The Complaint Process

Our Animal Control Officers are available 7 days per week to respond to calls and file complaints. All complaints are prioritized depending on the nature of the call.

HERE IS INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROCESS BY WHICH SOME COMPLAINTS ARE HANDLED:

Failure to leash a pet

1. Communicate with the pet owner
Often, neighborly discussions can be very helpful. Let the pet owners know that the animal was loose. Sometimes pet owners are not aware of the problem or the impacts on other residents. Try to work out a mutually agreeable and reasonable solution in a neighborly manner.
2. Submit a complaint
Call the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter at (831) 454-7303 or file a complaint online. With a first complaint, a letter will be sent to the pet owner notifying them that a leash law violation complaint has been filed and that they must take appropriate steps to prevent a second incident.
3. If the violation continues
If the violation occurs again, please call the Shelter and speak to a representative. You can file a citizen arrest citation against the owner, but you must fill out a witness statement that can be downloaded from our website. You will also need to come into the shelter and sign a declaration. No further enforcement action will be taken without a completed witness statement and declaration. It is important that you document the nature and the extent of the problem in the witness statement. Be thorough and honest in your documentation as you are signing this document under penalty of perjury.

If there is a six month period between complaints regarding leash law issues, the process will return to step two and start over again. 

Unreasonable animal noise
Residents living within Santa Cruz County should expect to live with some level of noise. Traffic, lawn mowers, construction, barking dogs or other animal noises are just a few examples. As a resident of any community we endure most of these noises. However, pet noises that are unreasonable can be reported. First you should:

1. Communicate with the pet owner
Often, neighborly discussions can be very helpful. Let the pet owners know that you are disturbed by the noise. Sometimes pet owners are not aware of the problem or the impacts on other residents. Try to work out a mutually agreeable and reasonable solution in a neighborly manner.

Strategies that may help include manners training, changing the animals' routines, maintaining the animals inside, creating visual barriers from passers-by or providing the animals with more exercise. Allow a reasonable amount of time for a remedy by the pet owner.

2.  If that fails, file a complaint and we will send a notice to the animal’s owner. The owner has 30 days to abate the nuisance. If the 30 days has passed, and there is still a problem, we will send a second notice to the animal owner that gives them an additional 15 days to abate the nuisance. If after the end of the 15 day period the noise is still a problem, you and other households that have kept similar logs can cite the animal owner. County guidelines for public nuisance complaints state that there must be a minimum of two complaints from separate households.

3. If you wish to pursue a citation, called a 3rd party citation or "citizen’s arrest" it must be signed by you in the presence of a Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter official. By filing a 3rd party citation, you agree to testify in court regarding the incident. The dog owners will also be required to appear in court and fines may be involved.

4. If you do not wish to pursue a citation, and you are uncomfortable approaching the dog owner regarding the issue, you can contact the Conflict Resolution Center of Santa Cruz County and ask for their assistance. They can be reached at (831) 475-6117.

If there is a six month period between complaints regarding noise issues, the process will return to step two and start over again.  

Property damage caused by pets
If you are experiencing property damage caused by a neighbor’s pets, first you should:

1. Communicate with the pet owner about the damage
Often, neighborly discussions can be very helpful. Let the pet owners know that you are experiencing property damage. Sometimes pet owners are not aware of the problem or the impacts on other residents. Try to work out a mutually agreeable and reasonable solution in a neighborly manner.
2. Submit a complaint
Call the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter at (831) 454-7303 or file a complaint online. Please provide as much information as possible including where the animal resides.  An officer will investigate.
3. Preventing future property damage
If you are experiencing property damage by outdoor cats, review the information here to help prevent future damage.