How Much Does Pet Licensing Cost?

Not all would be fine with an extra pet cost no matter how small or insignificant it might be. This is exactly the case of pet licensing cost. In fact, pet license has a negative connotation to a lot of pet owners.

To them, this is simply taking away your right to own a pet and you have to pay to have that privilege back. It even doesn’t seem like a real license to some but a mere permit to own as a license requires skills and knowledge, much like a driver’s license or a professional license, which ironically, pet licensing doesn’t even require.

German Shorthaired Pointer dog breed sketch

Some would even claim they don’t even need it because their pets never go out of their property. But little did they know that 1 out of 3 pets get lost or stolen in their lifetime and those numbers include indoor pets that wandered off just because someone has left the door or the gate open.

Let’s find out if pet licenses’ bad reputation is justified.

Does Pet Licensing Fees Put a Dent on Your Budget?

Hardly. As a matter of fact, pet licensing fee is very cheap in most states. But you can definitely find some areas where registering your pet costs two or three-folds the price of others.

Most licenses are annual but some places also offer other terms. Annual licenses for spayed or neutered dogs are typically around $10 to $20 while unfixed animals are usually about $20 to $50 per year.

Spaying or neutering your pet is a wise thing to do if you don’t wish it to breed. In fact, this is the main reason why “fixed” pets are cheaper to register – it’s the government’s way to control the animal population.

This also eliminates the risk of having some form of cancers which can cost $1,000 to $12,000 to treat (testicular cancer for males and cancer of the ovary and the uterus for the females). At low-cost clinics, neutering costs around $40 to $165, and $55 to $200 for spaying.

Some areas offer lifetime licenses which are a one-time fee that is valid for the life of the animal until it moves out of the area (typically county) or until the animal changes owners. These licenses are usually about $50 to $100. Most lifetime licenses require that your pet has a microchip. Microchips normally cost $30 to $60 at your local vet.

Some states also offer discounts for service or therapy dogs (license should still be secured but the fees are discounted or even sometimes free) or when applying for several dogs. Expect even bigger discounts for senior, low income or disabled pet owners.

Besides the usual dogs and cats (in several areas cat licenses are required too), exotic and wild animals definitely require special permits – if legally allowed to be acquired as pets at all.

Occasionally dog licenses can be up to $500 for certain breeds or if the individual dog has been deemed dangerous by animal control.

Please note that many areas ban certain breeds of dogs. That being said, dog breeds are nearly impossible to prove and it is best to register your dog as a similar non-banned breed. This can help prevent your dog from being deemed a banned breed in the future.

Many states do not require dog or cat licenses, but most cities, towns or counties within the state do.

Below are some example states. Please note that the rabies vaccine is required in all pet licensing around the country.

Alabama (1)

  • $1.50 to $50 annual dog license required in many cities and towns (typically about $10)
  • $10 to $50 annual cat license (typically about $10, but rarely required)
  • $35 lifetime license (if available)

Notably, Birmingham does not require dog or cat licenses. A handfull of places ban “pit bulls” and similar breeds.

Alaska (1)

  • $10 to $45 annual dog license required in many cities and towns (typically about $20)
  • Multi-year licensing available in Anchorage
  • No licensing for cats in most locations

Arizona (1)(2)

  • $6 to $104 annual dog license required in most counties (typically $21)
  • Multi-year licensing available in some counties
  • No licensing for cats in most locations

Arkansas (1)

  • $5 to $150 (often plus microchip) annual dog license in many cities and towns  (typically about $10)
  • $5 to $32.50 (often plus microchip) annual cat license in some cities and towns (typically about $10)

Some municipalities, including Little Rock, require licensing for cats too. It also requires a $150 annual fee for “dangerous dog breeds”. Many cities and towns outright ban “pit bulls.”

California

For all CA residents:

  • $7.50 to $80 (often plus microchip) annual dog license (typically about $20)
  • $7 to $10 (plus microchip) annual cat license (typically about $10, only sometimes required)
  • Multi-year licenses available in some locations
  • Cats are also required to be licensed in many municipalities.

All dogs must be licensed in California. However, this is done on the local level.

Colorado (1)(2)

For CO residents not living in a municipality requiring licensing:

  • $0 to $5 annual voluntary license may be available

For CO residents living in most populated areas:

  • $7.50 to $50 annual dog or cat license in most cities (typically about $15)
  • Lifetime and long-term licensing available in some cities.

Note that many cities, such as Denver and Aurora, ban “pit bulls” and similar breeds.

Florida (1)

  • $10 to $60 annual dog license required in most counties (typically about $20)
  • $10 to $40 annual cat license required in about half of the counties that require dog licenses (typically about $20)
  • Multi-year licensing available
  • Hillsborough County charges $500 for dangerous dog registration

Most counties in Florida require a dog license, with the notable exception of Orange County. Miami-Dade County bans “pit bulls.”

Illinois (1)

  • $5 to $50 annual dog license required in most cities and towns (typically about $10)
  • $5 to $50 annual cat license required in a handful of cities and towns (typically about $10)
  • Multi-year licensing often available

New York

For all NY residents:

  • $8.50 to $34 annual dog license (typically about $10)
  • No licensing for cats in most locations

Dogs must be licensed in New York. This is done on the local level and the cost varies. Multi-year and lifetime licenses are typically unavailable.

Pennsylvania (2)

All PA residents outside of cities:

  • $4.50 to $8.50 annual dog license
  • $21.50 to $51.50 (plus microchip) lifetime dog license
  • No licensing for cats

PA residents living in cities:

  • $8 to $70 annual dog license (typically about $12-$30)
  • Long term licenses for 3 and 12 years are available in some cities

Dogs must be licensed in Pennsylvania. Dog licensing in Pennsylvania is done on the county level unless you happen to live in a municipality that is considered a “city”. You can apply for a license through city hall or the county courthouse by mail or in-person.

Texas (1)(2)

  • $2 to $130 annual dog license required in many cities and towns (typically about $20)
  • $2 to $60 annual cat license required in a handful of cities and towns (typically about $20)
  • Multi-year licensing often available

Notably, San Antonio and Austin TX do not require dog or cat licenses. However, San Antonio requires all cats and dogs to be microchipped.

Notes:

  1. The state does not legally require licensing for dogs and cats. However, some municipalities such as counties and cities do require licensing for dogs.
  2. Licensing is often available online.

Where and When to Get Your Pet License?

Go to your nearest local pet licensing offices especially if you are getting it for the first time. These are often in city or county buildings. Sometimes pet licensing offices are in the municipal animal shelters. Your area may allow you to apply for a pet license through the mail with a check or online using a credit card.

There are websites which act as a one-stop shop for your licensing needs like the Pet Data that services everyone; from pet owners, veterinarians, animal communities, animal shelters, and pet rescue groups, among others.

Some areas like the San Diego Animal Services require pets to be licensed before they turn 5 months of age or within 30 days from the day they are moved into its jurisdiction when older than 5 months.

Requirements When Applying for Pet License

Securing a pet license is relatively easy and mostly include documents that you already have in your possession. These are usually comprised of the following:

  • Pet owner’s information
  • Proof of up-to-date rabies vaccinations from a veterinarian
  • Proof of spaying/neutering when availing of discounts
  • Proof of microchip (if applicable)
  • A small fee that usually goes to animal care agencies

What Exactly are You Paying for?

The cost of pet license is for the unique serial number that acts as an identifier for each individual pet that appears in a tag which also includes the pet owner’s information. This data is kept in the local animal registry which is readily available if your pet gets lost.

Besides being able to comply with a government mandate, this can also be particularly useful (but not required) when traveling with your pet in and out of the country.

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