Domestic Animal FAQs
My neighbors dogs are barking constantly! What can I do?
There is an ordinance (city law) concerning Barking Dogs which is available to the public for perusal if you look up Manassas City Ordinances. All animal ordinances are located under Chapter 18.
- For Animal Control to be able to enforce the ordinance we would need to have one of the following factors occur:
- The Animal Control officer would need to hear the offense occurring themselves and have it fall within the guidelines of the ordinance.
- The Caller would need to have video evidence that fall within the guidelines of the ordinance to show the Animal Control officer AND be willing to testify in court to the video being a true account of what occurred. As officers of the law we are unable to take your personal video and testify to a Judge or Magistrate that it is true and accurate due to the fact that we don’t have personal knowledge or your presence in court for questions concerning the video.
- No matter if the caller wants to move forward with prosecution, contact will be made with the offending party in person or via notice. Animal Control officers are mandated to educate the public on animal laws and allow for the offending party to fix the issue and comply. This is the case with ALL ordinance violations of this nature.
I complain about my neighbors abusing their animals but nothing ever happens, Why?
- Any report of animal cruelty, abuse, and neglect will be investigated by an Animal Control officer. We contact the subject and evaluate several items during the investigation to include, living conditions, food/water, behavior of the animal to strangers and with their family unit, overall environment, and more.
- The main reason Animal Control officers can’t charge for the offenses witnessed is due to the fact that: The Caller/Witness refuses to testify in court to what they have witnessed. If the Animal Control officer didn’t see the offense occur or have evidence from their investigation to corroborate the offenses we can not legally make the charges.
What will happen to an animal (dog, cat, ferret) if they bite a person???
- An Officer/Animal Control Officer will contact both the victim and owner of the animal to gather information about what occurred. A rabies exposure report will be filled out and submitted to the Health Department. The animal will be quarantined for a minimum of 10 days, mainly in their homes unless the owner can’t accommodate it. Then the incident is followed by the Health Department in the animal’s jurisdiction. Animal Control Officers will follow up for vaccination compliance if the animal didn’t have a rabies vaccination prior to the bite.
- Most people are worried that Animal Control will euthanize the animal or take them from their owner but that is not the case in 99% of bite cases! The small 1% are due to the fact that the animal has a high chance they have rabies and owners want them put down, the owner surrenders the animals to us knowing/wanting it will be euthanized, or the most likely is the officers have come on scene of the animal attacking humans/animals with no other non-lethal methods working to stop it.
Stray and Feral Cat FAQs
What are feral cats? Why are there feral cats? Where do they come from?
Feral cats are the offspring of unneutered/non-spayed lost or abandoned pet cats, or other feral cats. Female cats can become pregnant as early as 5 months of age, and can have 2-3 litters per year which causes the number of cats to rapidly increase without intervention, as their kittens, if they survive, will become feral without early contact with people
Where do feral cats live?
Feral cats typically live in a colony—a group of related cats. The colony occupies and defends a specific territory where food (a restaurant dumpster, a person who feeds them) and shelter (beneath a porch, in an abandoned building, wooded areas) are available.
What is the difference between feral and stray cats?
Feral cats do not have an owner while stray cats do. Just because you may see a cat wandering around, doesn’t mean that it does not have an owner. A stray cat may or may not be friendly to humans, and may appear healthier than a feral cat. According to VA Codes § 3.2-6551 and § 3.2-6585, it is not legal to assume ownership or alter an owned companion animal without holding the cat for a period of 5 days if it does not have identification, which includes having it scanned for a microchip, or 10 days if there is a form of identification, as well as making a reasonable attempt to find the owner within 48 hours of finding the animal by posting on social media, notifying the animal shelter, etc. Therefore, these steps must be taken before an assumed feral cat can be TNRed (see FAQ below), as the person altering the animal can be held liable for any damages. If a cat is not wanted on private property, the owner of that property can have an owned cat trespassed according to Manassas City code 18-10.
What laws/ordinances and standard procedures does the City of Manassas have pertaining to feral/stray cats?
The City of Manassas does not have any laws or ordinances at this time preventing cats to be strays. Although cats are considered domestic animals, feral cats are to be treated more like wildlife in most circumstances, as they can completely fend for themselves and do not need to rely on humans to survive. If a human is feeding a stray cat, ie. regularly caring for the cat(s) and making the cat(s) dependent upon that care, that person is considered owner of the cat(s) and is therefore considered responsible for keeping the cat up to date on rabies vaccination which is required by Virginia code § 3.2-6521 (Manassas Ordinance 18-31). If a cat is found and is in the custody of a person, Animal Control or the Animal Shelter can scan the cat for a microchip to see if it is an owned animal. Without a microchip, collar, or other type of ID, the animal shelter will not generally accept stray cats as they should be returned to the area they were found. Although the finder can post a photo on social media in attempt to find an owner. If a cat is found severely sick or injured, Animal Control can capture and transport the cat to the vet or to the animal shelter for euthanasia if necessary. If a cat is found deceased, on public or private property, animal control will pick up the cat, attempt to ID and find an owner or dispose of.
Why can’t animal shelters rescue all the feral/stray cats?
Most feral/stray cats don’t need rescuing. Feral cats have an outdoor home and are able to survive on their own. Often, stray cats are mistakenly picked up when really, they are just indoor/outdoor cats that have an owner and live in that area, which is permitted in the City of Manassas. The animal shelter already cares for and tries to find homes for hundreds of lost, injured, abandoned and relinquished pet cats. Feral cats brought to the shelter, especially those who cannot be identified as having a known owner, are likely to be euthanized after a mandatory holding period. Safely caring for a feral cat in a typical shelter cage, is very stressful for a feral cat, and can ultimately cause their behavior and health to decline. We encourage our concerned citizen callers to contact rescue groups that can help by participating in programs to get these cats spayed or neutered and vaccinated to give the cats a better chance at survival.
How do feral cats survive—find food, stay warm, etc.?
Feral cats may find food in trash cans, by hunting, or someone may be feeding them whether intentional or not. They may find shelter from the elements beneath a porch, shed, or in an abandoned building, secluded wooded area or barn. Often, they are without a reliable source of food and adequate shelter, however they can also survive on their own just fine without the assistance from humans.
What is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)?
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a strategy for improving the lives of feral cats and reducing their numbers solely done by private groups that are not affiliated with Animal Control/Animal Shelter. At a minimum, feral cats who are TNRed are spayed or neutered so they can no longer reproduce, vaccinated against rabies, and surgically ear-tipped on one ear (ear-tipping is the universally-recognized sign of a cat who has been TNRed). Rescue groups can monitor the TNRed cats for sickness and remove new cats for TNR if feral, or possible adoption if tame. Once captured, all cats should be scanned for microchips in case they already have an owner that is responsible for them that they can be returned to. Once a cat or colony of cats has been TNRed, the cats should be monitored for sickness and potential new feral cats to be TNRed, or potentially attempt to tame cats/kittens for possible adoption through a rescue. TNR is a strategy that many dedicated caretakers pay for out of their own pockets to help improve the lives of feral cats and reduce their numbers. Without TNR and a dedicated caretaker, the population of the colony would continue to increase. The City of Manassas is NOT affiliated to any of the organizations with TNR programs and does NOT have the ability to assist with these programs.
Do people take care of feral cats? What do they do?
Many people see a roaming cat and start feeding it even though many communities have feeding bans meant to discourage feeding. Things that can be done:
- If the cat is tame, the person should take steps to find the cat's owner such as posting a photo online on lost & found pages, and having the cat scanned for a microchip. If unsuccessful, the person can either choose to take ownership themselves and have the cat spayed/neutered and vaccinated, or leave the cat be in its environment.
- If the cat is feral, unapproachable and wary, the person should find out if there are any groups in their community that are currently doing TNR and consult one of the many resources to learn about Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).
Would it be better if feral cats were captured & euthanized? Why can’t they just be removed?
Some people feel sorry for feral cats because of their difficult and dangerous life. Others are annoyed by the cats' behaviors and want the cats removed. But many people don't feel that the cats should be euthanized. Even if there were enough manpower and financial freedom to remove and euthanize feral cats, other feral cats would move into the vacant territory to take advantage of the food source and shelter now made available. It's an endless cycle. There are many reasons why feral cat problems are rarely solved by efforts to trap and remove them. Feral cats live at a certain location because it offers food and shelter. If a colony is removed, feral cats from surrounding colonies will move in to take advantage of the newly available resources. The cycle of reproduction and nuisance behavior begins all over again. Trap and remove will only result in a temporary reduction in the numbers of feral cats in a given area.
Why shouldn’t food be left out for feral cats?
Attempting to feed feral cats by leaving food out for them can and will attract wildlife to the area. According to VA State Code § 4VAC15-40-286, feeding wildlife is illegal, and Manassas City ordinance 18-9 states that it shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly or recklessly leave food outside for the purpose of feeding stray animals if doing so results in unsanitary conditions or attracts wildlife. Attracting wildlife to the area can cause many problems in residential areas, such as damage to property, disease, and dependency on humans for survival.
What can I do to help feral cats?
Helping feral cats can be very rewarding. There are many options for you to be involved. First, you may want to look for an existing feral cat group or individuals who are practicing TNR in the area to help you learn the ropes. If there are one or more feral cats in your area that do not have a caretaker, you can reach out to a feral cat group for assistance. The City of Manassas is not directly affiliated to any of the organizations with TNR programs and does not have the ability to assist with these programs.
When should I call Animal Control?
- For any wildlife displaying signs and symptoms of rabies (inability to walk correctly “appearing intoxicated” is the main sign you will see).
- Sick or injured wildlife
- Physical contact with humans or domestic animals (due to potential rabies exposures which is transmitted through blood and saliva).
- If they are posing a threat to humans or domestic animals.
I’ve found a baby animal that appears to have been left by its mother! What should I do?
- Many mother animals will leave their babies “hidden” while they go out and forage for food. Please leave all baby animals where you found them so that their mothers can find them and care for them.
- The only time you should call Animal Control for a baby wild animal is if the baby appears injured or sick in some way. We will come and evaluate the situation and collect the animal if needed. DO NOT TOUCH OR MOVE the baby animal in any way unless they are in a life-threatening situation.
Does Animal Control pick up dead wildlife?
- There are a couple factors in picking up wildlife in the city limits which are as follows:
- If the animal is in the roadway AND causing a road hazard then we Will come remove it for public safety reasons.
- If the animal is on the sidewalk we Will come and remove it.
- If the animal is on your personal property we will leave that to the owner of the property to clean up
- If the animal does not fall into one of the 3 situations above we will leave the animal to be disposed of by the carrion (vultures, crows, bugs, etc.). The reasoning for that is due to the fact that we support our ecosystem and should we remove the food source for these carrion animals they could suffer.
What should I do if there’s a wild animal in my home?
- The first question for you to answer is: Is the wild animal inside the living quarters of my residence (where people are)? If the answer is YES:
- Try and separate the animal from any humans and animals inside your residence by locking it in a room, making a barrier between you and the animal, and/or removing everyone from the residence! DO NOT attempt to capture the animal yourself!
- If the animal is a BAT do not release it into the wild! Bats are high carriers of rabies and should you find one in the part of your home where you or your animals live we need to capture it for testing because their bites are so small that you may not even know you’ve been bitten!**
- Call the non-emergency police dispatch (703-257-8000). The Animal Control officer or Police officer will be dispatched to capture the animal and remove it from your residence no matter the hour.
- If the answer is NO due to the fact that the animal is in the attic/crawl space:
- You would need to contact a pest control/removal service. Also, locate the entrance/exit that the animal uses so you can patch it up after the animal is out of the space.
- Humane Society of the United States, https://www.humanesociety.org/all-our-fights/promoting-smarter-wildlife-management, 1-866-720-2676.
- Department of Wildlife Resources, https://dwr.virginia.gov/wildlife/nuisance/, 1-855-571-9003.