What does your dog have to do
for Animal Control to cite you for a violation?

S/he has to have been accused of having “attacked, bitten, and/or injured a human being or other animal.”  In some SoCal codes, your dog only has to be accused of “menacing.”  You can even get cited if someone complains your dog is excessively barking. Note that you only have to be accused (even if nothing actually happened, or someone just got scared and overreacted).

Are you and your dog innocent until proven guilty?

Technically, yes; but if you keep following these posts, you’ll see that, practically, it’s “guilty until proven innocent.”  For example, all the complaint forms list sections such as “date of attack,” etc.

How long does Animal Control have to cite you?

As long as they want. Once a complaint has been filed – even if it is frivolous – Animal Control might send you a hearing notice or visit your home at any time, even a year or more later.  The notice, though, must give you at least 10 days to prepare for the hearing.  

What does Animal Control have to do to notify you
of a citation/hearing?

In LA county, they only have to send you a letter. It doesn’t have to be certified or anything. They don’t have to show proof it was sent to you. So if you think it’s junk mail or it never comes, you’re out of luck. Arguing that you never got it is pointless, unless someone at Animal Control wants to be helpful; but there’s no obligation to be.

What happens if you don’t show up to a hearing?

The case will be decided without your input, so you are likely to lose. What’s worse, you lose your right to appeal the decision. So, if the ruling says you have to give up your dog, or get expensive liability insurance, or keep a muzzle on your dog, your only recourse is a full-blown law suit.


You can be forced into a hearing just by someone complaining about your dog; hard evidence is not required.
Don’t think that if you haven’t heard from Animal Control in a few months, you’re off the hook. You may not be.
AC doesn’t have to prove they sent you a notice of a hearing.
If you don’t show up, you will lose.
They can impose whatever penalties they want, including euthanizing your dog.
You lose your right to appeal.
Your only recourse at that point is a law suit.

What outcomes can happen from a hearing?

You can be ordered to surrender your dog; remove your dog from the county; be restricted from owning a dog for up to three years; keep your dog but only if you abide by a set of “conditions and restrictions;” or have your case dismissed (not common).  You can face civil or criminal charges.

Who is the “plaintiff” bringing the case against you?

Animal Control is the party accusing you and bringing the case. The person who complained is now only a witness — the accuser, just like in a criminal trial.

Who can be the judge in your case?

The “judge” is a hearing officer, since this is not a court case but an administrative hearing. The hearing officer in LA is an Animal Control officer; so the “judge” is an employee of the party bringing the case against you – Animal Control.

Who can show up at your hearing?

Animal Control can summon/subpoena anyone. And the complainant can bring witnesses and an attorney if s/he wants. You can bring anyone able to support your story and the credibility of you or your dog.

What can you do at the hearing?

You have the right to present evidence, call witnesses, cross-examine opposing witnesses, and testify yourself.

 What should you do before going to a hearing?

You must request a copy of your entire file, because those records are what the hearing officer is going to use against you.  Be prepared to fight or prepare to be surprised!  (for LA city, for example, contact, ) Contact us for other locations.