Animal Control

The town has one full-time animal control officer who serves 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 and most recently, the West Nile virus.  Please note, if you encounter injured or orphaned wildlife, never try to care for a wild animal yourself, always contact a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator.

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). This is to be accomplished 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, while also filling out a dog license application and paying a small fee. 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. Please note that dogs seized and impounded are taken to Mohawk Hudson Humane Society  located at 3 Oakland Avenue, Menands, NY 12204, 518-434-8128. 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
A good source of information regarding pet adoption is PetFinder, 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
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.

Mohawk and Hudson River Humane Society
Menands, NY
North East Dog Rescue Connection
Email 1 or Email 2
Cairo, NY
Companion Animal Placement Program
Rensselaer, NY
Albany, NY
Peppertree Rescue
Albany, NY
Doggiehaven Rescue
518-286-1177 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. - this
is a volunteer's home phone number,
please leave a message if no answer)
East Greenbush, NY
Homeward Bound
Albany, 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. The shelter and the area immediately surrounding it must be regularly cleaned. 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."

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 (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.

If you encounter injured or orphaned wildlife, never try to care for a wild animal yourself.  Always contact a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator.

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 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. 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.
  • If your dog is a swimmer, keep it on a leash around open 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 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 are seen in Town. 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.

Coyotes are indeed among us. They are classified as a fur bearer and are under NYSDEC's protection. There is an open season for hunting. If they are after farm livestock they may be taken also. Legal hunting of these predators helps to maintain their fear of humans and helps prevent them from becoming habituated. Coyotes do see dogs as an invaders to their territory especially during their breeding season and when pups are small. If dogs do not run at large, it is usually not a problem.  They will take small companion animals if the opportunity presents itself.

For several decades (when rabies 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. Especially cats should be kept indoors. Even bird feeders should not be used from early March to late November. Small children should always be under supervision. I try to monitor the local coyotes and watch for them to become habituated. I have only had to take action once in 22 years.