General Animal Control Information

To report stray, sick, injured, dead, animals; animal cruelty or neglect; or other animal control related issue, please call the Palo Alto Police Dispatch Center at 650-329-2413.

Knowing your community's animal-related ordinances and properly caring for your pets will help make your neighborhood a better place for everyone. A brief summary of frequently asked animal control topics follows.

For specifics pertaining to the other communities in our jurisdiction, please click on Regulations that Vary by Community. More detailed information on the Municipal Animal Control Ordinances for Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills may be obtained by contacting our offices.

General Palo Alto Animal Control Topics

Leash required
Any dog or puppy must be controlled on a leash by an able-bodied person, at all times, even when under supervision, whenever the dog is on public property. This includes all parks, sidewalks, streets, school grounds and the Baylands marsh areas or while on an unenclosed lot. The leash law is strictly enforced, but certain dog exercise areas have been created as playgrounds for exercising your dog off leash.


Licenses and tags
Please see Licensing and identification


Pet litter -- clean up after your pet!
It is not only inconsiderate to allow your pet to defecate on public property and not clean up after the animal, it is also against the law. You must clean up after your pet when it relieves itself on a sidewalk, street, in the entryway to any multiple dwelling or business used in common by the public, or on private property. Help keep our part of the peninsula a clean and safe place to live.


Number of dogs and cats allowed
You may not keep more than three dogs and three cats at any street address within the communities, unless you hold a valid kennel license. Moreover, you may not keep more than one unspayed female dog and one unspayed female cat at any residence.


Barking dogs
Animal Services investigates complaints of excessive noise created by animals. An animal violates the noise ordinance when it whines, cries, or barks continuously for 10 minutes, regardless of the time of day.

Provide your dog with a quiet area of your home, garage, or yard while you are away, so that barking will not disturb your neighbors. Animal Services can provide you with training suggestions for controlling problem barking.


Permits for Livestock, Pet Shows, Boarding and Grooming
You're required to obtain a permit to keep any type of livestock, including horses, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, and turkeys in Palo Alto. 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, that also requires a permit.

DOWNLOAD: Permit Application
(Permit also used for special events)

Once you download an permit application, and when your coop is built and ready for inspection, return the application to our office (or email it to and we will schedule an Animal Control Officer to inspect. Once approved, we will collect the permit fee, and mail you the permit.

Generally, the issues we find with owning livestock is dealing 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 if a neighbor moves away and a new one moves in, they have the option of revoking permission.

Second, 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, and predators like raccoons.


As of 2/29/29, the City of Palo Alto no longer offers this service. Please contact other local animal shelters.


Disposal/Pickup of dead pets
You may bring dead pets to the shelter for disposal. (A $45 services fee is added if you require and Animal Control Officer to come to you.) The costs are as follows:

Small animals (birds, hamsters, rodents, etc.): No Charge
Dogs, cats, rabbits (per animal) - up to 20 pounds: $40.00
Dogs - 21 to 75 pounds: $50.00
Dogs - 76 pounds to 150 pounds: $60.00
Dogs and other Animals - up to 150 pounds: $110.00

Trap rental
Trap rental is handled by Pets In Need at the Palo Alto Shelter.
*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. Check with the California Department of Fish and Game for exact regulations governing the trapping and relocation of wildlife in California. Trap rental - an initial refundable deposit of $100.00/ trap is required, fees are $20.00 for the first three days, then $5.00 for each additional day.

Animal Bites
California law requires any dog or cat who bites a human and breaks the skin (with teeth) to be quarantined for 10 days from the day and time of the bite. Doctors and the public are required to report animal bites to Animal Control (650-329-2413) immediately. An Animal Control Officer will quarantine the animal (usually in the animals home) or at the shelter if quarantine at in the home is not possible.

Release of Information
If you would like a copy of an Animal Services report, please complete an Application for Release of Information and return to Animal Services via mail, email, or in person. Report releases require supervisor approval, and a fee of $11 which needs to be collected prior to the reports release.