Ordinance - Chapter 6, Forsyth County Code

The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners enacted a comprehensive animal control ordinance on November 8, 1999. This innovative and progressive ordinance--praised by regional and national animal-care and control organizations--was designed to improve public safety, prevent animal bites, and provide greater protection for animals in Forsyth County. Residents of the county who own animals should be aware of the major components of the ordinance. Anyone who is experiencing an animal related problem or who would like more information about the ordinance should call the animal shelter at 703-3647.

To view the complete Animal Control Ordinance, go to Forsyth County Code and select Chapter 6 from the left panel.

Ordinance Highlights

Section 6-9. Animals Creating a Public Nuisance

The animal control director has the authority to instruct an animal owner to confine an animal if it has been damaging or soiling the property of others, turning over garbage, impeding the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists or motorists, or creating a nuisance in any other way.

Sec. 6-10. Registration of Dogs and Cats Required

  1. An owner of any dog or cat must obtain a registration for such animal within sixty (60) days after the dog or cat is acquired. New residents shall have sixty (60) days to register any dog or cat. Failure to register within the proper time period will result in a late fee, which shall be 50% of the annual license tax registration fee.

    In an effort to reduce the number of unwanted dogs and cats in Forsyth County and as an incentive to owners of dogs and cats to have their animals sterilized, registration of all nonexempt dogs and cats shall require payment of an annual license tax registration fee, which shall be assessed based upon whether or not the animal is fertile.

    Therefore, there is hereby imposed an annual license tax registration fee (hereinafter referred to as “registration fee”) on the privilege of keeping all nonexempt dogs and cats within Forsyth County as outlined below. There is hereby imposed an additional annual registration fee in the amount of one hundred dollars ($100.00) per dog on the privilege of keeping a dog within the county that has been declared to be a “dangerous dog” by the county health department or the county animal control department as outlined below.
    Annual License Tax Registration Fees
      Dogs Cats Duplicate Tag Late Fee
    Unfertile (Sterilized) $5.00 $5.00 $5.00 $2.50
    Fertile (Unsterilized) $25.00 $25.00 $5.00 $12.50
    Dangerous Dogs $100.00 N/A $5.00 $50.00
  2. The Animal Control Department shall maintain records of the dog and cat registration numbers and the person to whom the registration tag is issued.
  3. It shall be unlawful for any person to use for any dog or cat a registration tag issued for a dog or cat other than the animal for which the registration tag was issued.
  4. It shall be unlawful for any owner of any dog or cat to fail to provide any dog or cat with a current registration tag as provided in this section. Such failure shall constitute a violation of this section and a Class 3 misdemeanor as provided by G.S.14-4. No registration or permit will be issued unless written proof of current rabies vaccination is shown at the time of application for registration.
  5. It shall be unlawful for any owner of a dog to fail to provide said animal with a collar or harness to which a current registration tag issued under this section is securely attached. The collar or harness, with attached registration tag, must be worn by the animal at all times, except while the animal is participating in bona fide animal shows, obedience trials, tracking tests, field trials, training events or training schools, or other events sanctioned and supervised by a recognized organization, or except while the animal is involved in lawful hunting activities, provided that the animal’s owner or keeper has the tag in his or her actual possession at these times.
  6. It shall not be required for any owner of a cat to provide said animal with a collar or harness to which the registration tag issued under this section is attached, however, it shall be unlawful for any owner of a cat to fail to have in his or her actual possession a current registration tag for said animal.

Sec. 6-10.1 Application for Registration and Renewal

  1. Initial application for registration may be made at the Department of Animal Control or designated facility, or by mail and shall include the name and address of applicant, description of animal, proof of rabies vaccination, proof of sterilization, if appropriate, and proof of animal’s registration in exempting events (for show animals) or a valid hunting license (for hunting dogs), if applicable, and the appropriate fee. Upon receipt of the application for registration and all required supporting documentation, the Department of Animal Control will issue a durable tag stamped with a registration number.
  2. Registrations issued under this section shall be valid for a term of one year, commencing with the date of issuance. The dog or cat owner must renew the registration annually by submitting a renewal application and paying the appropriate registration fee. Upon receipt of all required documentation and payment of the appropriate fee, if applicable, the Department of Animal Control will issue a new registration to indicate the new period of valid registration. Renewal fees received thirty or more days after expiration will be subject to a late fee, which shall be 50% of the registration fee.
  3. If a registration tag is lost or stolen, a duplicate tag may be obtained by completing an application for duplicate tag and paying the appropriate fee. A duplicate tag cannot be issued until 15 days after the application and fee are received by the Department of Animal Control. Application forms for duplicate tags are available from the Department of Animal Control or other designated facility.

Sec. 6-10.2 Registration Payment Exemptions

  1. Owners of the following dogs and cats must complete an application for registration, but are exempt from paying the annual registration fee:
    1. Handicap assistance dog, provided the dog is sterilized.
    2. An animal, which is a working member of a law enforcement or public safety agency, regardless whether the animal is fertile or unfertile.
    3. Any animal in the care and custody of a not-for-profit 501(c)3 animal welfare organization that requires sterilization before adoption.
  2. An owner of a fertile dog or fertile cat which participates in at least three (3) nationally recognized confirmation shows or professionally organized events during the previous twelve month period shall be exempt from paying the twenty-five ($25.00) dollars registration fee for the show animal. The registration fee for such an exempt owner shall be five ($5.00) dollars for each such dog or cat. In order to qualify for said exemption, each year the owner must furnish the County with proof of the animal’s registration in the exempting events.
  3. An owner of fertile hunting dogs shall be exempt from paying the twenty-five ($25.00) dollars registration fee for each hunting dog. The registration fee for such an exempt owner shall be five ($5.00) dollars for each such dog. In order to qualify for said exemption, each year the owner must furnish the County with a valid hunting license.
  4. An owner of a fertile dog or cat, who provides the county with a written statement from a licensed veterinarian which states that, due to the animal’s health, the animal cannot be sterilized, shall be exempt from paying the twenty-five ($25.00) dollars registration fee for that animal. The registration fee for such an animal shall be five ($5.00) dollars.
  5. An owner of a fertile dog or cat for which the twenty-five ($25.00) dollars registration fee has been paid and whose animal is subsequently sterilized within thirty (30) days of said payment, shall be entitled to a refund of twenty ($20.00) dollars of said registration fee paid for that animal that year, upon request made to the Animal Control Department and sufficient documentation provided.
  6. An owner of a puppy or kitten for which the twenty-five ($25.00) dollars registration fee has been paid and whose animal is subsequently sterilized by the age of six months, shall be entitled to a refund of twenty ($20.00) dollars of said registration fee paid for that animal that year, upon request made to the Animal Control Department and sufficient documentation provided.

Sec. 6-11. Deleted in its entirety.

Section 6-13. Running at Large Prohibited

Animal owners must keep their animals on their property or under restraint by a competent person at all times. Hunting dogs are excluded from these regulations as long as the dogs are hunting legally and not trespassing.

Leash Laws
The City of Winston-Salem and the incorporated towns within Forsyth County have enacted local leash laws that are enforced by the Department of Animal Control. These laws require that dogs must be leashed when visiting any public park.

Section 6-17. Animal Bites

Animal owners must not allow their animals to bite a human being. "Bite" includes oral contact that scratches or breaks the skin. Animals that bite may be impounded and preventive measures may be required of their owners (see below). Because un-neutered animals are most likely to bite, owners are encouraged to have their animals spayed or neutered. Spaying or neutering not only helps reduce the number of animal bites but also helps to reduce the number of unwanted animals that are brought to the animal shelter each year.

The animal control department can require fence installation and repair and other confinement measures when these are deemed necessary in order to prevent animal bites. The department can impose these "preventive measures" after considering factors such as the animal's behavior, temperament and size, whether there are children in the area under the age of thirteen (13), and the safety of residents in the immediate area. The department also has the authority to require an animal's owner to obtain liability insurance for the benefit of any person who may be injured by the animal. Animal control can terminate ownership rights in severe cases, and owners do not have any recourse to a hearing or appeal. (The preventive measures program replaced the dangerous dog program formerly managed by the health department.)

Proper Shelter Defined
Animals kept outside must have a shelter that includes three sides, a roof and a floor (barns are excluded from this last requirement). Outside shelters must be structurally sound as well as wind and water resistant.

Section 6-25. Inoculation of Dogs, Cats and Other Pets

Dogs, cats and other pets must be vaccinated against rabies at three (3) months of age and must receive rabies booster shots as required. Dogs must wear a current rabies tag on a collar or harness. Failure to have both tags on a dog's collar could result in costly penalties. Cats are not required to wear a rabies tag but their owners must be able to provide written proof of vaccination.

Section 6-27. Report and confinement of animals biting a person

Every animal that has bitten a person shall be confined for ten (10) days at the direction of the animal control department and at the expense of the animal's owner. Failure to report an animal bite or the whereabouts of an animal that has bitten is unlawful.

Section 6-44. Impoundment

Any animal that appears lost, strayed or abandoned, that is found not wearing a valid tax tag and current rabies tag, or is found running at large, shall be impounded by the animal control department. Animals may also be brought to the shelter by a concerned citizen. Depending on the circumstances, the animal's owner may be subject to fines and penalties, which increase with each new offense.

Section 6-48. Redemption

The owner of an impounded animal may redeem the animal within five (5) days of impoundment by paying all fees and penalties due. Failure to reclaim an animal does not relieve the animal's owner from paying all applicable fees and penalties.

Every dog and cat reclaimed by its owner will be microchipped prior to its release. All animals adopted from Forsyth County Animal Control are also microchipped before going to their new homes. A microchip is a tiny, passive electronic device implanted under an animal's skin that serves a permanent identification marker. If a microchipped animal is brought to the shelter, identifying that animal is easier than identifying one that has not been microchipped.

Section 6-53. Guard and aggression-trained dogs

The person or business engaged in aggression training of dogs must register the dog with the department of animal control. Guard or aggression-trained dogs must wear a guard-dog tag.

Section 6-54. Possession of inherently dangerous exotic animals and wild animals prohibited

No person or business may possess, harbor or have an inherently dangerous exotic animal or wild animal. Exemptions to this rule include lawfully operated pet shops, zoos, veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators with proper permits and scientific research facilities.

Penalties for Violations of the Animal Control Ordinance
Offense Penalty
First Offense $50 and microchip
Second Offense $75 and microchip
Third Offense $150 and microchip and animal must be spayed or neutered and a secure enclosure must be provided for the animal
Fourth Offense $200 and microchip and animal must be spayed or neutered and a secure enclosure must be provided for the animal
Fifth/Successive $500 and seizure
Failure to comply with a written order $100
Violations accumulate per owner, not per animal.

Criminal Penalties. Persons violating this ordinance shall be guilty of a class three (3) misdemeanor and shall be fined not more than $500.

Civil Penalties. Persons who violate this chapter shall be subject to a civil penalty for each violation in the amount established by the board of county commissioners.

Citations. The animal control department is authorized to issue written citations to violators of this chapter. The penalty must be paid within 72 hours. No impounded animal may be redeemed until all penalties are paid in full.

The material presented on this page is intended as a summary of the animal control ordinance and is provided for educational purposes only. Anyone with a specific legal question should consult the full text of the ordinance.