Dog License FAQs

Does my dog have to have a current rabies vaccination to be licensed?
Yes. Each dog must have proof of a current rabies vaccination, administered by a licensed veterinarian. Titer tests will not be accepted as proof of rabies vaccination. Countywide licensing (with rabies vaccinations as a prerequisite) will reduce the risk of rabid dog bites throughout the county.

When do dog licenses expire?
Dog licenses expire after one year of purchase.

What is an Unaltered Animal Certificate?
Unaltered Animal Certificates (UAC) are required in addition to the license for any unaltered dog 6 months or older. To obtain a UAC, the dog must have a current license and a letter from a licensed vet on their letterhead stating that the vet has examined the dog within the past year and the owner is following the preventive health care program outlined for the animal. The cost is $250. All new certificates require a facility check by a Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter animal control officer. An annual health care statement is required to keep the certificate current.

Why is there a different fee for altered vs. unaltered dogs?
Unaltered dogs present a more significant strain on animal control and shelter resources than spayed and neutered pets. Spaying and neutering help prevent unwanted pets from being euthanized, and ease the burden on government and nonprofit resources and taxpayers. The staggered fees were established to encourage responsible pet ownership, including spaying and neutering.
Read more on the benefits of spaying and neutering your pet.

I already have a microchip for my dog. Isn't that enough?
One of the benefits of licensing is that a neighbor or motorist who finds a lost dog can call Animal Control to identify the dog's owner using the tag. A microchip can only be traced by a shelter, vet or animal control officer. Licensing allows neighbors to call, identify the dog's owner and reunite the dog with the owner; saving animal control/taxpayer resources and owner stress, as well as saving the dog a trip to the shelter, where the owner would have to pay a fine. Of course, responsible owners do not let their dogs run free, but there are many occasions when accidents happen. For example, around the Fourth of July, fireworks upset many otherwise calm dogs.

Only responsible pet owners will license their dogs. The dog owners who really burden the system won't. How is that fair to responsible owners?
Irresponsible pet owners who do let their dogs run loose will face the reality of enforcement — not just on the roaming dog issue, but also on licensing as well. An officer can issue a dog license on the spot, in lieu of a summons for not having the dog licensed. This will help officers track and regulate repeat offenders and dangerous animals.