FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are your services as Animal Control?
Okaloosa Animal Control (OAC) provide a wide range of services to residents of Okaloosa County. Our mission goals are public safety and health. Secondary to this is to help residents deal with animal issues. We patrol for stray dogs, lend out traps to help citizens remove stray cats and small nuisance wildlife, pick up sick and injured animals and transport them to Veterinarians, Rehabilitation Centers and Animal Shelters. There the animals will receive care and medical treatment as necessary. We provide education about wildlife and referrals for need-specific services that go beyond what we provide. We investigate animal bites and reports of neglect and cruelty. We lend nearly three-dozen traps weekly and service dozens more taking stray animals to the shelters and relocate all types of wildlife. If we do not provide a service you need, in most instances, we can refer you to a person or agency that does. We now operate two animal shelters in Okaloosa County. We spay and neuter the animals we put up for adoption. We assist in picking up animals during Natural Disasters such as wild fires and hurricane evacuations. These are just some of the many services that we provide to the residents of Okaloosa County.
How long will it take for an Animal Control Officer to respond?
We are a small department in comparison to other county agencies in Okaloosa County. The faster response of other agencies is due to their greater numbers. We average a little over 300 calls for service daily. OAS has about 7 Animal Enforcement Officers to provide coverage area 24 hours per day. The animal populace exponentially outnumbers the people populous in Okaloosa County by an even greater ratio. There are over 5 cities and townships in addition to unincorporated areas of Okaloosa County, which we provide full coverage with approximately 7 field officers 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
What should we do until you arrive to help?
Try to remain calm. Call 911 if you are reporting a life-threatening situation. 911 can respond police and rescue units faster than we can in such instances. For non-life threatening situations call us directly. When you call, tell the Telecommunicator your situation. Telecommunicators have a wealth of information, and in many instances can help you help yourself without having to wait for an Enforcement Officer to respond. The Telecommunicator will also evaluate the circumstances of your call to determine if a Field Officer should respond and a case report will be initiated. Please provide your name, address, phone number, and directions on how best to get to your location. Also have a description of the animal(s) and the owner address, if known. Providing this information can expedites your call. Please stay on the phone until the Telecommunicator gets the information typed in and reads it back to you for accuracy and confirmation.
Can I remain anonymous?
Yes. However, in doing so, you have to provide an exact address to respond to and provide more information about the circumstances of your call. We will investigate based on information provided. We respond to anonymous calls for the protection of the animal. If it is determined that the initial call is unfounded (has no merit), follow up anonymous calls about the same thing may not be responded to without the caller leaving their name, address and telephone number.
What are your operating hours?
We are open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. An officer is on duty Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We are closed all major Holidays. We provide emergency service after hours and on holidays through our after hours answering service.
What is considered an emergency?
Emergencies are life threatening conditions such as aggressive animals, animals that have bitten someone, injured or sick animals with someone standing by with the animal until we arrive, and animals inside the living area of a dwelling that are of a high risk for rabies, such as Bats and Raccoons. All bite cases.
Where are you located?
752 Lovejoy Road; Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32548
Why do I have to trap stray cats?
Catching cats not confined in some way such as in a room, garage, shed, etc., is difficult. There are many places for a cat to hide or climb, putting them out of reach. Cats may be friendly to a resident but will run from an officer because of all the animal smells on the officer’s uniform. Officer uniforms smell of dogs, raccoons, etc., which are natural enemies to a cat. When a cat smells these scents they instinctively flee to safety. Because of this we do not take cats being held by people. This could cause the person holding the cat to get scratched or bitten exposing the person to potential rabies. Because of limited resources and the high degree of failure in catching cats out in the open it has become necessary for residents to trap cats before we can successfully remove them from an area.
Can you bring me a trap?
We lend out traps to residents but we do not deliver them. We can place you on our waiting list and when a trap becomes available you will be notified of the date, time and location where you can pick up a trap. These traps are issued on a Monday and have to be returned by close of business on Friday of the same week. There is a $40 refundable deposit required on the trap, which you can pay by cash or check. The deposit is held and returned to you when you return the trap to us. Animals that you catch while you have the trap, simply call us at 244-0196 and we will send an officer out to remove them. There is no charge for servicing the trap.
I need a trap now! Is there any other place where I can rent, purchase or borrow a trap?
Yes. We can give you a retailer near you where you can rent a trap for a small fee. You can purchase traps at places like Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.
If I get a trap elsewhere and catch something where do I take the animal?
Dogs and cats may be taken to one of the animal shelters located in Okaloosa County. However, you do not have to take the animal anywhere. Call us and we will come out to your home and remove the animal free of charge. You do not need a license to trap and transport cats and dogs. You do not need a license to trap wildlife but you do need a license to transport wildlife.
What happens to the animals when you take them from the trap?
Domestic animals such as cats or dogs are taken to the Animal Care Centers. Healthy wildlife is relocated nearby. Injured or sick wildlife is taken to a rehabber for evaluation to determine if medical treatment can help the animal fully recover. If so, the animal is turned over to a rehabber for treatment and then released back to the wild.
In what situations are you able to remove an animal from a home?
If an owner keeps their dog(s) confined to their property and complies with animal ordinances we cannot take any action against the owner to include taking the person’s dog from them. Animals are technically property and cannot be taken without due process of law. If the dog is violating the leash laws or other County Ordinances, we are able to handle the the violation(s) appropriately. Officers must witness violations or a resident who has witnessed a violation must provide our department with a properly prepared notarized affidavit.
I’ve lost my cat or dog, what do I do?
First, make sure you drive around the neighborhood, post on social media and utilize appropriate websites for lost pets. If you feel your pet may have been brought to our facility, please check our website. Our site shows up-to-date information and photos of all pets within our care. Also, ensure to call your microchip company and confirm all information is up-to-date. All pets are scanned for a microchip upon arrival with the owners contacted immediately.
I have a snake in my yard and do not know what kind it is or where it is now. What should I do?
Don’t panic. Usually they are just passing through. There are 33 different species of snakes indigenous to Okaloosa County. Only four of these snakes are venomous. It is not uncommon to see snakes. Our department will respond as quickly as possible to remove them. But because snakes usually don’t stay in one place very long we ask that you keep an eye on it until we can get there. Should the snake disappear from your sight, we ask that you call us back and cancel the call. In most cases we never get follow up calls. We do not have the resources that would permit officers the time needed to hunt for snakes. If you want someone to come out and search for snakes there are Animal Removal Services listed in the yellow pages of your phone book that you may hire to provide this service.
My neighbor’s dog escapes frequently. What can I do?
If you have a chronic problem with a neighbor’s dog getting loose and/or chasing you, get to safety and call us. If the dog is out when we arrive on scene we may impound the dog. We will speak with the owner and take other action as may be necessary when the officer arrives on scene.
My dogs like to ride in the back of my truck, what are the laws regarding him riding back there?
If your dog is riding in the back of a pickup truck it needs to be restrained by a minimum of two tethers fixed to opposite sides of the vehicle and attached to a collar or harness being worn by the animal. The animal can also be confined in a humane manner inside a locked animal carrier mounted in the bed of the truck in such a way as not to slide out or fall off the truck.
I just bought a dog from someone and it was sick (or it died) is there a law against that?
Yes. The Pet Lemon Law provided protection to consumers; you should call the Department of Agriculture at (410) 571-8692 or (800) 435-7352.
My dog unfortunately bit a neighbor. What could be the repercussions of this?
In Florida, when a dog or cat bites or scratches another person or animal it must be placed on quarantine no matter what the rabies vaccination status is. The questions are for a bite report we are required by law to fill out. Be patient and cooperate with the officer and everything will be fine. You should also analyze why the dog bit and what you should do to prevent future incidents of this type.
I think there is a squirrel, rat, bat, cat, or raccoon in my attic that has built a nest. How can I get it out?
These animals like your attic because it is cozy and quiet and the perfect place for a home. To get them out you need to make it not so cozy. The first thing you should do is figure out how the animal is getting into the attic. Then cover all the ways in except one, so the critter can get out. Place some sort of bright light in the attic such as one of those “clamp on type” lights and leave it on around the clock. Then place a radio in the attic, as close to the suspected nest as safely possible and tune it to a rock or talk station and play it as loud as possible. Do this for several days to allow the animal time to find or build a new nest and to move any babies that might be present. Check the nest after a day or so and if it is empty seal the last hole.
What can I do about stray cats around my house?
Cats are covered by the same leash laws as dogs. When not on the owner’s property a leash must be used to restrain the cat. Cats are not allowed to run loose and come onto your property. If the cats can be identified the complainant can file a sworn affidavit and Animal Services will issue a citation to the owner. Due to a cat’s ability to evade capture by humans, our officers will not come to your home to capture strays, however you can trap the cats and we will send an officer out to remove the animal from the trap. We will loan you the trap and give you instructions on how to use it.
Can you come and get an alligator that is swimming around in my pool?
Yes, as long as the alligator is less than 4 ft. long. Otherwise, the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission at (888) 404-3922 will be the agency to call if an alligator is a nuisance or poses a danger. However if the alligator is an immediate threat we can, and will respond to a call for aid.
There is a baby bird on the ground hopping around under a tree can you come out and put it back in the tree?
The best bet is to leave it alone. Baby birds fall out of trees as they learn to fly. The parents will still feed and tend to it on the ground but not if it becomes the center of human attention. So watch out for neighborhood cats and let nature take it’s course. If the bird is in danger and you can’t reach the nest you can make a temporary nest by hanging a flowerpot from a branch in the same tree and putting the bird in it. The parents will feed and care for the bird in the new nest; contrary to the “old wives tale” birds do not smell human contact. Or, call the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge at 650-1880.
Is this where I pay my citation fine?
No. But you will find the locations on the back of the citation. You will need to pay fines at one of the County Court Houses.
What is the difference between you and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission (FWCC)? And, What are some of the things they do that you do not?
Animal Services is unique to Okaloosa County. The FWCC is a State agency. The FWCC deal with all alligator problems and enforces laws against feeding certain wildlife such as Sandhill Cranes and Raccoons. They also respond to all Protected, Threatened and Endangered Species such as the Scrub Jay, Great Blue Heron, Brown Pelican, and Manatees to name but a few. They are also the fastest way to get help for beached sea mammals such as whales, sea turtles, dolphins and manatees. Their emergency number is 1-888-404-3922. The FWCC has a detailed listing of wildlife rehabbers and transporters in Okaloosa County who may be able to assist you with the birds and animals listed above.
I saw an injured crane with a broken leg or missing leg, Can you come get it?
Birds with a broken leg, which still have the capability to fly, are best left alone. As long as the bird can fly it can sustain itself. Trying to catch a bird, especially the larger sea birds, can do more damage to the bird than leaving it along. If a bird has a broken wing or cannot fly because it is to weak then it can be helped. You should call the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge at 850- 650-1880 for first response.
I have a pigeon in my yard that has been for two days now, I think it may be injured; can you come get it?
It is not unusual for a pigeon to behave this way, especially if it is a banded or courier pigeon. These birds are still widely used as messenger/courier birds. They can sometimes fly great distances to deliver their message. They often stop to rest and eat for several days before continuing their mission. As long as they can fly, this is probably just what they are doing. If you are overly concerned, take a couple of pots and run at the bird banging the pots together. If the bird can fly this will surely motivate him to demonstrate his flight capability to you, even if it is a short flight.
Is there a leash law in Okaloosa County?
Yes, the leash law can also be found in Ordinance 92-25 and states that all dogs and cats must be confined to the owners property unless on a leash and/or accompanied by a responsible person.