April 1, 2022

All About Pets

From licensing and vaccination requirements to pet-friendly outdoor spaces, here's what you need to know about owning pets in Virginia Beach.

Dogs and cats

Americans love their pets. Owners spent $103.6 billion in 2020 on supplies, food and treats, vet care and other services for their animals, according to the American Pet Products Association. If you’ve just moved to Virginia Beach, there’s a good chance you brought a pet with you. Whether you have a pet now or plan to get one, it’s important to know the city's rules and regulations regarding pet ownership.

Animal Control Unit

Most pet and animal services are provided by the Police Department's Animal Control Unit, which is comprised of two branches: enforcement and sheltering.

Enforcement is responsible for ensuring that Virginia Beach residents are adhering to the laws, regulations, codes and procedures pertaining to the care of domesticated animals. That includes, but is not limited to, investigating calls of animal cruelty.

Care for unwanted, stray, abused and abandoned pets is provided through the Animal Care & Adoption Center on South Birdneck Road, the city’s animal shelter.

Animal Control also handles lost or injured animals, protects the public from animal-related communicable diseases such as rabies, and promotes responsible pet ownership.

Pet Owner Responsibilities

Having a pet is a big responsibility. It’s important to provide them food, water, shelter, and medical care when necessary. But there are other things to bear in mind as well, such as vaccination and licensing requirements and leash laws.

In Virginia Beach, dogs and cats over 4 months old must have up-to-date rabies vaccines – that’s the law. The only exception is if the inoculation threatens the physical well-being of the pet, in which case you must have a certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian. Rabies is a deadly viral disease that infects the central nervous system of animals as well as people, so the best way to protect your pet, yourself and others is to have it inoculated.

Animal Care & Adoption Center hosts quarterly rabies and microchip clinics; call (757) 385-4444 for upcoming dates.

City law also requires that dogs and cats 4 months or older be licensed. Pet licensing is coordinated through the City Treasurer's Office. One-, two- and three-year licenses are available.

PetData Inc. operates the animal licensing program for the Virginia Beach Treasurer's Office. Licenses can be obtained online, at any one of four treasurer locations, and at participating veterinary offices or private agents citywide. For additional information, call PetData at (866) 923-1796 or email VBAnimalTag@petdata.com.

Service dogs are eligible for a license at no charge, but a signed animal license exemption affidavit is required. Contact the City Treasure’s Office for more information, (757) 385-4445.

Leash laws may vary from city to city, but in Virginia Beach it’s important to keep your dog leashed while walking in a city park or on any city sidewalk or street or public right-of-way. Violation of Virginia Beach’s leash law is a class 4 misdemeanor. Leashed dogs must also be wearing their city pet license.​ Tethering is permitted in Virginia Beach, but it’s illegal to tether a dog for more than an hour cumulatively in a 24-hour period and owners must ensure it’s done safely and in the best interest of the animal. (See City Code Sec. 5-501 for more information on tethering.)

Sadly, pets do occasionally get lost, whether they wander away from home or break free from the leash or backyard. City pet licenses and microchipping can help reunite lost pets with their owners. If your pet goes missing, it’s important to start searching for it immediately and spread the word through social media posts on Nextdoor or Facebook and/or fliers. Wandering cats can sometimes be lured back home by putting strong smelling food, a litter box and bedding containing the cat’s scent outdoors.

If your pet goes missing, call the Animal Care & Adoption Center at (757) 385-4444 and select Option #2. In most cases, verbal descriptions are unreliable, so be sure to visit the shelter in person to look for your pet. And if you see a pet roaming without its owner, you could help it get back home by calling Animal Control to report the sighting. But if you contain a lost pet you find, by law you must file a report.

Note: In most cases, animals like chickens, horses, cows, goats, sheep, swine and potbellied pigs or other livestock are only permitted in areas designated for agricultural use, not in residential areas. To find out if your residence is zoned for agricultural animals/livestock, call Zoning Administration at (757) 385-8074.

Fun with Fido

There are plenty of places in Virginia Beach where you and your best furry friend can have a good time for free. The city has five dog parks that are open from sunrise to sunset where dogs can run and play off leash.

  • Bayville Farms Park, 4132 First Court Road – Separate fenced areas for small and large dogs
  • Red Wing Park, 1398 General Booth Blvd. – 1-acre fenced area for both small and large dogs to play together
  • Salem Woods Park, 1525 Salem Road – 1.72-acre dog park divided into two sections to accommodate both small and large dogs on both sides to play together
  • Woodstock Park, 5709 Providence Road – 1-acre fenced area for both small and large dogs to play together
  • Marshview Park, 120 Marshview Drive – Four separate fenced areas that include trees for cover

It’s important that pet owners observe dog park guidelines for everyone’s safety. Owners are required to adhere to Virginia Beach’s leash law outside the dog park and once inside, always maintain control of the animal as well as properly dispose of pet waste. Users must also have a current Virginia Beach dog license and current rabies vaccination. Review the list of do’s and don’ts before visiting one of the city’s dog parks.

Note: Puppies younger than 4 months should never be taken to a dog park.

The beach is also a great place to take your dog, but there are rules in place to ensure everyone can enjoy fun in the sun. Dogs are welcome on public beaches and the Boardwalk at the Oceanfront any time from fall to spring (after Labor Day and before Memorial Day weekend). They must be leashed on the Boardwalk but can be off leash on the beach so long as they are firmly under their caretaker’s control so as not to disturb other people or dogs.

During the summer, however, from the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend, dogs are not allowed on the beach in the Resort Area (between 1st and 42nd streets). They are allowed on the Boardwalk from 6 to 10 a.m. only, and they must be on a leash. Owners are also responsible for picking up their pet’s waste. Dogs are permitted on the beach north of 42nd Street and in Sandbridge before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. only.

A violation of the beach section is a class 4 misdemeanor except for not picking up feces, which is a class 1 misdemeanor.

Calls for service

Animal Control officers are on routine patrol from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. There is also an officer on stand-by duty after 11 p.m. to respond to emergency calls for service only. When calls are received, a Communications Officer dispatches an Animal Control Officer to investigate complaints. If the officer sees a violation when he/she arrives, appropriate action will be taken.

Calls for service run the gamut from cats, dogs or livestock running at large; to cruelty complaints, including dogs left unattended in vehicles in the heat. Officers will also respond to calls regarding animal bites, barking dogs and dead domestic and wildlife pickup.

Per City Code, owners can be cited for barking as well as nuisance dogs. It’s a class 4 misdemeanor to let your dog ride in a vehicle in such a way that it can easily jump out of or be thrown from: for example, the back of an open pickup truck or convertible with the top down. Pet owners can also be cited for animal cruelty.

To have an Animal Control Officer respond to a call for service, contact dispatch at (757) 385-4444 and select Option #1. Follow Animal Control on Facebook @VBAnimalControl.

A note regarding wildlife: Animal Control will pick up injured or sick animals for the safety of Virginia Beach residents. It will also service traps containing sick or injured wildlife. But it will only respond to a residence a total of six times to service a trap containing healthy wildlife. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is the best source of information for issues related to wildlife. The Wildlife Conflict Resolution Hotline has tips on how to prevent or resolve conflicts with wildlife and you can call (855) 571-9003 when problems arise.

Animal Shelter

The Virginia Beach Animal Care & Adoption Center provides a safe environment and humane care for the city’s unwanted, stray, abused and abandoned animals. It’s one of the first places to check if your pet goes missing and a great place to adopt a new best friend. Between 5,000 to 7,000 animals are impounded by Animal Control annually in Virginia Beach, and nearly 2,000 find new homes.

Animal Care & Adoption Center
341 S. Birdneck Road
(757) 385-4444

Hours: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. ​Monday, Wednesday, Friday
11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Tuesday (Reclaims Only)
noon - 7 p.m. Thursday
10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Saturday & Sunday
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day

Satellite Adoption Centers
Plaza Petsmart
3413 Virginia Beach Blvd.

The adoption center is open for visitation during normal store hours, but adoptions are conducted only from 6-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Volunteers are available to answer questions and assist with visits, and residents can also purchase city pet licenses.

Follow on social media @VBAdoptablepets (Twitter) and @VBAnimalCareandAdoptionCenter (Facebook).

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