Animal Control Division

Animal Control Vehicle

The Animal Control Officers of Palo Alto Police Department provide complete Animal Control services to the cities of Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills. Animal Control can be contacted regarding matters such as stray animals; sick, injured, or dead animals (including wildlife); aggressive animals; animal bites; animal cruelty or neglect; animals in distress; livestock or pet show permits; and other animal related municipal code violations. For more information please go to our Field Services page.

Since February 2019, Pets In Need operates the Palo Alto Animal Shelter located at 3281 East Bayshore Road. Since taking over our animal shelter, Pets in Need handles matters such as animal adoptiondog licensinglost and found reportsspay & neuter clinic; vaccine clinicsanimal surrender; cat trap rentals; feral cat management; volunteering; assistance and community outreach programs.

Dog Licensing

Why obtain a dog license? Simply put, it's the law! 

If you received a notice from an Animal Control Officer stating your dog(s) are required to be licensed, please purchase a license as soon as possible to avoid a citation, you may only have a limited time to do so. If a reference number was provided to you, please submit it during the online process.

Before completing your dog license application, please ensure that you meet the following requirements:

  • You live in Palo Alto, Los Altos, or Los Altos Hills.
  • You are in possession of a current rabies certificate for your dog (REQUIRED).
  • You have your license fee ready. It is payable via cash, check, or debit/credit card (Visa, MasterCard, or American Express).
  • You are able to prove spay/neuter status either with a certificate, or other medical documents (not required, will reduce the license fee by 50%).

License Online Now

If you would prefer, you can also download a hard copy of the license application/renewal form(PDF, 103KB) and submit the application with your payment, rabies certificate, and spay/neuter certificate (if applicable) to Pets in Need at 3281 East Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303. 

For more information regarding dog licensing, including what to do if you own a Service Dog or need a Rabies Vaccine Waiver can be found on our Dog Licensing Page.

Field Services

Duty Hours 

Palo Alto Animal Control Officers are on duty 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We proudly serve the cities of Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills. Minimal duty hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., however hours may vary.

Stray Domestic Animals (excluding cats)

Regular, on-duty Animal Control Officers (ACO) will respond. After hours: local police will respond. 

Injured or Sick Wildlife

If you have located an injured or sick wild animal, you may call PAPD dispatch at (650) 329-2413 and the on duty Animal Control Officer will respond to assess the animal. If you found an animal after the Animal Control Officer is off duty, you can either place the animal in a box (if safe to do so) and bring to MedVet at 601 Showers Dr, Mtn. View at no cost to you; leave the animal in the box overnight and the on duty officer will respond in the morning, or do nothing and an Animal Control Officer will assess when able. (Do not offer food to any wild animal!)

Stray Cats

Healthy stray cats must be confined prior to ACO response or brought directly to the animal shelter.

Aggressive Animals; and Animals in Distress

Regular, on-duty ACO or local police will respond.

Dead Animals

Regular, on-duty ACO will respond to remove animal. ACOs do not go under houses, decks or on roofs. ACOs do not respond for dead deer on private property. Call (800) 847-6454 for removal, property owner is responsible for cost of removal.

Animal Bite Complaints

Regular, on-duty ACO investigate bite complaints and quarantine animals. After hours, local Police will take a report and an ACO will follow up to investigate and quarantine animal(s).

Leash Law Complaints

Regular, on-duty ACOs respond to leash law violations/complaints. After hours, local police will respond.

Barking Dog Complaints

Regular, on-duty ACOs investigate barking dog complaints. After hours, local police will respond.

Other Non-Urgent Municipal Code Violations (i.e. Pooper Scooper Law)

Palo Alto: Regular, on-duty ACOs investigate complaints of violations
Los Altos & Los Altos Hills: Refer to local police or Code Enforcement personnel.

Animal Neglect and Abuse

Regular, on-duty ACOs investigate sanitation, neglect, abuse, and over-limit complaints. After Hours: local police will respond and notify ACO if required.

Animal Theft

If you believe someone stole your animal, that is a crime.  Call your local police department.

Raccoon, Opossum, Skunk, Rat, and Squirrel Nuisance Complaints

No traps or relocation services are available from Animal Control. Call Santa Clara County Vector Control at (800) 675-1155 (weekdays only), or a private pest control company.

Mountain Lions

  • To report sightings or observations, contact a Palo Alto naturalist at (650) 329-2382.
  • To report a sighting outside of natural habitat, or an immediate threat to human life, call local police immediately.
  • To report an incident (an attack or pursuit of humans or pets), or for information on obtaining a "deprivation permit" which allows residents to pursue mountain lions, contact a California Department of Fish & Wildlife warden at (408) 429-9252.


Coyotes

  • To report sightings or observations, contact Santa Clara County Vector Control at (800) 675-1155.
  • To report an aggressive, sick, or injured coyote, regular on-duty and standby ACO will respond.
  • No trapping services available in Palo Alto or Los Altos Hills.

 

Bees

Regular, on-duty ACO will investigate complaints of a bee swarms/hives and coordinate removal (if necessary) on public property ONLY. For bees on private property, please contact a removal service at www.beeguild.org. For wasps on private property, call a private pest control service.

Snakes

Regular on-duty ACO will respond for rattlesnakes only, and only when in an area which could threaten humans or pets. Otherwise, remove yourself from the area, and the snake should move on. All other native snakes are non-venomous, you may call a private removal company at (800) 339-9470.

Cats in Trees

Animal Control Officers do not have ladders. Call your local police dispatchers to see if a utility truck or fire truck is available to respond and access the tree. Sometimes a private tree service will assist. Animal Control Officers will only respond to take custody of the cat. However, most cats will come down from the tree by themselves.

Humane Euthanasia

The city of Palo Alto contracted with Pets In Need for shelter services, and Pets In Need does not offer this service. Other local shelters all provide this valuable service, and the Humane Society of Silicon Valley offers 24/7 euthanasia services.

Pickup and Disposal of Dead Pets

You may bring dead pets to the shelter for disposal, cost varies by your pets weight, and disposal method. Call Pets In Need for more info at (650) 496-5971. Animal Control can come to you for an additional $50 fee.

Cat Trap Rental and TNR

Trap rental is handled by Pets In Need at the Palo Alto Shelter. Please call (650) 496-5971 for more info.
*Note: If you catch a wild animal in your trap, you must release it in the same area; you may not relocate it without a permit from the State of California. Check with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for exact regulations governing the trapping and relocation of wildlife in California. Animal Control will not respond to release or dispose of a wild animal that you caught

Wildlife

Urban growth on the Peninsula has led to the loss and disturbance of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat. While some wild animals have migrated to quieter, more remote areas, others (especially raccoons, opossums, squirrels, skunks, and other rodents) have learned to adapt and thrive alongside humans.

Wild animals are most likely to become a nuisance if they are provided with an attractive environment. These attractions include safe nesting areas and available food and water. There are, however, effective steps you can take to prevent these animals from making your home their home.

Please note: City of Palo Alto Animal Control Officers do not provide services for healthy/nuisance wildlife. If you are having an issue with nuisance wildlife, please call the Santa Clara County Vector Control District at (800) 675-1155 for assistance, or a private pest control service.

Injured or Sick Wildlife

If you have located an injured or sick wild animal, you may call the Palo Alto Police Department's 24-hour dispatch center at (650) 329-2413 and the on-duty Animal Control Officer will respond to assess the animal. If you found an animal after the Animal Control Officer is off duty, you can either place the animal in a box (if safe to do so) and bring to MedVet at 601 Showers Drive in Mountain View at no cost to you; leave the animal in the box overnight and the on-duty officer will respond in the morning, or do nothing and an Animal Control Officer will assess when able. (Do not offer food to any wild animal!) 

Baby/Orphaned Wildlife

In the spring and summer, baby wildlife may be found in parks, streets, and backyards. It's important to know when and if you should intervene. Below are some handy flow charts, and if you have questions call the Peninsula Humane Society's Wildlife Dept. at (650) 340-7022 x456.

I FOUND A BABY BIRD!        I FOUND A BABY MAMMAL!

Vector Control

Wild animals can be vectors (carriers) of various diseases. The Santa Clara County Vector Control District provides information on dealing with many animal and insect disease vectors.

Keep Them Wild!

You may not realize it – a simple bag of garbage, bowl of pet food, or a wild bird feeder, can create problems with wildlife. If wild animals have access to human food and garbage, unnatural foraging behavior can begin. Wildlife venturing into neighborhoods, puts both people and animals at risk. Wildlife become susceptible to vehicle strikes, pesticide poisoning, injury from other wildlife, and disease. Public safety may be compromised.

Whether you live in a city or a rural part of California, wild animals are your neighbors. They naturally fear humans and keep their distance – so long as they remain fully wild. Be a good steward of wildlife. Stash food and trash.

For additional information about specific types of animals gathered from CDFW & SCC Vector Control, please see below:

 

General Prevention

Favorite nesting sites for wild animals include the attic and crawl space under a house. Before an animal moves into your home, take the following preventive measures:

  • Check your property regularly to ensure that screens barring entrance to your home or basement are intact. Cap chimneys with hardware cloth bolted to the masonry. Securely fasten heavy screening or metal hardware cloth over vents and dryer exhaust openings. Stuff coarse steel wool into gaps between pipes and outside walls.
  • Eliminate access routes by pruning tree branches overhanging the roof. Remove ivy leading from trees to roof, or wrap 18" or wider metal guards around tree trunks five or six feet from the ground. Keep pet doors closed at night, and install an inside latch to keep them locked.

Removal

When animal nesting or habitation is discovered, many excellent solutions to your unwanted occupancy problem exist. Unless you remove whatever is attracting it, however, unwanted wildlife will continue to visit. Animal Control Officers do not provide nuisance removal service.

A private pest control service will trap and euthanize the animal since relocating wildlife is illegal in the State of California. Trapping and euthanizing is also a short term solution because a new batch of wild animals will move in if the reason for them being there is not changed. Wild animals come for food, water, and shelter. Securing holes under sheds and decks is recommend, as well as picking up all fallen fruit. Also do not feed domestic animals outdoors, especially at night.

The goal is just to keep wild animals from calling your property home because we’re never get rid of all the wild animals (nor do we want to.) the animal is removed, improvements to your property will be required to keep them from coming back. Use of a one way door for example can assist with humane extraction from under sheds and decks.

Indoor or Under the House Prevention

If an animal has taken up residence in an attic or crawl space, block off all entrances accessible to the animal except one. Place a radio near the entrance and play music loudly during the day. Place dishes of ammonia-soaked rags near the same spot. This should annoy the animal enough to convince it to leave within a day or two.

Place a piece of cloth (such as an old T-shirt) with your scent near the resting area. Nesting mothers are concerned with the safety of their young, and human scent will encourage her, within a week or so, to relocate her family.

Anytime you think there are nests of young, be sure the mother and her babies have relocated before sealing up all access points. Otherwise, babies will starve, or mothers will return and destroy the seal to retrieve their young.

Outdoor Prevention

If you have pets, bring their food and water indoors at night. Clean up leftover food, seeds, and dropped or discarded fruits and vegetables. Secure trash containers with weighted lids, or secure the lids with straps or chains attached to the handles.

To prevent raccoons or other wildlife from digging in your garden, sprinkle cayenne pepper around the perimeter. Soak rags in ammonia or bleach and place them in bowls or tie them to posts around the garden. This should deter uninvited animal visitors from foraging for grubs or insects. Some success has been achieved using motion detector lights.

Secure outdoor fish ponds with a wooden cover, or horizontally submerge wire mesh around the circumference of the pond. Attach the outside edges of the mesh to the edge of the pond, leaving the inside free. Fish then have the center of the pond to themselves, and animals cannot reach over the wire, because it provides an unstable surface on which to perch.

Protect your Pets

Urban wildlife is usually not aggressive. Animals will, however, defend their young and their territory, so it's a good idea to keep your pets indoors at night while many wild animals are out.

Rabies is a potential threat in this area. Because of this and other diseases such as distemper, it is important to keep your pet vaccinations up to date, to protect pets from diseases that can be prevented by immunization. Please avoid direct contact with wildlife, especially if they seem sick, injured, or oddly unafraid. If you or your pet has been in contact with or was bitten by a skunk, raccoon, bat, coyote, fox, or other rabies vector, please alert Animal Control immediately at (650) 329-2413.

Humane Trapping

Animal Services strongly discourages the live trapping of wildlife. Living in this area means living with wildlife. Humane trapping is usually a short-term solution for a long-term problem. And relocating a wild animal without a permit is illegal in the state of California, and usually means certain death for the relocated animal as it struggles to survive in an unfamiliar please. In addition, a wild animal becomes stressed and frantic when trapped, and might injure itself trying to escape. Trapping also separates mothers from babies who cannot survive without the mother's care. For assistance with extraction, please call the Santa Clara Co. Vector Control District.

Permits

Permits Required for Livestock, Pet Shows, Boarding, Grooming, and Dangerous Animals

Pursuant to Palo Alto Municipal Code, you're required to obtain a permit to keep any type of livestock, including horses, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, and turkeys within the Palo Alto city limits, even temporarily. Geese, roosters, guinea hens, and peacocks are not allowed, except in areas zoned for agriculture or open space. There are special provisions for keeping more than six chickens, in addition to these rules. If you are having a party and hired a petting zoo, or run a grooming or kennel facility, it requires a permit from Animal Control.

Download a Permit Application

Once you download the permit application, and are ready for inspection, return the application to our office at 3281 E. Bayshore Rd., or email it to animalcontrol@cityofpaloalto.org, and we will schedule an inspection. Once the inspection is approved, and permit fee collected, your permit will be issued. (Permit fees vary by permit type. See Palo Alto Municipal Fee Schedule)

Regarding our most common type of permit, Livestock, the general complaint we receive is about maintaining a good relationship with neighbors, and coop safety. If your coop or run is less than 25ft from your property line, you must obtain written permission from that neighbor(s) to own the hens. We keep those letters on file and require new letters every 5 years. If a neighbor moves away and a new one moves in, they have the option of revoking permission. The resident of a property is required to give/revoke permission, not a landlord. Absolutely no roosters are allowed!

Secondly is coop size and safety. The coop must be large enough to house the amount of hens you have, kept clean, and does not allow access for nuisance animals like rats/insects, and predators like raccoons. Refer to PAMC 6.20.090 for requirements.

Animal Surrender

Giving Up Your Pet

If you are giving up your pet because of a behavior problem, such as roaming, barking, scratching or fighting, please talk with us. Shelter staff can offer some tried and true suggestions or refer you to knowledgeable trainers in the area and low-cost dog obedience classes are offered in the area. Please don't leave a pet outside the shelter when we are not open! Not only is this very dangerous for the pet, but it is also illegal. The chances of your animal being adopted are significantly better if you provide us with the information we'll ask of you when you surrender the pet.

How to Surrender an Animal

Pets In Need will accept surrendered animals at the Animal Shelter (3281 E. Bayshore Rd.) during normal business hours. Proof of residency in Palo Alto, Los Altos, or Los Altos Hills will be required (i.e., Driver's License and/or current utility bill.) There is no charge to surrender your animal. Please bring all medical records, and allow time to go over temperament and to fill out a personality profile and sign a surrender form.

Surrender your animal to Pets In Need

Need assistance?

Animal Control Officers can come to you for a fee ($50) to pick up your animal. Please call (650) 329-2413.

Donations

The City of Palo Alto provides complete Animal Control services for the cities of Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills. Donations you make here will go directly to the Animal Control Officers and help fund animal rescue efforts. If you would prefer to mail in your donation, please mail to 250 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301 or 3281 E. Bayshore Rd. Palo Alto, CA 94303 and write "Animal Control Donation" on the check.

The City's tax ID# is 946000389. Thank you for your generosity!

Donate Online!

For over 100 years, the City of Palo Alto has operated the Animal Shelter and your monetary and supply donations were greatly appreciated. As of February 2019, the City of Palo Alto has contracted Redwood City-based Pets In Need, who is now operating the shelter. The majority of funding Pets In Need receives is through your generous donations. So if you would like to donate to the Animal Shelter and help fund their efforts, please visit PetsInNeed.org/donate.

Disaster Preparedness

Preparing for Disasters

Prepare a personal disaster plan before it happens; educate your neighbors and family/friends, and then test the plan. You should identify potential sites to move your family and animals should this need to happen and plan on how you would get there. If at all possible, identify a neighbor that is familiar with your pets that could assist in their care if you were not at home or unable to return to your home.

It's a good idea to become familiar with the available community responses by local animal shelters veterinarians, police and fire, and your neighbors. Keep in mind; you may need to provide for your family and animals for a minimum of 7-15 days even in the best of situations. 

Printable Fliers

Save them in your disaster kit, and share with friends, family, and neighbors!

Palo Alto Animal Control Pet Disaster Shareable Flier

General Pet Preparedness Guidelines

Food & Water: Store at least a 2 week supply of canned and/or dry pet food (remember to monitor dated shelf-life) and drinking water and rotate as necessary. Under normal conditions, an adult or 90 lb dog needs a minimum of about a gallon of water a day.

Medical information (keep in a zip lock plastic bag): All medications should be identified and labeled with a two week supply.  Special instructions should be inserted in the bag for each individual animal.

Pet Supplies:  

  • Keep collars/leashes, carriers accessible. 
  • Two bowls per animal – unbreakable (one for food and one for water)
  • Manual can opener, metal spoon
  • Blanket/soft bedding
  • Carrier/crate – cover or tarp for weather protection
  • Plastic bags for feces disposal/clean up – Newspapers
  • Litter box and small> bag of cat litter
  • Favorite toy
  • Battery operated fan

Documents/Information per animal (keep in a ziplock bag):

  • Rabies vaccination certificate
  • Other vaccination records, DA2PP, FVRCP, etc.
  • Copy of dog license certificate; Microchip number
  • A color photo that was taken within the last year
  • Written description
  • Name, address, phone number of a veterinarian
    *If you have made a pre-designated person to care for your pet, have their contact information readily available and a signed release authorization.

Hearings, Reports, and Press

Release of Information

If you would like a copy of an Animal Control report, please complete the Animal Control Application for Release of Information and return via USPS mail, email, or in person. Report releases require supervisor approval, and a fee of $13 which needs to be collected prior to the reports release. (Please note: you may not request an animal bite report in which you are not directly involved). All other types of reports are released by the Palo Alto Police Department.  Visit their Request Police Records page for more information.

Administrative Hearings

Public Administrative Hearings are held monthly (or as needed) regarding PAMC enforcement for Dangerous Animals. Join via Zoom.

Press Inquiries

If you are a member of the media and have an inquiry for the Animal Control Officers, please visit the Police Department's Media Inquiries page.  A staff member will respond to you.

Maddie's Fund - Asilomar Reports

Maddie's Fund - Asilomar reports are now being provided by the City of Palo Alto's shelter contractor, Pets In Need. The most current version of their report can be found on the Pets In Need Mission page.