.

          • Puppy mill owners sometimes have their puppies up-to-date on their shots but only the bare necessities. They don't do genetic testing as they don't care whether their pups are healthy or not.

          • Just because your puppy comes with papers (AKC or CKC) doesn't mean they aren't mill puppies.

          • Puppy mills are not limited to puppies. Mill owners will also be breeding other animals such as cats, rabbits, and rodents.

          All photos were taken during the puppy mill raid in August 2008, in Denver, NC named Operation Noah's Ark.






          ​North Carolina State Law requires every dog and cat four months of age and older to be vaccinated against rabies. This law also applies to ferrets within the city limits of Charlotte. This vaccine must be administered by a licensed veterinarian. In North Carolina, the animal's first rabies shot is good for one year and subsequent vaccinations are valid for three years. If you have recently moved to North Carolina and the rabies vaccination was given at a vet out of NC then it is still a valid shot (regardless of it being a  1 year or 3 year shot). 

          Please be a responsible pet owner by displaying your animal's rabies tag at all times. This can help alleviate fear if someone is approached by your pet. The fine for failing to display a rabies tag is $50.00 and a $50.00 fine may be levied if your animal does not have a valid rabies vaccination.

          Protecting your pets against rabies is the best way to protect yourself, especially if your dog or cat spends a lot of time outdoors. You may not know if your pet has made contact with a rabid wild animal. If your pet is vaccinated, then he cannot transmit the disease to you.

          Click here to find out when our next free rabies clinic will be.
          Click here​ to find out what you need to bring with you the day of the clinics.​

          An ideal environment for your dog may be a fenced or sheltered area that offers him or her the opportunity to roam and play safely. However, if you must restrain your pet, learn these new "tricks" that are part of the City's new pet restraint ordinance to keep your dog free from injury.

          • Use a chain or runner that is a minimum of 10 ft. long. 

          • Ensure the chain doesn't exceed 10% of the dog's total weight. 

          • Ensure all harnesses and collars fit properly. You should be able to fit two fingers snugly between the pet and collar. 

          • Use swivel hardware to prevent tangles.​ 

          • Clear the pet's area from obstructions to ensure the dog doesn't become entangled.

           
          In addition to these new guidelines, check on your dog routinely to monitor the animal's well-being. Following these tips ensures a sound quality of life for your pet.


          To review the ordinance in it's entirety, the downloadable pdf can be viewed here.

          Sea consciente de nuevas leyes para ayudar a animales sin peligro​​>>


          ​Frequently Asked Questions

          What is a tether?
          A tether is used to confine a dog to its owner’s property and consists of plastic coated cable or chain attached to a permanent object. 
          Tethering as a practice is affixing your dog to the chain or cable device or a pulley runner system that will confine a dog on your property.
           
          What is the most important thing to remember about the ordinance?
          That while an ideal environment for your dog may be a fenced or sheltered area that offers him or her the opportunity to roam and play safely, if you must restrain your pet, following these regulations will protect a dog’s quality of life. 
          Additionally, it is easy and affordable to become compliant with the new rules.

          When does this new ordinance take effect?​
          March 1st, 2011.

          Is there a fine if I don't comply with the new ordinance?
          Education is the first priority. Officers will educate you about the ordinance and how to come into compliance before issuing any civil citations. If you do not comply, the first citation is $50 dollars and will continue to escalate from there.


          To see more FAQ's that may not have been listed here, click here.​

          ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​