why do you need a dog license featured image showing a cute brown puppyDog ownership comes with plenty of responsibilities, and making sure you get your new family member licensed in your state is one of them.

While most dog owners are quick to get their dogs microchipped, many of them are either unaware or choose to neglect dog license requirements. However, failing to do so can have some unfortunate consequences — namely, getting fined or even having a hard time getting your four-legged friend out of the pound.

So, if you’re one of the many dog owners putting off getting your pet licensed because you don’t think it’s necessary or are unsure why it matters, this article is for you.

Keep reading to learn more about the importance of getting your dog licensed.

What Are Dog Licenses?

Not to be confused with microchips — which are permanent — a dog’s license is essentially a tag that gets updated yearly or every three years, depending on where you live. It’s meant to be worn on the collar so that the animal can be identified immediately should it go missing and end up at a shelter or elsewhere.

Licensing your dog is essentially a way of registering it with your state. The license tag itself is issued with a specific set of digits (the license identifying number) that identify you as the dog owner, as well as a contact number for the registering organization.

Why Do You Need To Get Your Dog Licensed

You’re probably thinking, “But doesn’t a microchip serve the same purpose? What about a dog tag with my address and phone number on it?”

While these are fair questions, it’s important to understand that neither a microchip nor an address tag is actually sole proof of ownership. They also don’t provide the same amount of information a pet license does.

Let’s jump into the five most important reasons you need to license your dog:

1. It’s the Law

In most states, you have to license your dog — it is the law. Those who end up getting caught by a city official without a dog license usually end up paying a fine, which can be as high as $250 — sometimes even more. In some municipalities, owning an unlicensed dog is considered a Class IV misdemeanor.

Not only does your dog need to have a license, but that license must be renewed either yearly or every three years (depending on the state you live in). Your pet also has to be wearing it at all times.

2. It’ll Go a Long Way With a Lost Dog

Dealing with a lost pet is incredibly stressful. Having an official dog license will drastically improve your chances of getting them back — especially from your local shelter.

Licensing is absolute proof of pet ownership and is designed to assist animal control, shelters and other organizations to quickly identify your dog and ensure you get it back safely.

It should be noted that licensed dogs are usually kept at the shelter longer than unlicensed dogs. Once again, this is because a dog license is legitimate proof of ownership, which means shelters are obligated to do everything they can to get hold of you.

If your pup is unlicensed and brought to the shelter, it’ll likely be considered a stray, which means you run the risk of it being euthanized or adopted by someone else.

Cute puppy with handkerchief sitting on the ground

3. A License Costs Less Than a Fine

As previously mentioned, dog licenses are mandated in most states. Without a dog license for your pup, you run the risk of paying a hefty fine, or worse if you’re charged with a misdemeanor.

The average cost of a dog license and its subsequent renewals range from $10 to $30, depending on where you live. That’s much more cost-effective than having to pay a fine, plus the licensing process is quick and painless. For most cities, you can register or renew online and they’ll send you the official tag by mail.

All it takes is a quick Google search for “dog license online” in your city and an official government source should pop up. You can also do it through your local veterinarian, most animal shelters or any 311 service centers.

4. It’s Proof Your Dog Is Healthy

A dog can’t be licensed unless it’s been properly vaccinated. Most grooming salons, boarding facilities and other dog care services won’t provide their services to you unless there’s proof that your dog is healthy and up to date on its shots.

Licensing your dog also lets the general public know your dog is safe and healthy. More importantly, it lets everyone know your pup doesn’t have rabies, which means animal control officers or a Good Samaritan will be more likely to help out in a lost dog situation.

5. Licensing Fees Help Support Many Animal Shelters

You may think dog license fees are just another way for the state to get money, but we can assure you they’re not. Dog licensing fees actually support the efforts of many local animal shelters.

The annual licensing fee for your dog goes towards keeping the shelters running and supports the work done by your local animal control. It’s also used to house stray dogs in your city.

Additionally, your annual licensing fee is put towards your city’s budget for dog parks, veterinary services and other animal services such as your local rescue organization.

The Bottom Line

So, why should you license your dog?

Getting a license for your dog is part of being a good pet owner. It’s also required by law, as it’s meant to ensure your dog is safe and healthy and that you’re a responsible pet owner.

Without a dog license for your pup, you’re running the risk of facing legal ramifications or worse — losing your four-legged best friend forever should they get out somehow and go missing. Not to mention, your annual license fees support the management of a city’s worth of homeless dogs.

For more information on dog care, check out our blog!