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Bringing Your Pet to the Outer Banks

Whether you board your dog or stay at a pet-friendly rental, there are several things to keep in mind while at the beach:

  • Fleas and ticks are abundant on the Outer Banks. Bring protection (for example, Advantix or Frontline, or some other flea/tick control).
  • There is lots of traffic during the summer, and dogs off-leash are at risk of being hit by cars. This is more common here than people think! Bring a leash and keep your dog on it (most municipalities here have leash laws).
  • Salt water, if a dog drinks it, causes vomiting and diarrhea. If you take your dog to the ocean or the sound, bring fresh water for him or her to drink.
  • Beach sand and pavement get hot on sunny days, and dogs’ feet can easily be burned. Remember, if you can’t walk on the beach in your bare feet, then neither should your dog. Mornings or early evenings are the best times to take a dog (check local ordinances for additional information).
  • In case of an emergency, any of the local veterinary hospitals can accommodate you and your dog during the day. At night, (after hours) emergency service is available but limited. The local veterinary hospitals take turns being “on call” on a rotational basis. The nearest 24-hour fully staffed veterinary emergency clinic is at least an hour away in Chesapeake, Virginia. Keep this in mind, especially if you are bringing a dog that is ill or has a chronic disease. 

Outer Banks Pet Regulations

The beach can be fun and rewarding for both pets and their owners. Each town has its own restrictions pertaining to pets. Please be courteous and clean up after your pet. All pet waste must be collected immediately and deposited in appropriate containers.

Nags Head
Dogs are allowed on the beach year-round as long as they are restrained by a leash not exceeding 10 feet. All pet waste must be properly disposed of by owners.

Kill Devil Hills
Between May 15 and September 15 of each year, no dogs shall be permitted on the public beach between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. unless being used to aid a handicapped person. At all other times, dogs are not permitted on the public beaches except upon a leash and under control of owner. All pet waste must be gathered in appropriate containers. Year-round leash law.

Leashes are required in Currituck County, but there are no length requirements.

Dogs are allowed on the beach unleashed year-round, but as a matter of public safety and courtesy, they should be under the watchful eye and contact of their owner.

Southern Shores
Dogs are not allowed on the beach from May 15 – September 15. Year-round leash law. All pet waste must be collected immediately and deposited in appropriate containers.

Kitty Hawk
Dogs are permitted on public beaches. The owner/handler is responsible for and must remove pet waste and possess a bag/container for waste removal at all times. Dogs must be on a leash not exceeding 6 feet between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. beginning the Friday before Memorial Day until the day after Labor Day. At all other times during the year, dogs must be restrained on a leash retractable to 12 feet. Dogs may be taken off the leash only if they will not disturb other people on the beach. Unleashed dogs must be controlled by the handler, who must remain within 30 feet of the dog at all times. A leash must be with owner/handler at all times. Violation of any of these rules shall be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $50.00.

Pets on the Beaches - Heat, Salt & Surf

Heat Prostration
Every summer we see several animals that become seriously overheated. This is a potentially life threatening condition that can be easily avoided. It is important to remember that our canine friends cannot perspire as we do, so they rely on panting as the chief way to dissipate heat experienced by their bodies. In order to compensate for this one should always have fresh water available. Exercise should be limited to short intervals with close attention paid to their breathing patterns. When staying at the beach for extended amounts of time, give them a place to lay in the shade. Breeds of dogs with shorter snouts or those with a history of respiratory or cardiac problems are even more sensitive to the effects of heat. Remember that even on overcast days it is possible for dogs to overheat in short periods of time. Finally, never leave your pet unattended in parked vehicles.

Salt Water Ingestion
While romping at the water’s edge, some dogs will drink salt water as if it were fresh water and in large amounts, this can be dangerous. The most common effect of this is vomiting and diarrhea. Most of the time symptoms last a short while, but if they do not subside in a short time it is important they be evaluated by a veterinarian for dehydration. Severe dehydration has the potential to severely damage their internal organs, so be mindful of their drinking habits and make fresh water available at all times when at the beach.

Surf Dangers
Waves breaking in the surf can be dangerous to our smaller companions. Cresting waves can pack quite a punch and cause your pet to develop a musculoskeletal injury or worse, drown. It is important to watch them closely at all times when they are in the water and do not allow them to swim too far from land. Rip currents, which are powerful underwater currents going out to sea are dangerous to humans and dogs. Make it a habit to know the current beach report before heading down to have some sandy fun.