Some animal shelter volunteers playing with dogs under a tree.

Guidance for Municipalities

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 states that each municipality, city, and village in which dog licenses are issued, shall appoint, and any other village and any county may appoint, one or more dog control officers (DCOs) for the purpose of assisting, within the appointing municipality, with the control of dogs and the enforcement of Article 7, Section 113.

Municipalities may also appoint one or more dog control officers 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.

It is important for the DCO to know the extent of their jurisdiction. A list of required job duties should accompany the appointment. This would include the option of shelter services being provided by the DCO. In lieu of or in addition to appointment of a DCO the same municipalities may contract with any duly incorporated SPCA, humane society, or similar animal protective association. All appointments and/or contracts must be in writing and be available to duly authorized agents of the Department. Dog control services cannot be provided by a dog dealer. A dog dealer is defined as any person that buys, sells, leases or otherwise deals in dogs. This does not include an individual who is selling the offspring of personally owned dogs and does not sell or offer to sell more than 24 puppies in a year.

Dog control officers are also responsible to seize dogs as needed, provide humane handling and transport and adequate veterinary care, and more. More details are provided in the document below.

Municipal Dog Shelters

Each town and city, and each village in which licenses are issued shall, and any other village and any county may, establish and maintain a pound or shelter for dogs. The following literature is a guide to obtaining these goals and is not meant to replace written law.

The shelter requirement must be met in one of the following ways:

  1. The municipality can establish and maintain a dog shelter.
  2. The municipality can establish and maintain a shelter jointly with another municipality.
  3. The municipality can contract with another municipality for shelter services.
  4. The municipality can contract with any incorporated humane society (including SPCAs) or similar incorporated dog protective association for shelter services.

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.

Municipalities are also responsible for various other requirements. 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.

The Department works with local enforcement to train staff to identify animal cruelty.  To request training, please contact us.

Dog Licensing

Every dog 4 months of age or older owned in New York State for over 30 days must be licensed. Pet owners can apply for a dog license at their local town or municipal office.

  • To obtain a license, owners must pay a non-refundable license fee and have the following documentation:   
  • If the dog is spayed or neutered, there must be a certificate from a licensed veterinarian showing that the dog has been spayed or neutered. 
  • All dogs 4 months of age or older must have proof of a rabies vaccination signed by a licensed veterinarian or a certificate stating why the life of the dog would be endangered by the vaccine.
  • There are no license fees for guide dogs, war dogs, hearing dogs, police dogs, or service dogs.

Dog Licensing Resources