Some animal shelter volunteers playing with dogs under a tree.

Guidance for Municipalities


This guidance includes summaries of laws and regulations relative to municipal dog control and shelter services. It is not meant to replace written laws and regulations but as an aid to their enforcement. Consult with the municipal attorney for further assistance.

Dog Control Officers

Agriculture and Markets Law Article 7, Section 113 states that each municipality in which dog licenses are issued shall appoint one or more dog control officers (DCOs). Any other village and any county may appoint a dog control officer. The DCO is responsible for assisting, within the appointing municipality, with the control of dogs and the enforcement of Article 7.

Municipalities may appoint one or more DCOs mutually with one or more other municipalities. They may also appoint local police for dog control. The appointment of a police officer as DCO must be listed in the job title. All appointments should list the extent of the dog control officer’s jurisdiction. DCO services cannot be provided by a dog dealer.

The DCO has the power to issue appearance tickets or summons for violation of Section 118 and any local dog law or ordinance.

Dog control officers seize dogs as required by Section 117. The DCO must provide humane handling and transport and any necessary veterinary care. The DCO must promptly make and maintain a record of the seizure and subsequent disposition of any dog. Samples of this documentation are listed below.

Department animal health inspectors regularly meet with DCOs for training and inspection. More details are provided in the document below.

Municipal Dog Shelters

Each municipality in which licenses are issued shall, and any other village and any county may, establish and maintain a pound or shelter for dogs. Options for meeting this requirement are listed in Article 7, Section 114. Municipalities may choose to lease kennel space at a veterinary clinic, a boarding facility, or the residence of another municipality’s dog control officer. All shelter contracts and leases must be in writing and be available for viewing by duly authorized agents of the Department. Arrangements between the municipality and the shelter should be clearly stated in the contract or lease.

The Department inspects those shelters and facilities that have municipal contracts to house dogs seized under Article 7 of Agriculture and Markets Law. The inspection reports can be found here. Please note that our inspections focus only on the care of dogs seized under Article 7. The department does not have regulatory authority over other animals that may be in the shelter nor does the department have regulatory authority over adoption policies or general shelter management. 

More details are provided in the documents below.


The Department’s mission is to ensure the health of the state’s companion animals and livestock. If there are any concerns about animal health or the welfare of an animal, the Department urges consumers to contact their local SPCA or local law enforcement.

Dog Licensing

The owner of every dog 4 months of age or older shall immediately make application for a dog license. Owners apply for this license at the licensing agent in the municipality where the dog is harbored. Contact your municipal clerk to find out what documentation is needed to obtain a license.

License fees are set by the municipality per Article 7, Section 110. The fee for an unspayed or unneutered dog must be at least five dollars more than a spayed or neutered dog. The municipality may exempt license fees for any guide dog, hearing dog, service dog, war dog, working search dog, detection dog, police work dog, or therapy dog.

All dogs are assigned, as licensed, a municipal identification number and tag. This ID tag must always be affixed to that dog’s collar. Dogs must always be identified when off the owner’s premises. The municipality may exempt this requirement when the dog is participating in a dog show.

Dog Licensing Resources

Municipalities are responsible for various other requirements. More details are provided in the documents below.

You may also find more details about Article 7 regarding the licensing, identification, and control of dogs, and Article 26, Section 377-A regarding spaying and neutering of dogs and cats.