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Worcester County, MD
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of County Commissioners of Worcester County 8-11-1992 as Bill No. 92-13. Amendments noted where applicable.]
[Amended 4-19-2005 by Bill No. 05-3]
Legislative findings. The Commissioners find that in past years an animal control law requiring that animals be under control of the owner while off of the real property of the owner has been sufficient in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of the County. Now that the County has become more densely populated and urban in certain areas, the Commissioners deem it necessary to require within certain areas of the County, that certain animals be leashed while off of the real property of the owner within such areas as the Commissioners designate from time to time based upon population trends and densities. It is not the intent that a leash law apply uniformly throughout the County, but only in those areas which are suburban or urban in nature and do not provide sufficient open space whereby control can be adequately achieved by means other than by leash. It is further not the intent that the provisions of any leash requirement apply to an animal while it is on the property of the owner or on property in commercial agricultural use regardless of the surrounding area.
Definitions. The following words, when used in this Subtitle, shall have the meanings respectively ascribed to them in this section, unless otherwise specifically defined in other parts of this Subtitle:
Any domesticated animal.
The person or persons employed by the county as its enforcement officer or officers.
Any premises so designated by the county for the purpose of impounding and caring for the animals as required by this Subtitle.
Any animal will be deemed to be "at large" when it is off the property of its owner and not under the control of a responsible person.
An animal of the Felis Catus species.
An animal of the Canis Familiaris species.
Shall mean taking an animal into the custody of the officer and shall commence upon the seizure of the animal.
Any lead, leash, cord, remote controlled electronic collar, or other restraint preventing an animal from moving more than fifteen feet from the person holding the leash or object to which the end of the leash not attached to the animal is attached.
Includes any person having the right of property in an animal or any person who keeps or harbors an animal or has it in his care or permits it to remain on or about any premises occupied or controlled by him for more than two weeks.
Secure cable, rope or trolley, invisible containment system, or other cord of sufficient strength to prevent escape.
[Added 10-23-2018 by Bill No. 18-4]
Any dog or cat running at large which does not have affixed to it by collar or otherwise a license tag or which is unlicensed or which is off the property of its owner and not in the company of and in the control of its master or owner.
A structure with secured sides, a roof and floor to protect the animal from the weather. There must be a floor, free from rot and standing water, and dry and clear of debris, fecal matter and infestation. The structure must be of a size appropriate to the size of the animal using it. The structure must have adequate ventilation to allow the animal to maintain a normal body temperature.
[Added 10-23-2018 by Bill No. 18-4]
Fastening an animal to a stationary object or stake as a means of restraining the animal.
[Added 10-23-2018 by Bill No. 18-4]
[Added 10-23-2018 by Bill No. 18-4]
A temperature of thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit or below in the immediate vicinity of an animal, in addition to other cold weather or precipitation related environmental conditions, including, but not limited to, wind, rain, snow, ice, sleet or hail that a person should reasonably conclude would pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of an animal based on the animal's size, age, physical condition or thickness of the animal's hair or fur, or
A temperature of eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit or above in the immediate vicinity of an animal, in addition to other environmental conditions, such as direct sunlight, or hot pavement, or any other hot surface, that a person should reasonably conclude would pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of an animal, based on the animal's size, age, physical condition or thickness of the animal's hair or fur; or
The National Weather Service issues a severe weather alert, and the forecasted weather is such that a person should reasonably conclude that the weather would pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of an animal based on the animal's size, age, physical condition or thickness of the animal's hair or fur.
Any dog that has vicious tendencies by virtue of its demonstrated behavior or meets the definition of a "dangerous dog" under state law.
Administration. The County Commissioners are hereby authorized and directed to administer this Subtitle, and such powers as may be granted them may be delegated to an Animal Control Warden or Deputy Wardens, as the case may be, who shall have all the powers of a peace officer, or may be delegated by contract. Animal Control Wardens are hereby authorized to enforce all state laws regarding cruelty to animals and are charged with the protection of animals under applicable state laws. The County Sheriff is hereby charged with the responsibility of cooperating fully and assisting the Wardens in enforcement of such laws. Enforcement and implementation of this Subtitle may be delegated to the County Sheriff.
Applicability. The provisions of this Subtitle shall apply throughout the County but shall not apply within the corporate limits of the Town of Ocean City, it being the intention of this subsection that the prior adoption of Ordinance No. 13 by the municipalities of Berlin, Snow Hill and Pocomoke shall hereby be deemed to hold over as an adoption hereof; provided, however, that any municipality in which this Subtitle is applicable may exempt itself from the provisions hereof by appropriate corporate act of such municipality. It is the further intent of the County Commissioners that the provisions hereof be imposed upon the municipalities of Berlin, Snow Hill and Pocomoke unless such municipalities so exempt themselves. The provisions of this Subtitle shall not apply to any bona fide farm animal in the nature of livestock kept for bona fide agricultural or recreational use including without limitation, cattle, buffalo, hogs, fowl, emus, and horses. The provisions of Subsections (s), (t) and (u) of § PS 2-101 hereof shall not apply to hunting dogs, herding dogs, or raptors while hunting or training.
Impounding and disposition. The Animal Control Warden or such other officer as the County Commissioners may designate shall, whenever possible, seize and impound any stray or unwanted dog or cat found at large or without a license, any diseased or vicious dog or cat and any female dog or cat in heat found at large; provided, however, that where such custodian or other impounding officer is unable, after reasonable effort, to seize and impound vicious, wild or rabid dogs or cats, he may destroy any such vicious, wild and rabid dogs or cats in as humane a manner as possible. The Animal Control Warden may also immediately destroy, without impoundment, any wild animal which is believed to be rabid. No dog or cat may be released from the animal pound until it has been vaccinated for rabies and licensed. The owner of the animal shall be responsible for the cost of the vaccination. The Animal Control Warden may also destroy, for a fee as set by the County Commissioners, any dog or cat at the request of the owner.
Disposition of animals not adopted. Any dog or cat which is impounded under the provisions of this Subtitle and has not otherwise been disposed of within fifteen days after being impounded subject to the provisions hereof may be disposed of in any legal humane way by the Animal Control Warden, including being destroyed in any humane way by the Animal Control Warden. No dog or cat which is licensed hereunder and identifiable as such, except in cases of emergency and in cases of blatantly vicious animals, shall be destroyed until the Animal Control Warden has made at least two attempts, one of which shall be written, to contact the owner to advise the owner of the impoundment of the animal.
Impoundment standards. The county shall, by resolution, establish standards for the impoundment of animals, procedures for the adoption of animals from the animal pound, recordkeeping requirements and fees. The resolution shall also set forth times during which animals must be held before they may be destroyed or delivered to some private group interested in humane treatment of animals. Impounded animals shall be treated in a humane manner, fed and watered in reasonable amounts and given such medical treatment as may be reasonably necessary to alleviate suffering.
Animals with vicious tendencies or rabies. No animal which the Animal Control Warden impounded which he has reason to believe has vicious tendencies, rabies or any incurable disease shall be sold, released or permitted to be redeemed unless or until the Warden is satisfied that it is safe to release such animal. Animals which the Animal Control Warden has reason to believe may have rabies shall be held in quarantine in a place to be determined by the County Health Officer for such period as may be necessary to determine whether the animal is rabid.
Animals not to run at large; impoundment. It shall be unlawful for any person to permit a dog, cat or other animal owned or harbored by him to run at large. Any such animal running at large may be apprehended by the Animal Control Warden or other designated officer and may be impounded in the animal pound. Any animal so impounded shall be held at the animal pound not less than ten days unless sooner redeemed by the owner. The owner of such animal may redeem it from the animal pound after its seizure upon the payment of a redemption fee and fine as established by resolution of the County Commissioners, subject, however, to the consent of the Warden as provided in Subsection (h) above. Any animal presenting symptoms of infectious or communicable disease constituting a health threat to other animals in the pound may be euthanized prior to the expiration of the holding period.
Injured or diseased dogs or cats generally. The County Commissioners are hereby authorized and directed to enter into agreements with veterinarians or animal hospitals in the county for the care of injured or diseased dogs or cats, the owners of which are unknown, which are collected by the Animal Control Warden or by the Sheriff's Department or which are brought to the animal pound by private citizens. If such animals are not in such critical condition as to warrant their destruction immediately, the veterinarian or animal hospital to which they are taken shall care for them until their condition warrants their return to the animal pound for disposition in accordance with the procedure prescribed above.
Poisoning. It shall be unlawful for any person to administer poison to any animal or to knowingly place or leave any poisonous substance of any kind or ground glass in any place with intent to injure or kill any animal, provided that nothing contained in this Subtitle shall prohibit an owner from mercifully putting to death his own animal or from delivering it to the animal pound for disposition.
Abandonment. It is unlawful for any person to leave, with intent to abandon, any animal on a street, road, highway or in a public place or on private property in the county.
Injuring or killing prohibited. Except for agricultural or scientific purposes, no person shall willfully injure, beat, abuse or run down any animal with a vehicle. No person shall willfully kill any animal not owned by him except as may be expressly permitted by law. Any person who kills or injures an animal while driving a vehicle shall stop at the scene of the accident and render such assistance as is practicable and shall make a reasonable effort to locate and identify himself to the owner or any person having custody of the animal.
Confinement of animals which have bitten human beings. Any person who knows or has reason to believe that a warm-blooded animal owned by him or in his custody has bitten any person shall report such fact to the County Health Officer, the Animal Control Warden or the Sheriff's Office immediately and shall confine his animal at his own expense for a period of ten days in a manner directed by the County Health Officer; provided, however, that the County Health Officer, if he has reason to believe that the animal is rabid, may order such animal confined at the animal pound for such additional period as he may deem necessary to determine whether the animal is in fact rabid.
Report of doctor. Any doctor who examines or treats a patient for a warm-blooded animal bite injury shall report to the County Health Officer and the Sheriff's Office the following: name of patient, address of patient, doctor's name and date of treatment.
Unlawful concealment. It shall be unlawful for any person to conceal any dog or cat or falsely to deny ownership of any dog or cat owned or harbored by him from any official properly authorized by the County Commissioners to enumerate such animals or to enforce the provisions of this Subtitle.
Disposition of dead animals. It shall be unlawful for the owner or guardian of any animal to deposit or leave such animal, upon its death, on public property or on the property of another person without permission from such person. All such dead animals shall be promptly disposed of by cremation, burial or other sanitary means. The Animal Control Warden, where requested, shall pick up dead dogs, cats and other small domestic pet-type animals for disposal for a fee to be established pursuant to resolution of the County Commissioners.
Interference with enforcement. No person shall interfere or attempt to interfere with the Animal Control Wardens of the County or Health Department officials in the performance of their duties, nor shall any person release or attempt to release without authority any animal impounded pursuant to this Subtitle.
Dogs required to be on leash. In any area described as a leash area in Subsection (t) hereof, it shall be unlawful for any person, or guest of such person, to knowingly, unknowingly, inadvertently, or intentionally permit a dog owned or harbored by him to walk, crawl, or run in any location other than the property of such person unless such dog is attached to a leash.
Leash areas. Leash areas may be designated by law or resolution. The following are leash areas:
Ocean Pines Area. All that property located in the Third Tax District of Worcester County, Maryland bound on the northwest by Beauchamp Road, the north and northeast by the St. Martin's River, on the southeast by the southeasterly line of the Ocean Pines Subdivision and on the southwest by MD Route 589.
County-owned property. Any property owned by the County Commissioners of Worcester County, Maryland and whereon the Commissioners have posted a sign indicating that the property is a leash area and which has designated it a leash area by resolution.
Clean up. In any leash area, the person in control of a dog on a leash shall remove all excrement deposited by the dog on property other than property of the owner or property of the person in control of the dog and dispose of such excrement in a legal and proper way.
Tethering. If an animal is tethered by a restraint, excepting periods of time that are brief and incidental, the restraint shall be not less than fifteen feet in length and positioned to prevent tangling, hanging or drowning. Chain shall not be used as a restraint. Neither chains, ropes, nor choke collars shall be accepted as collars for a tethered animal. There must be at least a one-inch space between the animal's neck and the collar.
[Added 10-23-2018 by Bill No. 18-4]
Suitable shelter. An animal shall have suitable shelter if left outdoors and unattended. An animal shall be brought inside a home or building within thirty minutes of the onset of and during unsafe weather conditions, unless the animal has continuous suitable shelter. The owner of an animal that is not kept within a home or building shall provide the animal with suitable shelter to protect it from wind, snow, rain, cold, sunlight and unsafe weather conditions. The shelter shall have a floor, a roof, and four walls, one of which shall contain a doorway. The space available to the animal in the shelter shall be maintained in a safe and healthful manner, free of standing water, waste, debris, fecal matter, protection from flooding, provided with adequate ventilation to allow the animal to remain dry and maintain a normal body temperature and exposure to natural or artificial light. The floor shall not be wire or chain link. No interior surfaces shall be metal. The shelter shall meet the minimum size requirements as listed below:
[Added 10-23-2018 by Bill No. 18-4]
Shelter Size
Weight of Dog
Number of Dogs
25 Pounds or Under
25 to 50 Pounds
Over 50 Pounds
3 x 7 (21 square feet)
6 x 10 (60 square feet)
8 x 10 (80 square feet)
4 x 8 (32 square feet)
8 x 10 (80 square feet)
10 x 10 (100 square feet)
5 x 9 (45 square feet)
8 x 12 (96 square feet)
10 x 14 (140 square feet)
8 x 10 (80 square feet)
10 x 12 (120 square feet)
12 x 16 (192 square feet)
Shade. If an animal is left outdoors and unattended and the forecasted weather is eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit or higher, the animal shall be provided shade, either natural or man-made, at all times. Under no circumstances shall an animal shelter be considered shade.
[Added 10-23-2018 by Bill No. 18-4]
License required. No person shall own or have custody of any dog or cat over four months of age unless such dog or cat is licensed as herein provided. This provision shall not apply to dogs or cats in the county for thirty days or less which are owned by a nonresident, provided that such dogs or cats are fully licensed in their home city, county or state.
Vaccination. Before any license shall be issued, the owner must produce satisfactory evidence that the dog or cat has been vaccinated against rabies and that the vaccination is still effective as of the date of licensing.
Application for licenses shall be made to the Animal Control Warden on forms prescribed by him, accompanied by a license fee as established pursuant to resolution of the County Commissioners.
"Seeing Eye" dogs trained to assist the blind and dogs trained and regularly employed in law enforcement work by a recognized law enforcement agency shall be provided licenses without charge but must comply with vaccination provisions.
The authority to issue dog or cat licenses may be delegated to any licensed veterinarian treating dogs or cats that are eligible and are required to be licensed.
License period. All licenses shall be valid for the period for which the rabies vaccination is valid.
License applications. License applications may be made at any time. The cost of the license shall be as established pursuant to resolution of the County Commissioners.
License tags.
License tags shall bear the name of the county, the number of the corresponding certificate and the year in which it is to expire.
License tags and certificates are not transferable from one animal to another.
In the case of loss of a license tag, the owner may procure another tag for use during the balance of the license term by surrendering the old certificate and payment of the prescribed fee as established pursuant to resolution of the County Commissioners.
License system. Every licensed dog or cat and the owner thereof shall be maintained on a roster by the Animal Control Warden. Within sixty days of the pending expiration date, the Animal Control Warden shall send a notice to every dog or cat owner indicating that a new vaccination and license must be obtained. The notice shall contain such information as may be deemed necessary and appropriate by the County Commissioners. In the event that a dog or cat has died during the license year, notification of the death of the dog or cat shall be sent to the Animal Control Warden by the owner at such time as the owner receives the notice of renewal.
Kennel licenses.
Any person who maintains for commercial breeding, treatment, boarding, sale or training a pack or collection of more than five dogs on his premises shall obtain a kennel license. Dogs kept as a part of a kennel must meet the rabies vaccination and license requirements of this Subtitle.
Such kennel licenses shall be obtained on or before July 1 of each year and shall expire on June 30 of the following year. The license fees for kennels shall be as established by resolution of the County Commissioners.
Every holder of a kennel license shall maintain a list of the names and addresses of the owners of each dog kept in such kennel and a record giving full data concerning sales or other disposition of dogs from such kennels or shops.
Every holder of a kennel license shall be deemed to have granted a right of entry to the Animal Control Warden to enter upon the premises of the licensee at all reasonable hours for the purposes of inspecting the same for violations of law.
Any licensed veterinarian doing business in Worcester County shall not be required to obtain a kennel license for animals held for treatment directly related to the veterinary care of said animals.
[Added 1-12-1993 by Bill No. 92-17]
License tags to be attached to dogs and cats; removal of tags.
Individual license tags shall be attached to the dog or cat for which issued and shall pass with the dog or cat. Upon the change of ownership of any dog or cat, every person purchasing or otherwise acquiring such dog or cat shall notify the Animal Control Warden, in writing, of such exchange in ownership in order that the license records of the county may be properly adjusted.
It shall be unlawful for the owner of any dog or cat to permit such animal to be off the property of the owner without having its individual license tag attached to a collar or harness worn by the animal.
It shall be unlawful for any person other than the owner of the dog or cat or his agent to remove any license tag from a dog or cat.
Applicability. The licensing provisions hereof shall not apply to dogs or cats actually confined to the premises of educational and research institutions or incorporated benevolent societies devoted to the care or hospital treatment of lost, strayed or homeless animals.
Disposition of license fees and other funds. All license fees collected by the Animal Control Warden and any and all other money received by him from fees, charges or sales, etc., shall be paid to the general fund of the county.
[Added 4-19-2005 by Bill No. 05-3[1]]
Availability. The Sheriff or Animal Control or Administrator of this Subtitle shall from time to time make appropriate domesticated, abandoned animals available for adoption.
Condition of animal. The animal made available for adoption shall be tame, domesticated, in good health, manageable and friendly to human beings, and shall have been observed in the animal pound for not less than ten days.
Conditions of adoption. Persons wishing to adopt such animals shall agree to have the animal vaccinated against rabies within seventy-two hours of adoption and demonstrate that they have reasonable knowledge of the animal and animals of its type, and can provide a proper home and care for the animal and shall pay such adoption fee and make such reimbursements to the County as from time to time prescribed by the County Commissioners by resolution.
Prohibited adoptions. Any animal that displays vicious character tendencies towards humans, is not manageable or tame, is in poor health, or has been the subject of a reported attack on a human being or other animal shall not be made available for adoption.
Hold harmless. Any person adopting an animal pursuant to this section shall indemnify and hold harmless the County Commissioners, the Sheriff, the Animal Control Warden, and their agents and employees from any claims or damage whatsoever alleged on the account of any adoption hereunder.
Procedures and guidelines. Additional procedures and guidelines for animal adoptions may be promulgated by resolution by the County Commissioners or general order of the Sheriff in the event the law is administered by the Sheriff's Office.
Editor's Note: This bill also provided for the renumbering of former § PS 2-103 as § PS 2-105.
[Added 4-19-2005 by Bill No. 05-3]
Subject to state and federal preemption, the Animal Control Warden or Sheriff as designated pursuant to § PS 2-101 of this Subtitle to administer this Subtitle shall have the responsibility to seize, destroy, and control wild animals, other than deer, causing damage or danger to citizens of the County or sojourners herein. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources shall be consulted with respect to the handling of wild animals and shall be made aware of such efforts. No wild animal may be placed for adoption without the approval of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Any person who violates the provisions of this Subtitle shall be guilty of a civil infraction.