Frequently Asked Questions

Q. I’ve lost my pet; what do I do?
The first thing to do, after searching your neighborhood, is to visit Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter and look for your lost pet, file a lost report and ask if anyone has called in a found report. You need to visit the shelter as often as possible to look for your pet. Only you can positively identify your lost pet. We cannot guarantee that the front desk staff or volunteers who are answering the telephone are aware of every animal in the shelter. In addition, the breed may be identified differently than the one you have identified for that animal. Should you find your animal at the shelter, you will be required to provide proof of ownership.

More information on Lost Pet Recovery.

Q. What can I do to prevent my pet from getting lost?
The most important thing to do to prevent your pet from becoming lost is to keep your cat indoors at all times and keep your dogs on a leash or inside a secure fence when not inside the home. Your pets should always wear a collar and ID tags, including a rabies and license tag for proper identification. Microchips are available at Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter for $25 to help ensure your pet’s safe return home. More information on Prevention of Lost Pets.

Q. When will an animal control officer respond to my call?
Calls are handled on a priority basis. How quickly an officer responds to a specific call depends not only upon the priority of the call, but how many calls of a higher priority are occurring at that time. For example, calls involving immediate injury or harm to a person from an animal or an injured animal are the highest priority. Conversely, calls regarding a dog running loose in the neighborhood without posing a threat generally take much longer to respond to.

Q. I have to surrender my pet. How long will you keep him?
We make every effort to give all adoptable animals every opportunity to be placed into new homes. Although we do not have a specific time limit in which we hold owner released animals, the minimum time period a pet will be held is four days, not including the day of impoundment (unless the pet is irremediably suffering and must be euthanized for humane reasons.) In many cases, pets are held for adoption for weeks or even months if space allows. Owners surrendering their pets can assist in the successful adoption of that pet by providing as much information as possible about the animal to shelter staff. This information will assist in placing that pet in the most suitable home for its physical and behavioral needs. Some of the information to provide includes the animal’s medical history, housebroken status, and tolerance of other animals and children.

More information on Surrendering your Pet.

Q. I found a lost pet and turned him into the shelter. How long will you keep him?
Lost or stray animals with owner identification (microchip, tag with owner information, license) are held for 7 days, not including the day of impound. Lost or stray animals without owner identification are held for 4 business days, not including the day of impound or days the shelter is closed and may be made available for adoption on the last day of the holding period. Stray animals irremediably suffering from a serious illness or injury are not held for owner redemption or adoption and are euthanized immediately upon intake.

Q. How can I get a dead animal removed?
Injured or dead animals can be picked up by our staff. Call 831-454-7200. Injured domesticated animals will be taken to a local veterinarian. Injured wild animals will be humanely euthanized.

Q. Is there anywhere in Santa Cruz County where my dog can run free?
Santa Cruz County has several off-leash dog parks. More information on Off-Leash Areas.

Q. Do you board animals?
No. We do not have the space to board privately owned pets. Check your telephone book under boarding kennels or ask your veterinarian, friends and family for recommendations.

Q. Do you give shots to all of the animals at the shelter?
Yes. Every dog and cat is vaccinated against common diseases when the animal enters the shelter.

Q. How do you put an animal to sleep?
When it is necessary to euthanize an animal, the procedure is performed by a certified euthanasia technician or veterinarian. Following the same procedures of a private veterinarian, the animal receives an injection of sodium pentobarbital and quietly goes to sleep. The method used is approved by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the National Animal Control Association.

Q. What does “spay” and “neuter” really mean?
Female dogs and cats are spayed by removing their ovaries and uterus, and male dogs and cats are neutered by removing their testicles. In both cases the operation is performed under anesthesia.

Benefits of spaying or neutering your pet include:

  • Helps dogs and cats live longer, healthier lives by preventing certain types of cancer and other diseases;
  • Helps prevent your pet from spraying or marking you or your home;
  • Helps to prevent behavior problems, aggression and bite incidents;
  • Helps prevent pet overpopulation.

More information on Spay & Neuter.

Information Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter’s low-cost spay/neuter program, PLANNED PetHood.

Q. How soon after my dog/cat has had a litter can I get her spayed?
Your dog or cat can be spayed two weeks after the puppies or kittens have stopped feeding off of their mother or approximately 8 to 10 weeks.

Q. What do I do if I have been bitten by an animal?
Exchange contact information with the animal owner (if there is one). Seek medical attention for the bite immediately. Contact Santa Cruz County Animal Services 831-454-7200. If you decide not to seek medical treatment for the bite you can fill out an Animal Control Witness Statement and take a photograph of the bite wound.

Q. How do I protect myself against dog bites?
Tips to prevent dog bites:

  • Never approach a dog you don’t know or a dog that is alone without its owner, especially if the dog is behind a fence, tied with a rope or chain, or in a parked car.
  • Never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping or guarding something. Dogs naturally guard their puppies, food, bones and toys.
  • Never chase or tease dogs. Don’t poke, hit, pull, or pinch a dog.
  • Always ask the owner’s permission before petting a dog.
  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  • If attacked, give the dog an object, such as a jacket or backpack to bite or chew on.

If you are approached by a dog who may attack you, follow these steps:

  • Resist the impulse to scream and run away.
  • Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog.
  • Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until he is out of sight.
  • If the dog does attack, "feed" him your jacket, purse, bicycle, or anything that you can put between yourself and the dog.
  • If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Try not to scream or roll around.

Q. What animals have to be licensed in Santa Cruz County?
Santa Cruz County Municipal Code Section 6.08.010, City of Santa Cruz Municipal Code Section 8.14.010, City of Watsonville Municipal Code Section 6-1.401 and City of Scott’s Valley Municipal Code Section 6.12.010 require that all dogs over 4 months of age be licensed. Failure to license or renew your dog’s license could result in a $100 citation.New residents moving into the County have thirty (30) days to license their dog over the age of four (4) months. More information on Dog Licenses.

Q. Can I return an adopted animal to Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter if it doesn’t work out?
Yes. Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter is an open-admission shelter and never turns away an animal.

Q. Do you microchip animals before they are adopted?
Yes, all animals adopted from Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter receive a microchip before they are adopted.

Q. Can I purchase a microchip for my own animal at Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter?
Yes, Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter offers microchips to owned animals for $25.

Q. Do you scan animals for microchips?
Yes, Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter scans for microchips several times, including officers scanning for microchips in the field, when animals are entering the animal shelter, before being spayed/neutered or released to a new home, and before being euthanized.

Q. Are you a no-kill shelter?
The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter is an open admission—or open door—animal shelter. This means that we will not turn away any animal that comes to our doors. Many of these animals are healthy, good natured dogs, cats and rabbits who go up for adoption—and there are no time limits on how long they can stay up for adoption. However, there are animals that come to a shelter sick, severely injured, or too aggressive or behaviorally unsound to be placed up for adoption at that time.  Many times for these animals, euthanasia is the only humane outcome.

Many no-kill (or limited admission) shelters sharply limit the number and type of animals they will take. If they’re near capacity, they’ll refuse to take in additional animals, forcing the owners to find another place for the animal. Many no-kill shelters will never accept animals that will be difficult to adopt, such as older or injured animals. Owners often report to us that they’ve brought us animals only after being refused by one or more no-kill shelters. Other no-kill shelters may house animals for years in small cages, often causing animals to go literally insane. We do not believe this is a preferable, or even realistic, alternative to euthanasia.

There’s nothing wrong with no-kill shelters or rescues, as long as they’re honest about their limitations — especially the limited number of animals they’re able to help. However, until we end the pet overpopulation problem in our community, a full-service, open-admission shelter that performs euthanasia is a tragic necessity.

We understand why people get angry over euthanasia; the situation makes us furious, and it saddens us that we must euthanize so many wonderful animals each year. We believe that this frustration is properly directed at the source of the problem: pet owners who abandon their animals or who do not sterilize their animals.