Code of the District of Columbia

§ 8–1808. Prohibited conduct.

(a)(1) An owner or custodian shall not allow his or her animal to go at large.

(2) If a dog injures a person while at large, lack of knowledge of the dog's vicious propensity standing alone shall not absolve the owner from a finding of negligence.

(b) A person shall not knowingly and falsely deny ownership or custodianship of an animal.

(c)(1) An owner or custodian shall not leave his or her animal outdoors without human accompaniment or adequate shelter for more than 15 minutes during periods of extreme weather, unless the age, condition, and type of each animal allows the animal to withstand extreme weather.

(2) Paragraph (1) of this subsection shall not apply to cats.

(d) A person shall not remove the license of a dog without the permission of its owner.

(e) A dog shall not be permitted on any school ground or on any public recreation area, other than a dog park, unless the dog is on a leash, tether, or otherwise under adequate means of control of a person capable of physically restraining it.

(f)(1) A person shall not separate a puppy or a kitten from its mother until the puppy or kitten is at least 6 weeks of age.

(2) Paragraph (1) of this subsection shall not apply in cases where a mother poses a danger to its offspring.

(g) A person shall not give, sell, or offer for sale a puppy or kitten under 6 weeks of age, unless the puppy's or kitten's mother is given or sold to the same person as the puppy or kitten.

(h)(1) A person shall not change the natural color of a baby chicken, duckling, other fowl, or rabbit.

(2) A person shall not sell or offer for sale a baby chicken, duckling, other fowl, or rabbit that has had its natural color changed.

(i) A person shall not sell or offer for sale a rabbit under the age of 16 weeks or a chick or duck under the age of 8 weeks except for agricultural or scientific purposes.

(j)(1) Except as provided in this subsection, a person shall not import into the District, possess, display, offer for sale, trade, barter, exchange, or adoption, or give as a household pet, any living member of the animal kingdom, including those born or raised in captivity, except the following:

(A) Domestic dogs, excluding hybrids with wolves, coyotes, or jackals;

(B) Domestic cats, excluding hybrids with ocelots or margays;

(C) Domesticated rodents and rabbits;

(D) Captive-bred species of common cage birds;

(E) Non-venomous snakes, fish, and turtles, traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes;

(F) Ferrets; and

(G) Racing pigeons, when kept in compliance with permit requirements.

(2) A person may offer any of the species enumerated in paragraph (1) of this subsection to a public zoo, park, or museum for exhibition purposes.

(3) This section shall not apply to federally licensed animal exhibitors; provided, that the Mayor shall retain the authority to restrict the movement of any prohibited animal into the District and the conditions under which those movements are made.

(4) The Mayor may allow a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, licensed veterinarian, or licensed animal shelter to maintain an animal prohibited in this subsection for treatment or pending appropriate disposition.

(k)(1) A person shall not sponsor, promote, train an animal to participate in, contribute to the involvement of an animal in, or attend as a spectator, any activity or event in which any animal engages in unnatural behavior, is wrestled or fought, mentally or physically harassed, or displayed in such a way that the animal is struck, abused, or mentally or physically stressed or traumatized, or is induced, goaded, or encouraged to perform or react through the use of chemical, mechanical, electrical, or manual devices, in a manner that will cause, or is likely to cause, physical or other injury or suffering.

(2) The prohibitions set forth in paragraph (1) of this subsection shall apply to any event or activity at a public or private facility or property, and are applicable regardless of the purpose of the event or activity and whether a fee is charged to spectators of the event or activity.

(l)(1) An owner or custodian of a dog shall not direct, encourage, cause, allow, aid, or assist that dog to threaten, charge, bite, or attack a person or other animal, except that an owner or custodian may keep a properly trained dog on private property to defend the property and its occupants from intruders, and may order a dog to defend a person under attack.

(2) Paragraph (1) of this subsection shall not apply to dogs that work for the Metropolitan Police Department or any other law enforcement agency.

(m) A person shall not display, exhibit, or otherwise move animals in the District as part of a circus, carnival, or other special performance or event, without first obtaining a permit, issued by the Mayor, that governs the care and management of the animals.

(n) An owner or custodian shall not neglect to provide his or her animal with adequate care, adequate feed, adequate shelter, adequate space, and adequate water.

(o) A person shall not take actions that intentionally harm, or that the person should know are likely to cause harm to, an animal.

(p)(1) An owner or custodian shall not abandon an animal in his or her possession.

(2) An owner who transfers ownership of an animal or releases the animal to the Animal Care and Control Agency shall not be liable for abandonment.


(Oct. 18, 1979, D.C. Law 3-30, § 9, 26 DCR 765; Sept. 16, 1980, D.C. Law 3-97, § 2(d), (e), (g), 27 DCR 3523; Mar. 10, 1983, D.C. Law 4-199, § 4(b), 30 DCR 119; Mar. 17, 1993, D.C. Law 9-236, § 2(d), 40 DCR 614; June 8, 2001, D.C. Law 13-303, § 4, 47 DCR 7307; Dec. 10, 2005, D.C. Law 16-40, § 2(b), 52 DCR 9087; Dec. 5, 2008, D.C. Law 17-281, § 104(e), 55 DCR 9186; Oct. 8, 2016, D.C. Law 21-160, § 4022, 63 DCR 10775; Dec. 20, 2017, D.C. Law 22-37, § 2(i), 64 DCR 11682.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 6-1008.

1973 Ed., § 6-2408.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 7-1009 and § 8-1802.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 13-303 added subsec. (j).

D.C. Law 16-40, in subsec. (e), substituted “public recreation area, other than a dog park,” for “public recreation area”.

D.C. Law 17-281, in subsec. (h)(2), substituted “or museum for exhibition purposes” for “museum, or educational institution for educational, medical, scientific, or exhibition purposes”; and added subsec. (k).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary amendment of section, see § 2(a) of the Dangerous Dog Designation Emergency Amendment Act of 1996 (D.C. Act 11-351, August 12, 1996, 43 DCR 4553).

For temporary addition of (h)(6), see § 2 of the Classroom Animal for Educational Purposes Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Act 19-466, October 5, 2012, 59 DCR 11767).

For temporary addition of (h)(6), see § 2 of the Classroom Animal for Educational Purposes Clarification Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Act 19-624, January 18, 2013, 60 DCR 1344), applicable as of January 3, 2013.

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of the Classroom Animal for Educational Purposes Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2014 (D.C. Act 20-274, February 10, 2014, 61 DCR 1208).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see §§ 2, 3 of the Classroom Animal for Educational Purposes Clarification Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2014, (D.C. Act 20-326, May 14, 2014, 61 DCR 5198).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of the Classroom Animal for Educational Purposes Clarification Second Emergency Amendment Act of 2014 (D.C. Act 20-578, Jan. 13, 2015, 62 DCR 1256, 21 STAT 723).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of the Classroom Animal for Educational Purposes Clarification Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2015 (D.C. Act 21-28, Mar. 27, 2015, 62 DCR 4520, 21 DCSTAT 863).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of the Classroom Animal for Educational Purposes Emergency Amendment Act of 2015 (D.C. Act 21-226, Dec. 17, 2015, 62 DCR 16247).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(h) of Standard of Care for Animals Emergency Amendment Act of 2017 (D.C. Act 22-137, July 31, 2017, 64 DCR 7787).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 2(i) of Standard of Care for Animals Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2017 (D.C. Act 22-165, Oct. 23, 2017, 64 DCR 10792).

Temporary Legislation

Section 2 of D.C. Law 19-209 added (h)(6) to read as follows:

“(h)

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“(6) Paragraph (1) of this subsection shall not apply to educational institutions that possess animals for educational and instructional purposes and that otherwise comply with humane, sanitary, and safe treatment requirements, as set forth in section 502 of the Animal Protection Amendment Act of 2008, effective December 5, 2008 (D.C. Law 17-281; D.C. Official Code § 8-1851.02).”

Section 4(b) of D.C. Law 19-209 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of the Classroom Animal for Educational Purposes Clarification Temporary Amendment Act of 2014 (D.C. Law 20-104, May 20, 2014, 61 DCR 2572).

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of the Classroom Animal For Educational Purposes Clarification Second Temporary Amendment Act of 2015 (D.C. Law 20-255, Apr. 30, 2015, 62 DCR 2257).

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of the Animal for Educational Purposes Clarification Second Temporary Amendment Act of 2015 (D.C. Law 20-255, April 30, 2015, 62 DCR 2257).

For temporary (225 days) amendment of this section, see § 2 of the Classroom Animal for Educational Purposes Temporary Amendment Act of 2015 (D.C. Law 21-88, Mar. 9, 2016, 63 DCR 794).