Animal Control

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between the Animal Shelter and the Humane Society?

    The Kent County Animal Shelter is a section of the Kent County Health Department and an agency of the County government. The Animal Shelter enforces local animal control, anti-cruelty, and health laws that relate to animal/human contact. Kent County Animal Control is focused on protecting human health and safety. The Shelter operates a kennel facility to house animals that are stray, unwanted, or otherwise displaced from their homes.

    The Humane Society of West Michigan is an animal protection organization focused on animal welfare issues, and the protection of all animals from natural or human harm. To learn more about your local Humane Society, visit the Humane Society of West Michigan web site.

  • What are exotic pets, and is it legal to own one in Kent County?

    Exotic pets refer to the type of animals typically found in zoos or in the wild. Reptiles such as snakes and iguanas are popular types of exotic pets, but owning these types of animals is both highly discouraged and in many cases illegal. Other examples of exotic pets include monkeys, raccoons, bats, wild birds, wolf hybrids or wild cats (such as bobcats). Remember that wild animals do not lose their natural instincts just because humans raise them from birth. For this reason, many exotic pets can be extremely dangerous. Kent County Animal Control Regulations prohibit the ownership of exotic animals or types of animals that are a hazard to the community. The kindest thing to do for wildlife you admire is to enjoy it in its natural habitat or zoo, or contribute to its protection in the wild.

  • Why do I have to license my dog?

    Licensing your dog is an important way to show you care for your pet. Your dog's license number allows you to be identified and notified if your dog should get loose and is picked up by Animal Control Officers. Licensed dogs are held longer in the Animal Shelter if they are picked up stray. Licensing your dog is also the law. For more information about dog licensing, visit the Licensing page.

  • When I visit the Animal Shelter, why can't I touch the animals?

    The Animal Shelter's "no touch" policy helps protect animal health and human safety. Many dogs and cats received at the shelter have not been vaccinated and may carry a disease that can spread to other animals through your contact. Being touched while caged is also stressful to some animals, and increased stress makes the animals less resistant to illness. Finally, improper handling can cause injury to animals, while putting your hands too close to a strange animal also puts you at greater risk of being bitten or scratched. Protect yourself and the animals in our care, and please do not touch.

  • What is a responsible pet owner?

    A responsible pet owner takes good care of his or her pet. It is more than making sure that your pet has enough food and water (though that is important too), but making sure your pet is vaccinated and receives regular checkups. Responsible pet owners also protect their pets and their communities by making sure the pet is confined in a yard or on a leash, has adequate shelter in bad weather, and is licensed. The Kent County Animal Shelter looks for responsible owners when adopting animals from the Shelter to new homes. For more information about pet care, visit the Pet Care page.

  • What is rabies, and is it a problem in Kent County?

    Rabies is a viral disease that affects the brain. Dogs, cats, humans and other animals can become infected with rabies if they are exposed; however rabies is very rare in dogs and cats anymore, and extremely rare in humans.

    In Kent County the only animals that have been found with rabies in recent years are bats. Typically two to four rabid bats are found in Kent County each year, usually during the summer months. A dog or cat which comes into contact with a rabid bat is at risk of being infected if the dog or cat has not been vaccinated. Keep in mind that rabies is 100% fatal for animals, but you can prevent it by getting your dog or cat vaccinated for rabies.

  • Is it legal to own a ferret?

    Yes, it has been legal to own a ferret in Michigan since 1997. Because of this, ferrets are now subject to the same bite quarantine laws as dogs and cats, and should receive proper vaccination for rabies and other diseases. Local ferret breeders or clubs can help you find more information about ferret care and health.

  • What is the truth about neutering and spaying?

    There are many myths about the effect that neutering has on an animal. The truth is that neutering does not hurt your animal physically or psychologically, and actually helps prevent some forms of illness. Most importantly, neutering helps prevent animal overpopulation.

Neutering/Spaying Myths & Facts


A female dog or cat should have a litter before being spayed so her mothering instincts will not become frustrated.


Animals do not regard breeding or parenting in the same way as humans do. Neutering a dog or cat can be done as young as four months of age. In females, dog and cat neutering helps prevent mammary tumors, while in male animals neutering prevents testicular cancer, spraying (cats), or marking territory (dogs). Neutered animals are also less likely to roam and stray.


A dog will become fat and lazy after neutering.


Overeating (or overfeeding) and lack of exercise cause weight gain in animals, just as in humans. However, removal of an animal's reproductive organs does not cause weight gain.


A male dog that is not intact will not be happy.


Animal reproduction has not been shown to be based on anything more than perpetuation of the species. The idea that a neutered male dog is not happy or masculine usually reflects the feelings of the owner, not the dog.


If we neuter all dogs and cats, eventually they will all be gone.


It is highly unlikely that we would ever be able to neuter all dogs and cats. We also are not likely to run out of them any time soon. Random breeding of dogs and cats does not assure quality animals, good health, or good dispositions. Overpopulation results when there are more animals than there are responsible pet owners, and overpopulation is never good for the animals that are not lucky enough to have a good home.