Do All Dogs Need Licenses?

A license can help you get your pup back if she gets lost.
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Scoring that perfect collar for your new pup is part of the fun of getting a dog, even though that fun comes with a cost. Checking with your local government might lead to another expense -- the price of a license for your dog to wear on his new collar.

Required Licenses

There's no national law that requires dogs to be licensed; this is handled at the state or local level. Some states have license requirements, as do most county and municipal governments. Checking with your local government websites can tell you what type of licenses are required and how much they cost. Some have licenses that are good for one year, while others allow three-year licenses. Most require licenses for your dog once she reaches a certain age, often 6 months. The licenses typically are required for all dogs in the jurisdiction, whether that's the city, county or state, regardless of whether the dog ever leaves your house and yard -- or your arms, if she's a cuddler.

Why Licensing is Good

Licensing means a little extra out of your pocket each year -- usually $50 or less -- but it gives you the peace of mind that you might be reunited with your pup if she ever squirms away and gets lost. When you buy a license, you get a tag that your pooch must wear on her collar. The tag has a unique identifying number so animal control will know who to call if you get separated. Licensing also helps keep dangerous diseases at bay in the area. Your pup must be up-to-date on her rabies shot to renew her license, which means fewer cases of rabies. However, it also means you've taken your dog to the vet at least once a year, helping ensure there are no other diseases or infections that could spread to other animals. This makes all animals -- and people -- in the community safer.

Special Licenses

Buying a new puppy doesn't mean zooming off to the city offices for a license right away. Licensing rules tend to give you some leeway, often 30 days after you get a new dog or waiting until your pup is 4 or 6 months old. With those that require puppy licenses, you can usually exchange the puppy license for an adult tag at no charge during the first year. Most local governments offer kennel licenses for breeders to make licensing more affordable.


Licensing laws usually include some limited exceptions. Laws that require your pooch to wear her tag at all times let her run without it if she's out hunting with you, if your nature walks lean toward finding game. Dogs visiting from out of state typically are exempt as well -- some local governments perform random home checks to make sure your dog is wearing her collar, but if you have friends or family in from out of state temporarily, their dogs don't need local tags.

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