PHS Logo
Resource Library
About Us Services and Programs Adopt Volunteer Events Donate Wildlife

Financial Assistance for Vet Care

Local Dog Parks

Pet Friendly Accommodations

How to Build a Dog Park in Your Community

Animal Behavior Advice

Spay/Neuter Myths and Facts

Frequently Asked Questions

Staff Columns in Local Newspapers

San Mateo County Animal Laws

Article Archive

Related Links

Poisonous Foods & Plants List


Donate Online Now! shop at the shelter

San Mateo County Animal Laws

We’ve provided the following information to help local residents understand the laws that pertain to animals. 

All owners or possessors of animals or anyone having charge or custody of an animal must provide the animal with proper food, water, shelter, and veterinary care when necessary, and must comply with all local and state laws in regards to the care and keeping of animals. Failing to provide an animal with the necessities of life or failing to follow local or state laws is a crime and can result in fines, criminal citations, or in extreme cases, charges being filed with the District Attorney’s office which can result in steep fines and/or time in jail. Some laws vary from city to city within San Mateo County so please note that these are only summaries of some of the laws passed by San Mateo County. For complete and exact wording of specific laws, contact your city.

Animal Control Officers or Humane Officers are authorized by local ordinance (and in some cases by state law) to issue a criminal citations (the court sets the fines for these which vary greatly) for violations for most of the following laws. Like most criminal citations for an infraction (similar to a speeding ticket) the violation must actually be observed by an Animal Control Officer or Humane Officer for them to be able to issue the citation, however, most Police Officers and Sheriff’s Deputies can also issue criminal citations for violations of the animal sections of the laws if they observe the violation. Education and documentation are often used by the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA in lieu of issuing a citation, however, repeated violations may result in a citation being issued to the owner of possessor of an animal.

There are many local and state ordinances that involve animals; however, PHS/SPCA is only contracted by San Mateo County to enforce specific sections of the local ordinances. Barking dogs is one such exception; local police departments are responsible for these calls.  Over limit (too many animals kept on one property) is another example.  Each city’s Code Enforcement Division is responsible for responding to over-limit calls. Although we are not contracted to do so by San Mateo County, PHS/SPCA does perform animal cruelty investigations. This work is entirely funded by local donations as we receive no funding from any of the national animal welfare groups to perform these investigations. Sometimes another local law enforcement agency will handle animal cruelty cases, but this usually only happens when there is an active call of animal cruelty, such as someone beating a dog where the police arrive on scene to witness the crime in progress.

PHS/SPCA normally handles the following violations of local/state laws:

Leash Law (part of the Prohibited Conduct section of the local laws)

Dog and Cat Licenses

Rabies Vaccination

Wearing of Tag Required

Trespassing/Trapping Animals

Pet Overpopulation Ordinance

Inadequate Care and Attention (part of the Prohibited Conduct section of the local laws)

Public Protection from Dogs

Animals in Vehicles

Animals to be Impounded

Dangerous Animals and Vicious Animals

Animal Bites/Quarantines (incidents where domestic animals bite people)

Animal Bites/Quarantines (contact between wild animals and domestic animals or people)

PHS/SPCA does not normally handle the following violations of local/state laws:

Dog Parks (and other public areas like parks and beaches)

Illegal Animals

Over Limit of Animals

Habitual Barking (and other animal noise related issues)

Removal of Animal Feces

Questions? Call Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA’s Animal Rescue & Control Department at 650-340-8200 and ask for an Animal Rescue & Control Supervisor or Manager or call San Mateo County’s Animal Control Program Manager at 650-573-3726.



Home | About Us | Our Services | Adopt an Animal | Volunteer | Events
Resource Library | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Contact Us

Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion
Adoptions | Education | Wildlife | Administration
1450 Rollins Road, Burlingame, CA 94010
Phone 650.340.7022 Fax 650.685.8428

Coyote Point Shelter
Lost/Found | Animal Intake | Spay/Neuter | Animal Control
12 Airport Boulevard, San Mateo, CA 94401
Phone 650.340.7022 Fax 650.348.7891