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What Some People Don’t Understand: The Purpose of Animal Licensing

Posted by PETCHAMP on January 8, 2018

In this day and age, you would be hard-pressed to find a municipality, county or state that does not have some type of animal licensing law in effect—particularly for dogs and more and more for cats as well—even indoor cats. There’s a purpose behind the requirement—actually several of them. PETCHAMP provides this overview of the purposes of animal licensing.

Protecting You, The Community and Your Pet

A good place to begin to understand the rationale behind animal and pet licensing would be a visit to Petplace’s webpage. They explain that licensing is as much about the health and safety of those around you, as it is for you and your pet.

Because the majority of pet owners and their pets live close to people, part of the pre-requisite for licensing is proof of a current rabies vaccination. This protects your pet should it encounter and become scratched or bitten by some other type of rabid animal, and in turn protect the public’s health if an infected dog or cat has some type of physical encounter with another human. The disease could be transmitted by a bite. Logically one of the primary reasons for licensing stems from public health and safety concerns. In some communities that tend to be much more rural than urban, licensing may not be required for dogs and cats, but rabies vaccination is mandatory.

A second rationale behind the purpose of a pet license is one of identification. Dog and cat licenses come with an individualized identification number for each pet. Should the pet become lost or go missing, this is the first line of defense in helping identify the animal and locating the individual or family searching for it. More and more communities are also developing Internet-based pet registration for this very purpose. The registration is directly tied to the license identification number. That license, issued in the form of a metal collar tag, is actually a red flag for animal services personnel that says if your pet is lost: “Hey, I belong to somebody.”

Yet a third purpose identified on the Petplace website is the element of regulation. Some communities regulate the total number of pets (primarily dogs and cats) that an individual may own at one residence or location. This helps monitor concerns over hoarding and in essence helps ensure living space and other resources necessary to maintain public health and safety concern for both the animals and the public is met.

Most empowered governments require dogs and cats to be licensed at about three months old and be conferred that the all-important rabies vaccination is part of the deal. Some communities require annual licensing renewals, again requiring proof of updated rabies shots, while others offer licenses good for multiple years. All things considered, the cost of a license is relatively modest—running between $10-$25 per year per pet, which brings us to additional purposes behind licensing.

Animal Services Funding and Beyond

Regardless of the size of the community or its budget and resources, caring for lost and missing animals at local government shelters does not come without expense. Licensing fees help defray the cost of running shelters, subsidizes the salaries for staff to do so, offsets the cost of spay and neutering programs designed to control pet overpopulation, and as pointed out at, helps pay for the veterinarian and medical services animals need while being sheltered at these facilities.

There are several other logical purposes behind animal licensing as well that include:

  • Licensing fees help pay for training and equipment needed by animal services staff.
  • Licensing fees help offset the cost of animal education and pet adoption seminars and events.
  • Licensing fees help pay for public education and public information materials about pet adoption.
  • In some cases, fees generated from licenses help pay for the construction and maintenance of off-leash dog parks, which provide controlled exercise areas for dogs and serve as great opportunities for pet socialization.

And as noted on the City of San Diego webpage dealing with animal licensing, unfortunately, a portion of those fees also help pay for the costs of animal cruelty investigations, which bolster efforts to keep pets safe from purposeful harm inflicted by others.

We are reminded by everybody’s favorite Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, above and beyond public health and safety issues already noted, the most compelling purpose behind animal licensing? It’s the law. By properly vaccinating and licensing your pet, you are meeting local compliance mandates established by your community. Failing to properly license could result in much more costly fines, penalties, civil citations and in some communities, even the confiscation and impoundment of your pet for failing to do so.

All of these reasons and more are why PETCHAMP has consistently advocated for a three-step approach to responsible pet ownership: License/Microchip/Register.


Topics: animal licensing

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