Should You Get a License for Your Dog? - Simply For Dogs
Should You Get a License for Your Dog?

Should You Get a License for Your Dog?


Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan is adamantly in favor of licensing dogs. My friend Neila, on the other hand, is equally adamant that she will never license any of her dogs, no matter what the law might be. So, who’s right? Since there are so many good reasons why you should license your dog, we’ll talk about them first, and then I’ll tell you why Neila is so dead-set against it.

The Case for Licensing

As a dog owner, you have many responsibilities, and in virtually every jurisdiction across the country, one of them includes having your dog registered with your city or town. Hardly anyone does it, though. For example, in San Francisco, it is estimated that 84% of dog owners fail to license their pets. Here are the reasons why you should be in the minority that does license.

1. It Is the Law

In most areas, you have to license your dog, and you have to renew the license every year. You will be issued a tag each year, and the law also requires that your dog wear the tag at all times. If you do not license your dog, you can be fined. The fines can be pretty hefty, too, often up to $250. This is a huge outlay when compared to the $20 or less, usually, that you will be charged for a license.

2. It Can Save Your Dog’s Life

No, there is no magic in that dog tag that is going to protect your dog against injury or disease. But when you license your dog, you are giving your information to the municipal authorities, and if your dog gets lost and ends up at a shelter, they can locate you by means of the ID number on the tag. This means first of all that you are far more likely to get your dog back if he wanders off. Secondly, it means that most shelters will keep your dog for longer than they will an unlicensed animal. Usually, dogs whose owners cannot be identified are the first to be euthanized when space is at a premium.

Additionally, you will not be able to license your dog unless his rabies vaccinations are up to date. Licensing each year can serve as a great reminder that your dog is due for his shots, and believe me, rabies shots are very, very important. As I pointed out in Everything You Need to Know About Rabies, if your dog bites someone, and has not had his rabies shot, you will be forced to euthanize him. Additionally, animal control officials are more likely to be willing to pick up your dog and take him to a shelter if he goes wandering than if they suspect he has health issues.

3. Licensing Your Dog Helps Others

The fee that you are charged to license your dog goes toward animal control and shelters. By licensing your dog, you are actually helping to house and feed other dogs in a safe environment until their owners can be found, or until they are adopted.

Again, licensing is not expensive, and you may even qualify for a discount. Some states will give you a lower rate for a one-time payment based on your dog’s average life expectancy. If you are a breeder, you can get a kennel license which covers a number of dogs at a lower rate. And if you have more than one dog, even if you are not a breeder, you may be able to get a “volume discount.”

These sound like three pretty good reasons to license your dog, right? So why won’t Neila do it?

A Reason Not to License Your Dog

Neila loves her Rottweilers the way most people love their kids – with all her heart. She would do anything for them, and protect them with her life if necessary. She says it will be a cold day in hell before she licenses any of her dogs, for one reason – breed bans. Many towns and cities have implemented BSL (breed specific legislation) that requires owners of certain types of dogs to relocate them to a non-BSL jurisdiction, or have them euthanized. In some jurisdictions, people who had certain breeds before the ban was implemented are allowed to keep them, under a “grandfather” clause, but that is not the case everywhere. Neila refuses to license her dogs because, as she puts it, “Then they know where to come for the Rottweilers.”

License, or No License?

I’m not suggesting that you should disobey the law. Sometimes, though, we are asked to obey bad laws. There are numerous benefits to licensing, but I fully understand Neila’s desire to keep her Rottweiler ownership under wraps as much as possible. My opinion, too, is that breed bans are unfair to certain types of dogs and the people who love them.

Of course Neila does protect her dogs against being lost. She probably owns shares in CNATTAGS, and if she doesn’t, they ought to give her shares because she buys so many of their engraved stainless steel dog tags. They’re just $3.95 at Amazon, and that includes shipping! They come in the traditional round shape, as well as bone and paw print. You really can’t go wrong with these tags, because they come with a lifetime warranty that guarantees the engraving will never deteriorate. You also get a convenient ring for attaching the tag to your dog’s collar.

The Final Word

I have always been a believer in licensing, and am a huge Cesar Millan fan. I find it hard to argue with much of anything he says, and he definitely favors licensing. I wonder, though, what I would do if I owned a Pit Bull, a Rottweiler, or any other dog that is on some jurisdiction’s “dangerous breed” list. I expect that I would have to do some serious thinking, and weigh the numerous benefits of licensing against the possibility that one day, my local government might decide that my dog should not be allowed to live.

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