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Doggie Laws - What Pet Owners Need to Know About Keeping a Pet in Montgomery County

It's time to go outside and play with your pet, but do you know what the applicable laws are?

Spring’s finally here and we want to get out with our pets and enjoy the nice weather. But having a pet is a big responsibility. So how well do you know the Montgomery County animal laws? Some of them are pretty basic, but others are a little more obscure.

Most dog owners seem to understand the law about picking up their dog’s poop aka “the Pooper Scooper” law. If your dog does his business anywhere other than your yard you have to pick it up or risk getting a $100 fine. The poop can be placed in a plastic bag. As long as this bag is then placed inside another plastic bag it’s acceptable to put it in your regular household trash. 

What about a license for your dog? It’s not like he drives! Dogs go on walks and play in dog parks where they interact with other dogs and humans. So that makes sense, but did you also know your cat also needs a license even if the cat never goes outside? In Montgomery County, all dogs and cats regardless of age must have a license and all dogs and cats four months and up must be vaccinated. The tag your vet gives you after vaccinating your pet for rabies does not count a license.

For puppies and kittens under a year there is no fee but the animal must be registered with the county. Altered (meaning spayed or neutered) dogs and cats over one year can either get a three year license for $32 or a one year license for $12. Unaltered dogs and cats can get either a three year license for $75 or a one year license for $25. If a veterinarian certifies that a pet is unable to be spayed or neutered for age or health reasons the county may grant a waiver for the higher unaltered fees. Failure to license your pet could result in a $100 fine and failure to properly vaccinate your pet could result in a $500 fine.

Does it drive you crazy when you are walking your dog, minding your own business and another dog bounds sans leash and jumps all over you and your dog? It doesn’t matter how nice and well-behaved Fido is, he needs to be on a leash. The Animal At Large law states that a dog is considered at large “if it is outside the owner's premises and not leashed, unless it is a service dog, is in a dog exercise area designated by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, or is participating in an approved activity."

A cat is considered at large if it is “outside the owner’s premises and not leashed or immediately responsive to verbal or non-verbal direction”. The common area of a Home Owners’ Association, condominium or apartment building is not considered the owner’s property. The penalty for allowing your pet to be “at large” is $100 for the first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses. 

And don’t forget the “Unwanted Contact” Law. This law states that the animal’s owner “must prevent unwelcome or unsolicited threatening physical contact or close proximity to a person or a domestic animal that occurs outside the owner’s property that may cause alarm in a reasonable person, such as biting, chasing, tracking, inhibiting movement, or jumping." Failure to prevent unwanted contact could result in a $500 fine.

Your dog is scared and doesn’t understand what a bike is but bicyclists could swerve and cause an accident if the dog is jumping and growling at them. Not only bicyclists, but joggers, people attending outdoor festivals and patrons of local farmers’ market will thank you. Failure to prevent unwanted contact could result in a $500 fine.

And finally, how would you like it someone tied you up outside in the elements for hours on end? Well, your dog wouldn’t like it either. The county has got your dog’s back with a law that provides guidelines for the safe and humane tethering of dogs. Tethering is using a chain, rope, tether or cable (this does not include a leash) to attach a dog to a stationary object or a pulley. The tether must have a swivel attached at both ends and must be at least five times longer than the length of the dog, as well as be attached to a harness the dog wears. Per the regulations, a dog can only be tethered for a total of two hours a day and only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., and never during a weather emergency. Keep in mind that the county is currently debating amending this law in favor of stricter tethering guidelines.

That's a lot to remember, but here are a couple golden rules for county pet owners to follow:

  • Scoop the poop.
  • Get your animals licensed.
  • Insure that all pets are vaccinated.
  • When off of your property, your pet must be properly restrained.
  • Remember if you must tether your dog outside, do so in a safe and humane manner.

For additional information on county pet laws, visit Montgomery County Police's Animal Services Division

Linda O’Neal draws from the experiences and adventures she shares with her two cats Jose and Beau and dog Molly.  She is also the asst. manager of Fetch! Pet Care of Silver Spring a local dog walking and pet sitting company.

KatieSilverSpring May 10, 2011 at 12:27 PM
This article needs to be spread throughout Montgomery County! So many newbies, so many already-here-but-negligent dog owners.
Melissa B. Robinson May 10, 2011 at 02:12 PM
Glad you found the information useful Katie. I'll pass on your suggestion about spreading the story. Thanks for commenting.
Chris May 11, 2011 at 12:23 PM
Nothing at all said about barking dogs, a huge problem for neighbors who want a good night's sleep and piece and quiet in and outside their homes. Very disappointing.
Melissa B. Robinson May 11, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Thanks Chris for your comment. Certainly that's a topic we could write about in the future.
KatieSilverSpring May 11, 2011 at 02:29 PM
and, this is an issue that can be readily identified and be reported to the Noise control people and the police. Dogs randomly pooping is something of a hit and run activity.

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