City Ordinance Information

Below is the city ordinance pertaining to dogs in the city of Des Moines. For other frequently asked animal ordinance questions, click here. For more ordinance information regarding potbellied pigs, please click here and reference chapter 18.

While the city of Des Moines has certain "hoops" to jump through in order to own a Pit Pull-type dog, it is not as difficult as some may think. The ARL Adoption Counselors are here to help you navigate through this process when looking to adopt!

Here are excerpts from the city of Des Moines ordinance as it pertains to dogs and particularly "any dog which has the appearance and characteristics of being predominately of the breeds of Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier."

Click here for the "Cheat Sheet" to the ordinance as it relates to "pit bulls".

ARTICLE II. DOGS

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Sec. 18-41. Definitions.

The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this article, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning: Chief of police means the legally designated chief of the police department or a designated representative. Director of public health means the county health center director or a designated representative acting in behalf of the city. Dog means and includes both male and female animals of the canine species. Owner means any person owning, keeping or harboring a dog. Vicious dog means:

(1) Any dog which has attacked a human being or domestic animal one or more times, without provocation;

(2) Any dog with a history, tendency or disposition to attack, to cause injury or to otherwise endanger the safety of human beings or domestic animals;

(3) Any dog that snaps, bites, or manifests a disposition to snap or bite;

(4) Any dog that has been trained for dog fighting, animal fighting or animal baiting or is owned or kept for such purposes;

(5) Any dog trained to attack human beings, upon command or spontaneously in response to human activities, except dogs owned by and under the control of the police department, a law enforcement agency of the state or of the United States or a branch of the armed forces of the United States;

(6) Staffordshire terrier breed of dog;

(7) The American pit bull terrier breed of dog;

(8) The American Staffordshire terrier breed of dog; or

(9) Any dog which has the appearance and characteristics of being predominately of the breeds of Staffordshire terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier.

(C42, §§ 114-6, 114-9; O.5385, 5506; C54, § 5-19; O.6002; C62, § 5-19; C75, § 7-13; O.9097; C79, § 7-13; O.9828; C85, § 7-13; O.11,095; C91, § 7-13; O.11,914)

Cross references: Definitions generally, § 1-2.

Sec. 18-42. License required.

The owner of every dog six months old or over, except dogs owned by the operator of a state or federally licensed kennel and kept in that kennel, shall annually obtain a license as provided in this article.

(C42, § 114-10; O.5225, 5385, 5506; C54, C62, § 5-32; O.7499, 8439, 8722; C75, C79, C85, § 7-14; O.11,403; C91, § 7-14; O.13,378)

Sec. 18-43. License fee.

(a) The annual license fee for each dog shall be $15.00 if such dog has been spayed or neutered and $35.00 if such dog is not spayed or neutered or if satisfactory evidence of spaying or neutering is not presented with the application for the license. An applicant claiming that such dog is spayed or neutered shall present as evidence a certificate from a qualified veterinarian which contains the name and address of the owner and the name, color, sex and breed of the dog. The proper fee shall be presented or sent with the application. No license shall be issued until the fee is paid in full.

(b) A dog owner who is 65 years of age or older may, upon application for a dog license, be issued a license for one dog per household for a fee of $5.00. The fee for additional dogs shall be as provided in subsection (a) of this section.

(C42, §§ 114-10, 114-11; O.5225, 5385, 5506; C54, §§ 5-33, 5-40; O.6005; C62, §§ 5-33, 5-40; O.8089, 8439, 8748; C62, §§ 5-36, 5-40; C75, § 7-15; O.9097, 9376; C79, § 7-15; O.10,347; C85, § 7-15; O.11,403; C91, § 7-15; O.13,378, 14,155)

Sec. 18-44. License application; form.

(a) The owner of a dog for which a license is required shall, on or before January 1 each year, apply to the city clerk, his or her designee, or any business in Des Moines approved by the city clerk, for a license for each dog owned by him or her.

(b) Such application for a license may be made after January 1 and at any time for a dog which has come into the possession or ownership of the applicant or which has reached the age of six months after January 1.

(c) Any business in Des Moines that is approved by the city clerk to sell animal licenses may charge an additional service fee of up to $2.00 per license. This subsection does not apply to dogs defined as vicious under section 18-41 of this article, nor to applications for transfer of ownership of a dog under section 18-48 of this article, nor to applications for transfer of a license from one city or county to the City of Des Moines under section 18-49 of this article.

For purposes of determining whether a dog is vicious as defined under section 18-41 of this article the opinion of the city veterinarian will control.

(d) The owner of any dog defined as vicious under section 18-41 of this article shall comply with section 18-56 of this article at the time an application for license is made under this section.

(e) Such application shall be in writing on blanks provided by the city clerk or his or her designee and shall state the breed, sex, age, color, and name of the dog and the address, phone number, and signature of the owner. Such application shall also state the date of the most recent rabies vaccination and the date the dog shall be revaccinated.

(f) An application to license a vicious dog must include, in addition to the information required in subsection (d) of this section, presentation by the applicant of a certificate of insurance issued by an insurance company licensed to do business in this state, providing personal liability insurance coverage as in a homeowner's policy, with a minimum liability amount of $100,000.00 for the injury or death of any person, for damage to property of others and for acts of negligence by the owner or his or her agents, in the keeping or owning of such vicious dog. The certificate shall require notice to the city, in conformity with general city standards for certificates of insurance, if the underlying policy of insurance is cancelled for any reason. In lieu of such a certificate, a copy of a current homeowner's policy designating these requirements shall be sufficient proof of insurance for purposes of this subsection. If a certificate of insurance or policy is not immediately available, a binder indicating the coverage may be accepted for up to 30 days subsequent to the determination that a dog is vicious; however, if after 30 days a certificate of insurance or a policy has not been submitted or if the required insurance is cancelled during the license year, the dog shall be deemed unlicensed and subject to sections 18-58 and 18-59, as applicable.

(C62, §§ 5-33, 5-34, 5-35; O.8439; C75, C79, C85, § 7-16; O.10,867, 11,095, 11,403, 11,558; C91, § 7-16; O.11,914, 13,320, 13,378, 14,155, 14,415)

Sec. 18-44.01. Insurance on vicious dogs not licensed.

The owner of every dog which is defined as vicious under section 18-41 of this article and which is under six months of age and is not licensed shall maintain insurance as set forth in section 18-44(d) of this article.

(O.14,155)

Sec. 18-45. Tag.

(a) The city clerk or his or her designee shall, upon receipt of the application for a dog license, deliver or mail to the applicant a license which shall be in the form of a metal tag stamped with the following information:

(1) The year for which it is issued.

(2) The name of the city.

(3) The tag number as shown in the records in the office of the city clerk.

(b) The size and shape of the tags shall be changed each year.

(c) The tag shall be attached by the owner to a substantial collar and, during the term of the license, shall be at all times kept on the dog for which the license is issued. Upon the expiration of the license the owner shall remove the tag from the dog.

(d) Upon the filing of an affidavit that the license tag has been lost or destroyed, the owner may obtain another tag on the payment of $5.00 to the city clerk or his or her designee. The city clerk or his or her designee shall enter in the license record the new number assigned.

(C42, § 114-11; O.5225, 5385; C54, § 5-39; O.5903, 6002; C62, § 5-39; O.8439; C62, §§ 5-37, 5-38, 5-39, 5-39.02; C75, § 7-17; O.9097; C79, § 7-17; O.10,347; C85, § 7-17; O.11,403; C91, § 7-17; O.13,378, 14,155)

Sec. 18-46. Expiration of license.

All dog licenses shall expire on December 31 of the year of the date of issuance.

(C62, § 5-39; O.8439; C75, C79, C85, § 7-18; O.11,403; C91, § 7-18)

Sec. 18-47. Service dogs.

A person with a disability who owns a dog specially trained at a recognized training facility to assist a person with such a disability shall, upon application and proof of such disability and that the dog has been so trained, be issued a dog license for such dog without charge.

(C62, § 5-40.01; O.7174; C75, C79, C85, § 7-20; O.11,403; C91, § 7-20; O.13,551)

Sec. 18-48. Transfer of license on change of ownership.

(a) When the ownership of a dog is transferred, the license may be transferred by the city clerk or his or her designee by notation on the license record, giving the name and address of the new owner. The city clerk or his or her designee, when making an ownership transfer, shall collect a fee of $5.00.

(b) A license tag issued for one dog shall not be transferred to any other dog.

(C42, § 114-11; O.5225, 5385; C54, § 5-39; O.5903, 6002; C62, § 5-39; O.8439; C62, § 5-39.01; C75, § 7-21; O.9097; C79, C85, § 7-21; O.11,403; C91, § 7-21; O.14,155)

Sec. 18-49. Transfer of license on change of residence.

(a) When a dog licensed in one county or city is permanently transferred to this city, the owner shall surrender the original license to the city clerk or his or her designee. The city clerk or his or her designee shall retain the surrendered tag and, without license fee, shall issue a new license tag pursuant to this article.

(b) The city clerk or his or her designee shall note on the license record the fact that the newly issued license tag is issued as a transfer and is in lieu of a surrendered license.

(C85, § 7-22; O.11,403; C91, § 7-22)

Sec. 18-50. Use of license fees collected.

All dog license fees collected by the city shall be credited to and deposited in the general funds of the city to be kept and used for the purpose of enforcing this chapter.

(C42, § 114-12; O.5385; C54, § 5-41; O.6002; C62, § 5-41; C75, § 7-23; O.9097; C79, C85, § 7-23; O.11,558; C91, § 7-23)

Sec. 18-51. License fee delinquency.

(a) Notwithstanding section 18-46 of this article, all fees for dog licenses shall become delinquent on April 1 of the year in which they are due and payable. A penalty of $50.00 shall be added to each unpaid license on and after the delinquent date except where the dog has been newly acquired or is under 6 months of age.

(b) The delinquent penalty will apply to a newly acquired dog and to a dog at least six months of age if a license is not obtained by the later of April 1 in the year in which the dog is acquired or reaches six months of age, or 30 days after the dog is acquired or reaches six months of age.

(c) No license shall be issued without the payment of the applicable fees. This section shall not be deemed to relieve an owner from criminal liability under section 18-42 of this article.

(C42, § 114-10; O.5225, 5385, 5506; C54, § 5-34; O.5903; C62, § 5-34; O.8089, 8349; C62, § 5-39.03; O.8694; C75, § 7-24; O.9097, 9176; C79, § 7-24; O.10,347, 10,366; C85, § 7-24; O.11,403; C91, § 7-24; O.12,075, 14,155)

Sec. 18-52. Rabies vaccination prior to issuance of license.

(a) Before a license is issued for any dog, the owner must present evidence with the application required by section 18-44 of this article that the dog has been vaccinated against rabies. Such evidence shall be a certificate of vaccination signed by a licensed veterinarian, and the certificate shall show that the vaccination is not expired.

(b) The required vaccination shall be an injection of antirabies vaccine approved by the state department of agriculture and land stewardship, and the frequency of revaccination necessary for approved vaccinations shall be as established by such department. The vaccine shall be administered by a licensed veterinarian and shall be given as approved by the state department of agriculture and land stewardship. The veterinarian shall issue a tag with the certificate of vaccination, and such tag shall at all times be attached to the collar of the dog.

(C42, § 114-10; O.5225, 5385, 5506; C54, § 5-36; O.5903; C62, §§ 5-39.05, 5-39.06; O.8439; C75, C79, C85, § 7-25; O.10,916, 11,403; C91, § 7-25; O.13,378)

Sec. 18-53. Penalties.

(a) Notwithstanding any other section of this article, any dog owner who allows the rabies vaccination to lapse at any time during the licensing year shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by fine or imprisonment as provided by section 1-15 of this Code.

(b) Any person who removes a license tag from a dog prior to the expiration of the license shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by fine or imprisonment as provided by section 1-15 of this Code.

(C85, § 7-25.01; O.11,403; C91, § 7-25.01)

Sec. 18-54. Records.

The city clerk or his or her designee shall keep record of dog licenses which shall show:

(1) The description of dog as specified in the application, together with the name and address of the owner of the dog.

(2) The date when each license tag is issued and the number on such tag.

(3) The date of the most recent rabies vaccination, and the date the dog shall be revaccinated.

(4) The amount of all fees, licenses, penalties, and costs paid to him or her.

(5) Such other data as the law may require.

(C62, § 5-39.04; O.8439; C75, C79, C85, § 7-26; O.11,403; C91, § 7-26; O.13,378)

Sec. 18-55. Running at large.

(a) A dog, properly licensed as required by law, shall not be deemed at large if:

(1) The dog is on the premises of the owner or a person given charge of the dog by the owner and is either:

a. Restrained on those premises by an adequate protective fence or by leash, cord, chain or other similar restraint that does not allow a dog to go beyond the owner's real property line; or

b. At all times within the actual physical presence of and immediately obedient to the commands of the owner or person given charge of the dog by the owner. At no time shall the dog be more than six feet from such person.

(2) The dog is off the premises of the owner and is:

a. On a leash, cord, or chain or other similar restraint not more than six feet in length and under the control of a person competent to restrain and control the dog; or

b. Properly restrained within a motor vehicle.

(3) The dog is properly housed in a veterinary hospital or registered kennel.

(4) The owner and the dog are participating in a regularly scheduled competitive or exhibition event sanctioned or sponsored by a nationally recognized organization, local chapter thereof, or other generally recognized local organization.

(5) The dog and the owner are actively engaged in a generally recognized dog obedience training program or training for a generally recognized kennel club event, provided:

a. The dog is in the actual physical presence of the owner or trainer at all times;

b. The owner or trainer is at no time more than 50 feet from the dog;

c. The dog is immediately obedient to the commands of the owner or trainer; and

d. The owner or trainer has, at all times, on his or her person a leash of sufficient strength to restrain the dog.

(b) A dog shall be deemed to be at large if it is not properly licensed or if it is not housed, restrained or controlled in one of the methods set forth in subsection (a) of this section.

(c) Notwithstanding any other section of this article, any dog shall be deemed at large at any time when attacking persons, domestic animals, destroying property, or on a public school ground except when under restraint as set out in subsection (a)(2) of this section. Furthermore, any female dog in heat shall be deemed at large at any time except:

(1) When housed in a building which is completely enclosed;

(2) When housed in a veterinary hospital or registered kennel; or

(3) When on the premises of the owner, provided the area on which such dog is located is:

a. Completely enclosed in a locked, enclosed fence, pen or other structure having a height of at least six feet; such fence, pen or structure must have secure sides which are imbedded into the ground, if the bottom of the structure is not integrally connected to the structure; or

b. If the fence, pen or structure is less than six feet in height, it must have a secure top in addition to securely imbedded sides as described in subsection (c)(3)a of this section. Nothing in this subsection, however, shall be construed as prohibiting any owner of a female dog in heat from walking such dog with a leash, cord, chain or other similar restraint not more than six feet in length or from transporting such dog within a motor vehicle.

(d) No owner of any dog shall permit such dog to be at large at any time.

(C42, §§ 114-5, 114-6, 114-9; O.5385, 5506; C54, §§ 5-19, 5-20; O.6002, 6234; C62, §§ 5-19, 5-20; O.7499; C75, § 7-27; O.9098, 9376; C79, C85, § 7-27; O.10,855, 10,867, 10,886, 11,095; C91, § 7-27; O.11,807)

Sec. 18-56. Confinement of vicious dogs.

(a) All vicious dogs shall be securely confined within an occupied house or residence or in a securely enclosed and locked pen or kennel, except when leashed as provided in this section. Such pen, kennel or structure must have secure sides and a secure top attached to the sides or, in lieu of a top, walls at least six feet in height and at least six feet taller than any internal structure.

(b) All pens or other structures designed, constructed or used to confine vicious dogs must be locked with a key or combination lock when such animals are within the structure. Such structure must have a secure bottom, floor or foundation attached to the sides of the pen, or the sides of the pen must be embedded in the ground no less than two feet so as to prevent digging under the walls by the confined dog.

(c) All structures erected to house vicious dogs must comply with all city zoning and building regulations. All such structures must be adequately lighted and ventilated and kept in a clean and sanitary condition. No vicious dog may be kept on a porch, patio or in any part of a house or structure that would allow the dog to exit such building on its own volition.

(d) No person shall permit a vicious dog to go outside its kennel or pen unless such dog is securely leashed with a leash no longer than six feet in length. No person shall permit a vicious dog to be kept on a chain, rope or other type of leash outside its kennel or pen unless both the dog and the leash are under the actual physical control of a person 18 years of age or older.

(e) Such dogs may not be leashed to inanimate objects such as trees, posts, buildings, or any other object or structure.

(f) Violation of this section is a misdemeanor.

(C85, § 7-27.01; O.11,095, 11,558; C91, § 7-27.01)

Sec. 18-57. Vicious dogs not properly confined/leashed.

A vicious dog which is found more than twice not to be confined or leashed as required by this article shall be required to be permanently removed from the city or destroyed. An animal which is returned to the city after removal under this section shall be destroyed.

(C85, § 7-27.02; O.11,095; C91, § 7-27.02; O.14,415)

Sec. 18-58. Unlicensed vicious dogs.

All unlicensed vicious dogs shall be deemed illegal animals. The person harboring or keeping an unlicensed vicious dog may have the animal removed from the city; if, however, the animal is again found unlicensed in the city or if the person holding or keeping the animal chooses not to remove it from the city, the dog shall be destroyed. This section shall not apply to a dog which, upon initial notice to its owner, the owner agrees to properly license and confine or to a dog for which a hearing has been requested under this article to determine if it is vicious until there has been a final decision on the question raised at hearing at which time the owner may, if the dog is found vicious, properly license and confine the dog.

(C85, § 7-27.03; O.11,095; C91, § 7-27.03)

Sec. 18-59. Seizure, impoundment and disposition of vicious dogs.

(a) The chief humane officer or his or her designee, in his or her discretion or upon receipt of a complaint alleging that a particular dog is a vicious dog as defined in this article, may declare such dog a vicious dog by delivering a written notice of declaration to the owner. The notice shall include a description of the dog and the basis for the declaration of viciousness. The notice shall also set forth that the owner shall be required to license and confine the dog as required by this article. The notice shall be served upon any adult residing at the premises where the animal is located or may be posted on those premises if no adult is present to accept service.

(b) The person owning, keeping, sheltering, or harboring the dog in question may contest the declaration of viciousness by filing a written request with the city clerk within three business days of the receipt of the chief humane officer's declaration. If at this time the owner agrees to confine the dog pursuant to section 18-56 of this chapter and submits to the clerk proof of insurance as described in section 18-44, the dog shall not be impounded pending appeal. Failure to file a request for hearing shall constitute a waiver of any right to contest the declaration of the chief humane officer, and the chief humane officer or his or her designee shall be authorized to seize and impound the dog. A dog so seized shall be impounded for a period of seven days. If, at the end of the impoundment period, the owner has not licensed and shown ability to confine the dog as required by this article or has not declared an intent to remove the dog from the city, the chief humane officer or his or her designee shall cause the dog to be destroyed.

(c) The person owning, keeping, sheltering, or harboring the dog in question shall be given not less than 72 hours' written notice of the time and place of the hearing. The notice shall set forth the description of the dog in question and the basis for the allegation of viciousness. The notice shall also set forth that, if the determination of the chief humane officer is upheld, the owner shall be required to license and confine the dog as required by this article. The notice shall be served in the same manner as the declaration notice.

(d) If, after hearing, the city manager or his or her designee upholds the determination of the chief humane officer that the dog is a vicious dog or is a vicious dog held in violation of this article, as set out in the notice of hearing, the city manager or his or her designee shall order the person owning, sheltering, harboring or keeping the animal to permanently license and confine the dog as required by this article or remove it from the city. The order shall immediately be served upon the individual or entity against whom issued in the same manner as the notice of hearing. If the order is not complied with within three days of its issuance, the city manager or his or her designee is authorized to seize and impound the dog. A dog so seized shall be impounded for a period of seven days. If, at the end of the impoundment period, the individual or entity against whom the order of the city manager or his or her designee was issued has not appealed such order to the city council or has not complied with the order, the city manager or his or her designee shall cause the dog to be destroyed.

(e) The order to license, confine or remove a vicious dog from the city issued by the city manager or his or her designee may be appealed to the city council. In order to appeal such order, written notice of appeal must be filed with the city clerk within three days after receipt of the order. Failure to file such written notice of appeal shall constitute a waiver of the right to appeal the order of the city manager or his or her designee.

(f) The notice of appeal shall state the grounds for such appeal and shall be delivered personally or by certified mail to the city clerk. The hearing of such appeal shall be scheduled within 20 days of the receipt of notice of appeal. The hearing may be continued for good cause. After such hearing the city council may affirm or reverse the order of the city manager or his or her designee. Such determination shall be contained in a written decision and shall be filed with the city clerk within three days after the hearing or any continued session thereof. The hearing shall be confined to the record made before the city manager or his or her designee, the arguments of the parties or their representatives, any additional evidence which was not available at the time of the hearing before the city manager or his or her designee, and any other information the city council deems necessary.

(g) If the city council affirms the action of the city manager or his or her designee, the city council shall order in its written decision that the individual or entity owning, sheltering, harboring, or keeping such vicious dog shall license and confine the dog as required by this article or remove such animal from the city. The decision and order shall immediately be served upon the person against whom rendered in the same manner as the notice set out in subsection (a) of this section. If the original order of the city manager or his or her designee is not appealed and is not complied with within three days or the order of the city council after appeal is not complied with within three days of its issuance, the chief humane officer or his or her designee is authorized to seize and impound such vicious dog. A dog so seized shall be impounded for a period of seven days. If, at the end of the impoundment period, the individual or entity against whom the decision and order of the city manager or his or her designee or the city council was issued has not petitioned the county district court for a review of the order or has not complied with the order, the city manager or his or her designee shall cause the dog to be destroyed in a humane manner.

(h) Failure to comply with an order of the city manager or his or her designee issued pursuant to this section and not appealed or of the city council after appeal is a misdemeanor.

(i) Any dog that is alleged to be vicious and that is under impoundment or quarantine at the animal shelter shall not be released to the owner, but shall continue to be held at the expense of the owner pending the outcome of the hearing. All costs of such impoundment or quarantine shall be paid by the owner if the dog is determined to be vicious. If the dog is not determined to be vicious, all costs shall be paid by the city, except costs attributable to initial confinement prior to notice or costs of any required quarantine which shall nonetheless be paid by the owner.

(j) All vicious dogs shall have an identification microchip implant placed under the dog's skin. Prior to the release of a vicious dog from the animal shelter the owner shall pay the fee specified at section 18-15 of this chapter for the microchip identification procedure.

(C85, § 7-27.04; O.11,095, 11,401; C91, § 7-27.04; O.13,320, 13,854)