The Animal Control Division is comprised of two branches, enforcement and sheltering. Each entity serves different functions though the two partner to provide holistic animal services for the community. For more information on enforcement, see below. For more information on sheltering and adoption services, visit Adoptions, Shelters & Licensing.
Calls for Service
To have an Animal Control Officer respond to a call for service, call dispatch at (757) 385-4444 and select “Option #1.” Animal Control Officers are on routine patrol from 7 a.m. - 11 p.m., seven days a week. There is also an officer on stand-by duty after 11 p.m. to respond to emergency calls for service only. When calls are received, a Communications Officer dispatches an Animal Control Officer to investigate complaints. If the officer sees a violation when he/she arrives, appropriate action will be taken.
Reporting Animal Abuse
Because animal ordinances may be either a misdemeanor or felony, officers may not immediately take legal action unless they actually witness a violation in progress. This does not mean no action can be taken about a violation you have witnessed. Any citizen who witnesses a violation can take action by going to a magistrate's office, presenting probable cause, and obtaining a Magistrate's Summons for the violation. The citizen must then appear in court and present testimony before a judge.
Due to the city's location on the Atlantic Ocean, large rural areas and close proximity to Great Dismal Swamp and Back Bay wild life refuges, encounters with wild animals are common. Fox, otter, snakes, seals, bats, deer, opossum, raccoons and other wildlife, including a rare black bear, have been spotted within city limits. If you encounter a wild animal, it's best to simply leave it alone.
Nuisance or Problem Animals
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) provides information on what to do if you encounter nuisance species on your property, such as a snake in your house or raccoon in your attic. Visit their website.
VDGIF also maintains a list of licensed trappers
who can assist residents with certain types of wildlife nuisance problems. Alternatively, citizens may legally use humane traps to remove animals from their homes or property. For more information on trapping nuisance animals, click here
Stranded or Distressed Animals
If an animal appears to be orphaned, dead sick, injured or stranded, please report it to the appropriate authorities. You should not approach or touch a wild animal even if appears to need help; even a docile-looking animal can bite or scratch.
The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team responds to stranded sea turtles or marine mammals (dolphins, whales, seals, manatee), both dead and alive. Call (757) 385-7575 to report a problem or visit the Aquarium's Research & Conservation page for more information. For all other wildlife, contact Animal Control at (757) 385-4444.
Preparing Pets for Disasters
The following guidelines will help you prepare your pet in the event of a disaster.
Tips for Protecting Your Animals in a Disaster
- Keep a “Pet Emergency Kit” with a few days worth of medication, your pet’s medical and vaccination records, a leash, collar, identification, water, food, toys and bedding
- Make sure your animals have permanent identification (microchip, brand, tattoo, etc.)
- Purchase a pet carrier and label it with emergency contact information
- Store water and feed for emergencies
- Create a emergency contingency plan for animals including horses and live stock that addresses transportation, water and feed, as well as confinement areas if needed
For more information on what to do with your pet in an emergency, visit the Emergency Planning pages.
Rabid Animals or Animal Attacks
The best way to prevent rabies is to make sure your animals are vaccinated. If you or someone you know is attacked by an animal, wounds should be cleaned thoroughly with soap and water. Injured parties should then report to the hospital to check for rabies and other diseases. Report the bite/attack to Animal Control at (757) 385-4444. If the animal that bit you is a pet (dog, cat, etc.). The animal should be watched for signs of rabies for 10 days.
For additional information on rabies prevention, visit the Rabid Animals page