Code of the District of Columbia

Chapter 19. Dangerous Dogs.


§ 8–1901. Definitions.

For the purposes of this chapter, the term:

(1)(A) “Dangerous dog” means any dog that without provocation:

(i) Causes a serious injury to a person or domestic animal; or

(ii) Engages in behavior described in paragraph (4)(A)(i) of this section subsequent to having been determined to be a potentially dangerous dog pursuant to § 8-1902.

(B) The term “dangerous dog” shall not include dogs used by law enforcement officials when the dog is being used for legitimate law enforcement purposes.

(2) “Impound” means taken into the custody of the Mayor.

(3) “Owner” means any person, firm, corporation, organization, or department possessing, harboring, keeping, having an interest in, or having control or custody of a dog.

(4)(A) “Potentially dangerous dog” means any dog that:

(i) Without provocation, chases or menaces a person or domestic animal in an aggressive manner, causing an injury to a person or domestic animal that is less severe than a serious injury;

(ii) In a menacing manner, approaches without provocation any person or domestic animal as if to attack, or has demonstrated a propensity to attack without provocation or otherwise to endanger the safety of human beings or domestic animals; or

(iii) Is running at-large and has been impounded by an animal control agency 3 or more times in the District within any 12-month period.

(B) The term “potentially dangerous dog” shall not include dogs used by law enforcement officials when the dog is being used for legitimate law enforcement purposes.

(5) “Proper enclosure” means secure confinement indoors or secure confinement outdoors in a locked structure designed and constructed to:

(A) Deter escape of the dog;

(B) Protect the dog from the elements; and

(C) Prevent contact with the dog from humans and other domestic animals.

(6) “Serious injury” means any physical injury that results in broken bones or lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.


(Oct. 18, 1988, D.C. Law 7-176, § 2, 35 DCR 4787; Dec. 5, 2008, D.C. Law 17-281, § 105(a), 55 DCR 9186.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 6-1021.1.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 8-1801.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 17-281 rewrote the section.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary amendment of section, see § 2(a) of the Pit Bull and Rottweiler Dangerous Dog Designation Emergency Amendment Act of 1996 (D.C. Act 11-257, April 16, 1996, 43 DCR 2156).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 3(a) of the Dangerous Dog Designation Emergency amendment Act of 1996 (D.C. Act 11-351, August 12, 1996, 43 DCR 4553).

Delegation of Authority

Delegation of authority under D.C. Law 7-176, the Dangerous Dog Amendment Act of 1988, see Mayor’s Order 90-83, June 4, 1990.

Delegation of authority under D.C. Law 7-176, the “Dangerous Dog Amendment Act of 1988”, see Mayor’s Order 2000-98, June 14, 2000 ( 47 DCR 5277).

pursuant to D.C. Law 7-176, the Dangerous Dog Amendment Act of 1988, see Mayor’s Order 2009-40, March 23, 2009 ( 56 DCR 6777).


§ 8–1902. Determination of a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog.

(a) The Mayor is authorized to conduct an investigation and make a determination as to whether a dog is a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog. In determining whether a dog is a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog, the Mayor shall consider all evidence obtained or presented to the Mayor relevant to the issue of whether the dog’s behavior was the result of provocation or otherwise justified under the circumstances.

(b)(1) A dog shall not be determined to be a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog if the dog injured:

(A) A person who, at the time of injury, was committing a willful trespass upon the premises lawfully occupied by the owner;

(B) A person who, at the time of injury, was provoking, tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog or has repeatedly, in the past, provoked, tormented, abused, or assaulted the dog;

(C) A person or domestic animal because, at the time of injury, the dog was responding to injury, or was protecting itself or its offspring; or

(D) A person or domestic animal because, at the time of injury, the dog was protecting or defending a human being within the immediate vicinity of the dog from an attack or assault.

(2) The burden of proof on establishing that the dog falls into one of the categories described in paragraph (1) of this subsection is on the owner.

(c) The Mayor shall provide notice of the determination to the owner by personal service, posting, or prepaid mail. The owner may contest the determination and request a hearing by filing a written appeal within 15 business days of the date the notice of determination is served, posted, or mailed. The Mayor shall provide reasonable notice of the hearing to the owner.

(d)(1) If the Mayor has probable cause to believe a dog is a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog and may pose a threat to public safety, the Mayor, after providing notice to the owner of the probable cause determination, may obtain a search warrant pursuant to Rule 204 of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Rules of Civil Procedure and impound the dog pending final disposition of the case.

(2) The owner shall be liable to the District for the costs and expenses of the impoundment of the dog unless the dog is determined to be neither a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog. If a dog is determined to be a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog, the owner, prior to reclaiming the dog in accordance with § 8-1903, shall reimburse the animal control agency its costs and expenses for the care of the dogs while in the animal control agency’s custody plus any reasonable veterinary fees incurred for the dog during the period of impoundment. An owner’s failure to pay the costs and expenses within 5 days of a final determination shall result in ownership of the dog reverting to the animal control agency.

(e)(1) The hearing shall be held not less than 5, and not more than 10 days, excluding holidays, Saturdays, and Sundays, after service of notice of the hearing upon the owner. The hearing shall be open to the public. The owner shall have the opportunity to present evidence as to why the dog should not be declared a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog, including evidence of provocation or justification pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, or not be determined to pose a threat to public safety if returned to its owner. The Mayor may decide all issues for or against the owner regardless of whether the owner appears at the hearing.

(f) Within 5 days after the hearing, the Mayor shall notify the owner in writing of the determination of the hearing officer.

(g)(1) Within 5 days of the issuance of an order by the hearing officer determining that the dog is a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog, the owner may bring a petition in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia seeking review of the determination.

(2) A court order vacating the determination shall not prevent the Mayor from later determining that the dog is a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog or poses a threat to public safety, based upon the dog’s subsequent behavior.


(Oct. 18, 1988, D.C. Law 7-176, § 3, 35 DCR 4787; Dec. 5, 2008, D.C. Law 17-281, § 105(b), 55 DCR 9186; Sept. 26, 2012, D.C. Law 19-171, § 66, 59 DCR 6190.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 6-1021.2.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 8-1901 and § 8-1903.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 17-281 rewrote the section.

The 2012 amendment by D.C. Law 19-171 substituted “subsection (b) of this section” for “§ 8-1902(b)” in (e)(1).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary amendment of section, see § 2(b) of the Pit Bull and Rottweiler Dangerous Dog Designation Emergency Amendment Act of 1996 (D.C. Act 11-257, April 16, 1996, 43 DCR 2156).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 3(b) 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 a § 6-1021.2a, see § 2(c) of the Pit Bull and Rottweiler Dangerous Dog Designation Emergency Amendment Act of 1996 (D.C. Act 11-257, April 16, 1996, 43 DCR 2156).

For temporary addition of a § 6-1021.2a, see § 3(c) of the Dangerous Dog Designation Emergency Amendment Act of 1996 (D.C. Act 11-351, August 12, 1996, 43 DCR 4553).


§ 8–1903. Consequences of a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog determination.

(a) If the Mayor determines that a dog is a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog, the owner shall comply with the requirements of §§ 8-1904 and 8-1905 and any other special security or care requirements the Mayor may establish.

(b) If a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog has been impounded and determined to pose a threat to public safety, the Mayor may only return the dog to its owner if the owner has:

(1) Met the registration requirements of § 8-1904;

(2) Agreed to comply with the requirements of § 8-1905, where necessary; and

(3) Met or agreed to comply with any additional security or care requirements established by the Mayor.

(c) The Mayor may humanely destroy a dog if:

(1) The dog has been determined to be a threat to public safety if it is returned to the owner;

(2) The owner fails to comply with the registration requirements of § 8-1904, the requirements of § 8-1905, or any special security or care requirements established by the Mayor;

(3) The owner fails to reimburse the animal control agency for the costs and expenses of the dog’s impoundment as required by § 8-1902(d)(2); or

(4) The owner forfeits the dog for humane destruction.


(Oct. 18, 1988, D.C. Law 7-176, § 4, 35 DCR 4787; Dec. 5, 2008, D.C. Law 17-281, § 105(c), 55 DCR 9186.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 6-1021.3.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 8-1902 and § 8-1905.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 17-281 rewrote the section which had read as follows: “If a determination is made that a dog is a dangerous dog under § 8-1902, the owner shall comply with the provisions of §§ 8-1904 and 8-1905 and any other special security or care requirements established by the Mayor, and in accordance with a time schedule established by the Mayor. A dangerous dog determined to constitute a significant threat to the public health and safety if returned to its owner may be humanely destroyed.”

Emergency Legislation

For temporary amendment of section, see § 2(d) of the Pit Bull and Rottweiler Dangerous Dog Designation Emergency Amendment Act of 1996 (D.C. Act 11-257, April 16, 1996, 43 DCR 2156).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 3(d) of the Dangerous Dog Designation Emergency Amendment Act of 1996 (D.C. Act 11-351, August 12, 1996, 43 DCR 4553).


§ 8–1904. Dangerous dog and potentially dangerous dog registration requirements.

(a) The Mayor shall issue a certificate of registration to the owner of a potentially dangerous dog if the owner establishes to the satisfaction of the Mayor that:

(1) The owner of the potentially dangerous dog is 18 years of age or older;

(2) A valid license has been issued for the potentially dangerous dog pursuant to District law;

(3) The potentially dangerous dog has current vaccinations;

(4) The owner has a proper enclosure, as determined by the Mayor, to confine the potentially dangerous dog;

(5) The owner has paid an annual fee in an amount to be determined by the Mayor, in addition to regular dog licensing fees, to register the potentially dangerous dog;

(6) The potentially dangerous dog has been spayed or neutered;

(7) The potentially dangerous dog has been implanted with a microchip containing owner identification information; and

(8) The owner has written permission of the property owner, if the dog owner is not the property owner, and from a homeowner’s association, if appropriate, to house the dog on the premises where the dog will be kept.

(b) The Mayor shall issue a certificate of registration to the owner of a dangerous dog if the owner, in addition to satisfying the requirements for registration of a potentially dangerous dog pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, establishes to the satisfaction of the Mayor that the owner of the dangerous dog has posted on the premises a clearly visible, printed warning sign, in type that is readable from not less than 50 feet, that there is a dangerous dog on the property, and that includes a conspicuous warning symbol that informs children of the presence of a dangerous dog.


(Oct. 18, 1988, D.C. Law 7-176, § 5, 35 DCR 4787; Dec. 5, 2008, D.C. Law 17-281, § 105(d), 55 DCR 9186.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 6-1021.4.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 8-1903, § 8-1905, and § 8-1906.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 17-281 rewrote the section.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary addition of a § 6-1021.4a, see § 2(e) of the Pit Bull and Rottweiler Dangerous Dog Designation Emergency Amendment Act of 1996 (D.C. Act 11-257, April 16, 1996, 43 DCR 2156).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 3(e) 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 a § 6-1024.4a 1981 Ed., see § 3(f) of the Dangerous Dog Designation Emergency Amendment Act of 1996 (D.C. Act 11-351, August 12, 1996, 43 DCR 4553).


§ 8–1905. Dangerous dog and potentially dangerous dog owner responsibilities.

It shall be unlawful to:

(1) Keep a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog without a valid certificate of registration issued under § 8-1904;

(2) Permit a potentially dangerous dog to be outside a proper enclosure unless the potentially dangerous dog is under the control of a responsible person and restrained by a chain or leash, not exceeding 4 feet in length;

(3) Fail to maintain a dangerous dog exclusively on the owner’s property except for medical treatment or examination. When removed from the owner’s property for medical treatment or examination, the dangerous dog shall be caged or under the control of a responsible person and muzzled and restrained with a chain or leash, not exceeding 4 feet in length. The muzzle shall be made in a manner that will not cause injury to the dangerous dog or interfere with its vision or respiration, but shall prevent it from biting any human being or animal;

(4) Fail to notify the Mayor within 24 hours if a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog is on the loose, is unconfined, has attacked another domestic animal, has attacked a human being, has died, has been sold, or has been given away. If the potentially dangerous or dangerous dog has been sold or given away, the owner shall also provide the Mayor with the name, address, and telephone number of the new owner of the potentially dangerous or dangerous dog;

(5) Fail to surrender a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog to the Mayor for safe confinement pending disposition of the case when there is a reason to believe that the potentially dangerous or dangerous dog poses a threat to public safety;

(6) Fail to comply with any special security or care requirements for a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog the Mayor may establish pursuant to § 8-1903; or

(7) Remove a dangerous dog from the District without written permission from the Mayor.


(Oct. 18, 1988, D.C. Law 7-176, § 6, 35 DCR 4787; Dec. 5, 2008, D.C. Law 17-281, § 105(e), 55 DCR 9186.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 6-1021.5.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 8-1903 and § 8-1906.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 17-281 rewrote the section.


§ 8–1906. Penalties.

(a) An owner of a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog who violates the provisions of § 8-1904 or § 8-1905 shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor and be subject to a fine not to exceed $500, imprisonment not to exceed 90 days, or both for a first offense, and a fine not to exceed $1,000, imprisonment not to exceed 90 days, or both for a second or subsequent offense. Prosecutions for violations of § 8-1904 or § 8-1905 pursuant to this subsection shall be brought in the name of the District of Columbia in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia.

(b) An owner of a potentially dangerous or dangerous dog that causes serious injury to or kills a human being or a domestic animal without provocation shall be fined up to $10,000.

(c) A violation of this chapter shall be a civil infraction for purposes of Chapter 18 of Title 2. Civil fines, penalties, and fees may be imposed as sanctions for any infraction of the provisions of this chapter, or the rules issued under authority of this chapter, pursuant to Chapter 18 of Title 2. Adjudication of any infractions shall be pursuant to Chapter 18 of Title 2.

(d) The fines set forth in this section shall not be limited by § 22-3571.01.


(Oct. 18, 1988, D.C. Law 7-176, § 7 (a)-(c), 35 DCR 4787; Dec. 5, 2008, D.C. Law 17-281, § 105(f), 55 DCR 9186; June 11, 2013, D.C. Law 19-317, § 113(b), 60 DCR 2064.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 6-1021.6.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 17-281 rewrote subsec. (a); and, in subsec. (b), substituted “potentially dangerous or dangerous dog” for “dangerous dog”. Prior to amendment, subsec. (a) read as follows: “(a) An owner of a dangerous dog who violates the provisions of §§ 8-1904 and 8-1905 shall be fined up to $300 for the first offense and up to $500 for each subsequent offense.”

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-317 added (d).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary amendment of section, see § 2(f) of the Pit Bull and Rottweiler Dangerous Dog Designation Emergency Amendment Act of 1996 (D.C. Act 11-257, April 16, 1996, 43 DCR 2156).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 3(g) of the Dangerous Dog Designation Emergency Amendment Act of 1996 (D.C. Act 11-351, August 12, 1996, 43 DCR 4553).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 113(b) of the Criminal Fine Proportionality Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-45, April 1, 2013, 60 DCR 5400, 20 DCSTAT 1300).

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-317: Section 401 of D.C. Law 19-317 provided that the act shall apply only to offenses committed on or after June 11, 2013.


§ 8–1907. Annual dangerous dog licensing drive; educational program.

(a) The Mayor shall conduct an annual dangerous dog licensing drive in order to ensure compliance with the provisions of this chapter.

(b) Within 180 days of October 18, 1988, the Mayor shall implement an educational campaign for the public on provisions of this chapter and existing laws concerning animal control.


(Oct. 18, 1988, D.C. Law 7-176, § 8, 35 DCR 4787.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 6-1021.7.


§ 8–1908. Rules.

The Mayor shall, pursuant to subchapter I of Chapter 5 of Title 2, issue rules to implement the provisions of this chapter.


(Oct. 18, 1988, D.C. Law 7-176, § 10, 35 DCR 4787.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 6-1021.8.