FAQs - Tethering/Wildlife




1. What are the City of Fairfax's normal duty hours for Animal Officers?

Currently our Animal Control Officers typically work Monday through Saturday from 7:00 AM until 6:00 PM and are here half days on Sundays with rotating hours. After hours the non emergency police department number should still be contacted, 703-385-7924. For situations that require immediate response a Police Officer will respond and if needed an Animal Control Officer will be called in from home. General complaints will be followed up on as soon as an Animal Control Officer is on duty.

2. Why can't wild animals be trapped and taken to other locations?

Trapping is only a temporary solution to a permanent problem. It is also illegal by State Game and Inland Fisheries laws to relocate wildlife. As long as the conditions exist in an area to support the survival of a species that species will always be there. If animals are removed from an area, others will eventually move in behind them. Imagine what would become of your own home if you moved or passed away. Would it remain vacant or would someone else eventually move in? It is best to use deterrent methods to keep wild animals away from areas where it would be undesirable to have them living. Once it is certain that animals are no longer present, areas such as attics, chimneys, and the underneath of decks and sheds should be securely sealed.

3. What are some good ways to deter wild animals from areas around my home?

Most important is to keep all trash, pet food, fruits, and vegetables picked up from the yard. Gardens should be securely fenced. Decks, chimneys, sheds, roof eaves, and crawl spaces should be well sealed or capped. Tree limbs should be kept trimmed back away from the house in order to limit animal access to the roof. Trash containers should have secure lids and should preferably be placed on cinder blocks or some type of raised base. Rags soaked with ammonia and moth ball flakes placed inside trash cans, in fire places, under decks and sheds, and in attics also work as good deterrents. Electric wire and mesh fencing are good deterrents for deer. If a wild animal is actually inside the living or business area of a structure contact Animal Control immediately, 703-385-7924.

4. What should I do if I find an injured or infant wild animal?

Do not try to capture or pick it up. If the animal is not posing a threat place a box or container with air holes over top of it to protect it from predators. Contact Animal control if it is during their duty hours. Evenings and holidays the Wildlife Rescue League can be contacted at 703-440-0800. If the animal is a common rabies vector such as a raccoon, fox, skunk, coyote, ground hog, or bat and it has possibly bitten or been in contact with humans or pets contact Animal Control or the Police Department immediately, 703-385-7924.

5. Is there anything I can do about stray cats coming into my yard?

The City of Fairfax does not have a leash law or a license law for cats. Cat’s can only be picked up by Animal Control if they are sick, injured, infant, known to have been abandoned or have bitten someone. Homeowners do have the right to remove stray animals from their property by humanely trapping them and transporting them to the City of Fairfax Animal Shelter, 9836 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax, VA 22030.

6. Where is the City of Fairfax animal shelter?

The City is contracted to use Town and Country Animal Hospital as our holding facility/animal shelter. They are located at 9836 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax, VA 22030. Phone 703-273-2110.   

7. Can I drop an unwanted animal off at the City's shelter?

Yes. However, due to our small size the City of Fairfax is not capable of accommodating large numbers of owner releases or stray cats trapped by citizens. We recommend when ever possible owners needing to relinquish a pet attempt to work with local rescue groups prior to dropping their pet off at the City's Animal Shelter. Our Animal Control Division can provide relinquishing owners with many breed appropriate rescue groups to contact. 

8. Should I go to Town and Country if my pet has been transported there by Animal Control or a private citizen?

Pet owners must first respond to the Police Department, located at 3730 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22030, with their pets rabies certificate, City of Fairfax or Fairfax County dog license if applicable, and either a check or exact cash to cover the pick up and boarding fees. Animal redemptions can be made between 7:00 AM and 8:00 PM on weekdays and from 7:00 AM until 5:00 PM on Saturdays. Animals are not released on Sundays or holidays. The animal pick-up fee is $25 plus $25 boarding for each partial day that the animal is in custody. Contact the police department’s non-emergency number prior to responding if you would like further instructions and the exact amount of payment required, 703-385-7924.

9. Will animal control remove snakes?

Animal Control will only remove wild snakes that are in the living areas of your home. Native snakes that are outside should be left alone. Animal Control will pick up domestic/pet/exotic snakes which have escaped from their homes. 

10. What should I do if I see a wild snake in my yard?

Leave it alone. They are just as afraid of us as we are of them and will go on their way if not threatened. 

11. But aren't snakes poisonous and a danger to my children or pets?

The only venomous snake native to Northern Virginia is the copperhead snake. Mostly what we see in the City of Fairfax are black rat snakes, brown rat and water snakes, mole snakes, and garter snakes. These are all non-venomous and not a threat. Most snakes will only bite if provoked. If you leave them alone they will leave you alone. 

1. How is rabies transmitted? 

Rabies is only transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. When a human or animal has contact with an infected animal's saliva through a bite wound or by saliva entering an existing open wound or mucous membrane (i.e. mouth, lips, eyes) than an exposure has occurred. 

2. What are some signs of rabies?

Falling down, stumbling, walking in circles, wobbly or off balance, walking with head hung down, snapping and barking at the air, hissing, snarling, growling, overly aggressive or overly friendly, and wandering or running toward people rather than away. Choking and salivating are not seen until the later stages of rabies, usually when the animal is no longer mobile.

3. What should I do if I am bitten by a wild animal?

Contact Animal Control and your physician immediately. Wash the bite area thoroughly with warm water and soap. Do not try to capture the animal yourself. Do try to stay aware of the animal's location if possible. Animal Control will make every attempt to capture a biting wildlife in order for rabies testing to be performed.

4. What animals carry rabies?

Only mammals can contract rabies. Those most likely to be seen with rabies or to spread the rabies virus are raccoons, foxes, skunks, coyotes, bats, and ground hogs. Stray/wild dogs and cats are also at high risk. Small rodents such as squirrels, mice, and rats are not considered to be common rabies carriers.

5. Is it true that all raccoons, foxes, etc. have rabies?

No. Although these animals are susceptible to contracting rabies it does not mean that they all are carrying the rabies virus.

6. What should I do if I find a bat in my house?

Contact animal control right away. Try and stay aware of the bat’s location. Do not remove or release the bat outside without first contacting Animal Control to determine whether you are at risk of a rabies exposure. Bats have very small/sharp teeth. Bite wounds from bats may not be noticed if the individual bitten was sleeping or unable to tell anyone about their contact (i.e. small children, and pets).

 7. Is it true that post-exposure rabies vaccinations for humans are given in the abdomen in a series of 20 or more shots and are extremely painful?

That use to be true. However, the vaccines have been improved dramatically over the years. They are now given in the arm muscle and are typically no worse than a tetanus shot. The number of shots given has also been greatly reduced (by more than half).

8. When should someone receive post-exposure vaccines?

The final determination should be made by the individual’s physician and the local health department. Anyone who has been bitten by an animal or has possibly had any type of contact with a rabies suspicious animal's saliva would be at risk.

9. What should I do if I think I may have been exposed?

Immediately wash any wounds or areas where saliva may have made contact with warm water and soap. Contact Animal Control in order to try and have the animal captured. Contact your physician and your local health department to determine the proper protocol for post-exposure vaccinations.


1. Are there coyotes in the City of Fairfax?

Yes. Coyotes were first sighted around the tank farm and Daniel's Run in 2001. They have gradually migrated and are now being reported throughout the entire City.

2. Are they a danger?

Typically, coyotes are only a danger to humans in the rare cases where one is rabid or if they are cornered or threatened. Coyotes will however, eat cats, small dogs, and other small pets. Coyotes do most of their hunting at night. Cats and small pets should be kept indoors, especially at night. Dogs should not be left outdoors unattended. Children and pets should be kept away from known den areas during pup season (late February through late September). Citizens are also reminded that dogs must be leashed and under their owner's immediate control when not on their owners property. It is especially important that dogs remain leashed and close to their owners when walking in areas where coyotes might be present. A dog roaming loose near a coyote den during pup season is much more likely to be seen as a threat by a coyote than one that is being properly restrained.

3. Can’t anything be done to remove them?

Not safely. They are very elusive and are difficult to trap humanely or safely. Even if they could be safely captured and removed, as long as the environmental conditions exist to support their survival in the area others will quickly fill the vacancies. Most species of wildlife will inhabit an area with what ever numbers that area can sustain. When the population level drops below that number those opening are generally filled by young recently maturing animals that were not accepted in their original home environment or by an increase in the size of litters/number of pups being born to each female. This creates a much younger and less stable population.

4. What should I do if I spot a coyote?

Make a lot of noise. Stomp your feet, yell, clap and throw items such as sticks or stones in order to get the coyote to go on it's way. Carrying a whistle or blow horn can also be helpful. Coyote/human confrontations most commonly take place shortly after dusk and shortly before dawn. It is especially important to be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to use scare tactics when walking during these hours.

5. Can coyotes be scared off?

Yes. They are generally non-confrontational and can easily be scared off by the above methods. If scare tactics are unsuccessful or a coyote does in fact attempt to approach you, whether in an aggressive manner or in an overly friendly manner, Animal Control should be contacted immediately, 703-385-7924.

6. Are there any benefits to having coyotes in the area?

Yes. Coyotes help to normalize other wild life populations that have become overgrown such as Canadian geese and rats.


1. If I see a fox out during the day time doesn't that mean it's rabid?

No. Although foxes are considered to be nocturnal they will frequently come out during the day to sun themselves and look for alternative food sources. Also, over the years foxes have been shifting their habits more to daytime hours in order not to compete with the growing population coyotes during their peek hunting hours.

2. What if I see a fox that has little or no hair?

These foxes have mange mites. Normally these foxes are very thin, will have scabs or open sores, and scratch a lot. These foxes are even more likely to be seen out during the day as they are no longer able to hunt and do not have enough body fat to keep warm. They are frequently seen curled up in yards sunning themselves. They will also come out during the day to look for alternate food sources as the odor to their skin and their weak condition leave them unable to hunt or compete with healthy wild life.

3. Are these mangy foxes a danger?

No. They are more of a nuisance than a threat. They are not prone to attack and will normally scamper off if disturbed. Clapping your hands or stomping your feet is usually enough to get them to move along. If the fox does not leave, or is unable to leave, contact Animal Control.

For additional information contact us by phone 703.385.7919. For emergencies or situations that require immediate attention contact our Police Dispatch at 703-385-7924.