Animal Control

Animal Control is under the Special Services Division of the Bethlehem Police Department.  The town has one full-time and two part-time animal control officers (ACOs) who serve the Town of Bethlehem with compassion, kindness, and a dedication to protecting our residents, their pets, and wildlife in general. The number of calls for animal control services continue to increase, fueled mainly by the public's awareness and concern for the possibility of exposure to rabid animals, loose dogs, and nuisance wildlife complaints.  Please note, if you encounter injured or orphaned wildlife, never try to care for a wild animal yourself, always contact a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator, they can be found on NYADEC's website.

Licensing & Identification of Dogs

All dogs over four months in age and any dog that is off the owner's premises regardless of age in New York State must be licensed (N.Y.S. Department of Agriculture and Markets Law). New dogs over 4 months need to be licensed within thirty days of obtaining the dog. To obtain a license, bring a current rabies vaccination and (if applicable) a neutering / spaying certificate to the town or city clerk in the municipality where the dog resides.  A license obtained in the Town of Bethlehem must be renewed once each year, due the same month that it was originally obtained. Licenses (with few exceptions) must be on the dog at all times. Not only is this the law, but it is the best way we can find the owner of a lost dog.

Lost Animals

To report a lost animal, call the Bethlehem Police at 518-439-9973.  The town no longer has a contract with a kennel, shelter, or Mohawk Hudson Humane Society so time is of the essence.    When searching for a lost animal and after contacting the Bethlehem Police at 518-439-9973, please also think about how close you live to one (or more) of the town's borders.  If you think it is possible your animal wandered into another jurisdiction, contact them as well: Albany, 518-434-5091; Coeymans, 518-756-2059; Guilderland, 518-861-6855; or New Scotland, 518-475-0385.

Adopting or Surrendering an Animal

Good sources of information regarding pet adoption are PetFinder or Adopt-A-Pet, where you can learn before you adopt, search for adoptable pets, and find adoption/rescue groups. You can support organizations such as these by using charitable search sites when searching the web. One such search site is GoodSearch, which has a number of these local adoption/rescue groups already in their choices of recipients of your search proceeds.  You can also view this list of almost 100 area shelters and rescue groups.

List of Pet Adoption Agencies (some with low cost spay/neuter information)

The following agencies and groups can be very helpful to people who want to adopt or surrender a pet. This list is by no means exhaustive and does not constitute the town's endorsement or recommendation. There are other groups that may be available for any and all types of animals.

Companion Animal Placement Program
The Animal Support Project
Out Of The Pits - and into your heart
Peppertree Rescue
For emergencies 518-861-6861
For wildlife emergencies
         518-456-4374 or 518-365-3673
Free To Be Me Rescue
Dog Email
Cat Email

Kitten Angels
518-573-9906 (no texts please)
Homeward Bound


Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society
Menands, NY

Law Regarding Appropriate Shelter for Dogs

Governor Pataki signed into law a bill that requires that dogs kept outdoors be provided with a waterproof, structurally-sound, and adequately-insulated shelter which must allow freedom of movement and normal postural adjustments. Small dogs and shorthair dogs should only be left outside for short times in cold weather.  The shelter and the area immediately surrounding it must be regularly cleaned. Unfrozen, clean water must be available at all times and food should be regularly provided at least once a day.  For more information regarding the law, please see the Laws of New York website, select AGM for Agriculture and Markets, then Article 26 - Animals, and then Article 353-B, "Appropriate shelter for dogs left outdoors."  In the same section of laws, please see Article 353-D regarding leaving animals in motor vehicles in hot or cold weather.


Testing criteria for suspected rabies cases changed in 2000 where testing only took place with animals suspected of having rabies that were reported to have contact with human or domestic animals. Note: suspected rabies exposure testing is provided by Albany County Department of Health, 518-447-4620 (518-447-4614 nights and weekends.)

Rabies Immunization Law

The New York State law regarding pet rabies immunizations has changed recently. The updated law contains more stringent regulations than in the past, and it now applies to ferrets as well as cats and dogs. Please view the Albany County Department of Health's Rabies Clinic Schedule. For more information about the law, visit the Albany County Department of Health website.

Wild Animals

By law, everyone who owns, possesses or harbors certain wild animals must report the location of the animal to his or her municipal clerk on or before April 1 of each year under General Municipal Law. For more information, visit the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Fire and Prevention Control website.  Note that most wild or exotic animals need a permit from NYSDEC.

If you encounter injured or orphaned wildlife, never try to care for a wild animal yourself.  Always contact a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator, they can be found on NYADEC's website.

Protecting Pets During Winter Months

Winter is a time when we should pay close attention to the safety of our pets. Here are some safety tips to follow:
  • Ingesting anti-freeze can be fatal for your dog or cat. It has a sweet taste, and even a tiny amount can cause severe kidney damage and even death. If you spill some, soak it up immediately. (Clay kitty litter works well. Discard the litter once the anti-freeze has been absorbed.)
  • Pets that live outdoors should be fed a bit more in the winter because they need the extra calories to stay warm. They also should have fresh, clean, unfrozen water put out a couple of times a day.  You may consider getting a special bowl that prevents the water from freezing.
  • If your pet goes outdoors, be aware of the temperature including wind chill factor.  Pets can get frostbite very easily on the ears, tail, and paws.
  • When walking your dog, check the paws to make sure that ice is not building up between the toes and that salt from the roads is not irritating the skin.  Wipe its feet once done with the walk.
  • If your dog is a swimmer, keep it on a leash around open or frozen water or unstable ice. Hypothermia can set in quickly and the dog may be unable to get out of the water.
  • Before you start your car, you should honk the horn to make sure that a cat has not decided to nap in a warm spot under the hood of the vehicle.
  • If decorating for the holidays, keep ornaments out of the reach of your pets. Remember that poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, and other plants can be toxic if ingested.

From the Town's Animal Control Officer

Bobcats and foxes have been here forever, coyotes within the last half century and fishers this far south for about the last 20 years as far as I know. Up to about 10 bears a year pass through town. We now have resident bears in the more rural parts of Bethlehem. I try to monitor unusual occurrences with these animals and keep NYSDEC informed. All of these animals are under DEC's responsibility not the Town's (518-357-2450 or 1-877-457-5680.)  Under an emergency situation (as with a suspected rabid animal), I or any member of the police department would certainly take action to protect the public.

Parts of Albany County were opened for bear hunting recently. The rest of the county (including Bethlehem) were opened for bear season in 2016.  

Coyotes are indeed among us. They are classified as a fur bearer as are bobcats, foxes and fishers, and are under NYSDEC's protection.  There are open seasons for legal hunting of these predators. If they are after farm livestock, they may also be taken. Legal hunting of these predators helps to maintain their fear of humans and helps prevent them from becoming habituated (becoming too familiar and unafraid of humans.) Coyotes do see dogs as canine invaders to their territory especially during their breeding season and when pups are small. If dogs do not run at large (which is against town code), it is usually not a problem.  They will take small companion animals, cats, dogs, rabbits, etc. if the opportunity presents itself.  I try to monitor the local coyotes and watch for them to become habituated. I have only had to take action once in 23 years.

Most of the time it is cheaper, easier and longer lasting to exclude nuisance wildlife from places where it is not wanted.  Animal Control can evaluate these problems, offer solutions and if required, provide a list of Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators (NWCOs are licensed by the NYS DEC) to help. NYSDEC's website can also be looked at for help.  Remove bird feeders between April 1 - November 30. Bear nuisance complaint records reveal that bird feeders are involved in over 80% of the bear problems around homes.

For several decades (starting when raccoon rabies first hit this area) we have been advising people not to leave pets out unattended, not to feed pets outside and not to leave any garbage available to attract wildlife. Companion animals, especially cats, should be kept indoors.  A free ranging cat is nothing more than a prey animal and an invasive species along with an easy target for local wildlife including birds of prey.  They can also be both a traffic hazard and a nuisance to neighbors!  If you love your companion animals and let them out, they should be closely monitored and under control. 

There are open seasons for legal hunting and trapping.  The trapping of wildlife can only be done by licensed trappers or licensed NWCOs. It is illegal for unlicensed people to transport wildlife.  It is illegal for anyone to release wildlife on land that they do not own without written permission.  I receive many calls for help from want-to-be trappers who get into a situation they can't handle and is possibly illegal. 

ACO R.A. Watt 12/30/2016, updated 1/14/2022