Code Compliance

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Code Compliance is open 8AM - 4PM Mon-Thurs and 9:15AM - 4PM Fridays.

TTY 711

12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 1016
Fairfax, VA 22035

Jack W. Weyant, P.E.,

Animals and Pets

Keeping of Animals Flyer
Keeping of Animals Flyer

In general, county rules allow residents to keep animals/pets on their property, including cats, dogs, horses, livestock, and domestic fowl (some restrictions apply). Animals may not be kept on a residential property for commercial purposes. There also may be setback, location and permit requirements for barns and shelters for animals.

The definition of "pets, commonly accepted" per the Zoning Ordinance is:  Domesticated rabbits; hamsters; ferrets; gerbils; guinea pigs; pet mice and pet rats; turtles; fish; dogs; cats; domestic chickens, ducks and geese under two (2) months old; birds such as canaries, parakeets, doves and parrots; worm/ant farms; non-poisonous spiders; chameleons and similar lizards; and non-poisonous snakes. The Board of Zoning Appeals may allow other pets to be kept as commonly accepted pets in accordance with the provisions of Part 9 of Article 8.

A residential property’s lot size also determines how many animals may be kept:


 There are no limits on how many may be kept on a property. 


  • 1 to 2 = No requirement
  • 3 to 4 = 12,500 square feet
  • 5 to 6 = 20,000 square feet
  • 7 or more = 25,000 square feet plus 5,000 sq feet for each additional dog above 7


They only may be kept on lots that are two acres or greater and shall not exceed the ratio of one animal unit per one acre. Animal units are defined as: 

  • 2 head of cattle = 1 animal unit
  • 3 horses = 1 animal unit
  • 5 sheep = 1 animal unit
  • 5 swine = 1 animal unit
  • 5 goats = 1 animal unit
  • 5 llamas = 1 animal unit
  • 5 alpacas = 1 animal unit

Horses shall include ponies, mules, burros and donkeys. Only horses six months or older and cattle, sheep, goats, and swine one year or older are counted in the ratio. In addition, combinations of animals are allowed, provided that the ratio of one animal unit per one acre is followed.

Domestic Fowl

Fowl, such as chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese, may only be kept on lots that are two acres or greater. They shall not exceed the ratio of one bird unit per one acre, with a bird unit defined as:

  • 32 chickens = 1 bird unit
  • 16 ducks = 1 bird unit
  • 8 turkeys = 1 bird unit
  • 8 geese = 1 bird unit

Only fowl six months or older are counted in the ratio.


Racing, homing, or exhibition (fancy) pigeons are allowed on any lot that is 10,000 square feet or more.


Four beehives or less are allowed on any lot. On lots 10,000 square feet or larger, more than four hives may be kept, provided there is an additional lot area of 2,500 square feet for each hive.