Fido on Federal Lands
With beautiful pristine beaches and nature at the Outer Banks doorstep there are very few places anywhere that call more to the spirit to be outdoors. There is something magical about spending a day with friends and family exploring Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR) or Oregon Inlet south of Nags Head.
Friends and family include four legged friends and family a lot of the time and for four legged friends there are some rules and regulations that it’s important to know before visiting any federal land. Federal land includes ARNWR, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and any of the National Park Service land on the Outer Banks.
Perhaps most importantly, pets must be on a leash, and the rules call for a 6’ leash.
Bonnie Strawser, Visitor Services Manager for Pea Island and Alligator River, points out that the primary mission of the Wildlife Refuge system is the preservation of the environment and a dog off a leash can do considerable damage before it’s controlled. She points to colonial nesting shorebirds—an example would be the least tern. Colonial in this case means they nest closely together or in colonies.
“Often the nests are so close together of protection,” she explains. The nest are indentions in the sand, and especially on a hot day in the summer they are vulnerable. If a dog chases the nesting parents off the eggs the results can be catastrophic.
“In fact, on a hot beach those birds are shading those eggs,” she says. “It doesn’t take much to destroy a colony of shorebirds.”
Timothy Havens, Law Enforcement Specialist for the Outer Banks Group—that includes Cape Hatteras, the Wright Brothers and Fort Raleigh—notes that NPS regulations concerning pets are comparable to the leash laws of most local jurisdictions.
“Most municipalities have similar laws,” he said.
Unlike many national parks, however, the Outer Banks Group does allow pets. “We’re actually pet friendly. In some national parks, pets can’t be on the trail at any time,” he said.
There is an exception to the rule, but it applies only to hunting dogs and only during hunting season. ARNWR, Pea Island and Cape Hatteras National Seashore permit hunting in season.
Check with ARNWR or the Outer Banks Group for specific regulations.
National Park Service Pet Regulations
36 CFR § 2.15 Pets.
(a) The following are prohibited:
(1) Possessing a pet in a public building, public transportation vehicle, or location designated as a swimming beach, or any structure or area closed to the possession of pets by the superintendent. This subparagraph shall not apply to guide dogs accompanying visually impaired persons or hearing ear dogs accompanying hearing-impaired persons.
(2) Failing to crate, cage, restrain on a leash which shall not exceed six feet in length, or otherwise physically confine a pet at all times.
(3) Leaving a pet unattended and tied to an object, except in designated areas or under conditions which may be established by the superintendent.
(4) Allowing a pet to make noise that is unreasonable considering location, time of day or night, impact on park users, and other relevant factors, or that frightens wildlife by barking, howling, or making other noise.
(5) Failing to comply with pet excrement disposal conditions which may be established by the superintendent.
(b) In park areas where hunting is allowed, dogs may be used in support of these activities in accordance with applicable Federal and State laws and in accordance with conditions which may be established by the superintendent.
(c) Pets or feral animals that are running-at-large and observed by an authorized person in the act of killing, injuring or molesting humans, livestock, or wildlife may be destroyed if necessary for public safety or protection of wildlife, livestock, or other park resources.
(d) Pets running-at-large may be impounded, and the owner may be charged reasonable fees for kennel or boarding costs, feed, veterinarian fees, transportation costs, and disposal. An impounded pet may be put up for adoption or otherwise disposed of after being held for 72 hours from the time the owner was notified of capture or 72 hours from the time of capture if the owner is unknown.
(e) Pets may be kept by residents of park areas consistent with the provisions of this section and in accordance with conditions which may be established by the superintendent. Violation of these conditions is prohibited.
(f) This section does not apply to dogs used by authorized Federal, State and local law enforcement officers in the performance of their official duties.
For Cape Hatteras National Seashore additional regulations, see the following:
See 2016 Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent’s Compendium for seashore specific regulations: