Laws to Know

Here is a summary of the most important laws that you should know as a pet owner. These laws also apply if you are keeping an animal for someone else. For more details about the laws that protect people and animals, you may look at the Washington County ordinances and the Oregon State statutes concerning domestic animals. You can also download a copy of the Oregon Animal Cruelty Laws Handbook, a reference guide put together by Oregon Humane Society. Of course, you are always welcome to call Animal Services at 503-846-7041 if you have any specific questions.


All dogs in Washington County are required by law to be licensed. Cats and other animals are not licensed in our county.
All dogs must be licensed at :          
  • 6 months of age, or
  • when they have permanent canine teeth, or
  • within 30 days of acquisition, or
  • within 30 days after new residents move into Washington County.

Abuse or Neglect

It is against the law to commit acts of abuse or neglect to animals. This includes such inhumane activities as depriving an animal of food, water, or adequate shelter; or confining an animal under conditions that endanger the animal. 

Dangerous Dogs

Many of our calls are responding to dangerous dog complaints. If the dog is off its owner’s property and chases, attacks, or bites a person or animal, the dog may be considered aggressive and may be in violation of County ordinance. Serious incidents that occur on an owners property may also result in a dangerous dog classification.

Continuous Annoyance (Barking Dogs)

We receive nearly 1,000 complaints a year about dogs being a continuous annoyance. The County code states that a continuous annoyance is any repeated barking, whining, screeching, howling, or other sounds caused by a dog or dogs heard beyond the boundary of the dog owner's property.

If a dog is allowed to be a continuous annoyance for more than 5 minutes out of any 15 minute interval, that may be considered a violation of County code.

Running at Large

It’s against the law to allow your dog to run at large. People are often confused by exactly what the law does – and doesn’t – allow owners to do.

For you and your dog to be lawful, your dog must be restrained by a leash (7 feet long or less) or other physical control device, and under the control of someone physically capable of handling the dog. The exceptions are if your dog is on your own property, or, if on private property, you have permission from the property owner for your dog to be off leash, or you and your dog are in an enclosed area specifically designated as an off-leash area, like a dog park. Here is a map of off-leash parks that are within or close to Washington County