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.

Cruelty or Neglect

It is against the law to commit acts of cruelty 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. 

Aggressive Dogs

Many of our calls are responding to aggressive dog complaints. If the dog is off its owner’s property and chases or attacks a person or attacks an animal, the dog may be considered aggressive and may be in violation of County ordinance.

Barking Dogs

We receive nearly 1,000 complaints a year about barking dogs. Excessive barking is a violation of County ordinance. The County code says that it is a violation for a dog to disturb the peace, comfort, or health of any person of reasonable sensitivity by making loud, long, unnecessary and continuous noises.

If a dog barks more than 5 minutes of any 15 minute interval during the day, 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.

A “Dog at large” is defined as a dog that is off or outside of the premises of its owner; not restrained by a rope, leash, chain, or other similar means; or not under the immediate control, restraint, or command of its owner or keeper. If a dog is not restrained by a leash or tether of some kind, is not at heel, or not a working dog in the field, the dog is considered to be “at large.” Dogs are permitted to run inside an approved off-leash park. Here is a map of off-leash parks that are within or close to Washington County