Animal Rescue & Control


The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter is responsible for enforcing the laws and codes involving animals within the County of Santa Cruz, City of Santa Cruz, City of Scotts Valley, City of Watsonville, and City of Capitola. When calling to report an incident, please have as much information as possible including description of animal and owner, address of owner, and/or license plate of owner. Our officers respond to calls and complaints regarding:

Enforcement of laws and ordinances relating to animals
Laws and ordinances enforced by the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter may be found in the Animal Municipal Codes section.

Dangerous or menacing animals
If you or your pet have been victims of aggressive behavior displayed by another animal, call us immediately at (831) 454-7200. If you have a life-threatening situation involving both humans and animals, call 911. 

Reports of dangerous or menacing animals will be investigated by our officers.  Statements from the victim, owner and any witnesses will be taken. Proof of rabies vaccination may be required. The animal may be quarantined and/or impounded. Citations and/or criminal charges may result.

Injured animals (including wildlife)
Officers will respond to reports of injured wild and domestic animals. Injured domesticated animals will be seen by a veterinarian. Injured wild animals will be humanely euthanized or rehabilitated. All juvenile wild mammals, as well as adult or juvenile birds, can be transported to Native Animal Rescue from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm at 1855 17th Avenue in Santa Cruz.
Dead animals (including wildlife)
Officers will respond to all reports of dead domestic animals. Officers will respond to reports of dead wild animals in roadways that are a traffic hazard. If you have a dead wild animal on your property (except deer) officers will pick it up for an $85 fee. You can also dispose of the wild animal in your trash can, at the dump or by burying it (please check local ordinances for regulations). Please call a Tallow Service for removal of deer.

Animal welfare or cruelty
Animal cruelty includes abandonment of a pet, physical abuse, failure to provide food, water, shelter or veterinary care, fighting of animals, putting animals in a situation that causes distress (i.e. a hot car) or keeping an animal in unsanitary conditions. If you are concerned for the welfare of an animal, contact us immediately at (831) 454-7200. 

Officers will investigate the situation. Depending on the nature of the case, officers may impound the animal or give the owner a time period to come into compliance. Citations and/or criminal charges may result.

Stray and abandoned pets
Animals roaming off their property or animals that are abandoned can be picked up by our staff. Dogs that are roaming need to be confined or leashed prior to our officer responding. The leash law does not apply to cats, but you can use a humane catch trap to catch nuisance cats that roam on your property. Call us at 454-7200 to rent a humane catch trap. If possible, please bring a stray or abandoned pet to the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter. Click here for hours and location.

Failure to scoop pet waste
Animal waste must be removed immediately from public property or property not owned by the pet owner. If you observe a pet owner not scooping their pet’s waste and have the address or license plate information of the pet owner, you can file a citizen arrest citation against the owner.  

Failure to leash a pet (cats excluded)
All pets, except cats, are required to be on-leash when off their property, unless at an off leash dog area.

Property damage caused by pets
Cats, dogs and other pets that cause property damage to public or private property can be reported to the shelter. 

Surrendering a pet
Before surrendering your pet, please read our Surrender Your Pet section. If you live in the County of Santa Cruz, City of Santa Cruz, City of Scotts Valley, City of Watsonville, or City of Capitola and you are unable to bring your pet to the shelter to be surrendered, our staff can pick up that pet. A fee will apply.

Unlicensed dogs
All dogs over four months of age are required to have a Santa Cruz County dog license. Click here to go to licensing information.

Unreasonable animal noise
Animals that make unreasonable noise can be reported to the shelter. Unreasonable noise includes loud and raucous, and frequent, repetitive, or continuous sounds made by any animal. You will be required to keep a “noise log” in order to pursue criminal charges.

Animal-related disaster response
Our Animal Control Officers work seven days a week to ensure human and animal safety within our county. Please call us at (831) 454-7200 to speak with a staff member.