Paws for Thought
Presented by Lincoln County Humane Society
Licensing Your Pet
There are many expectations for pet owners besides providing your pet with the basics like food, water, shelter, as well as exercise and attention. But beyond being a responsible pet owner in your home, there are also requirements within our state for what you must do as a pet owner. Wisconsin law requires that all dogs over five months of age have a current dog license. Because a dog must be up to date on the rabies vaccination in order to be licensed, dog licensing is a public health measure to prevent an outbreak of the rabies virus.
Conservative estimates indicate that over 50% of Wisconsin’s dogs are not licensed. This may mean that just as many dogs are not given the life-saving rabies vaccination. The rabies vaccination is very inexpensive and can be done quickly and easily by a licensed veterinarian. Many local vets also offer rabies clinics throughout the year, which can be cost-saving for pet guardians. Keep in mind that owners who do not license their pets are much more unlikely to spay and neuter, vaccinate for a variety of diseases, and pay for medical emergencies when a pet is injured. Licensing is just one important part of being a pet owner.
It is also extremely important to put the current license on your pet. When a dog license is issued, the owner’s name and contact information are recorded by local officials and this information can be accessed if your dog does become lost. A lost dog’s only “ticket” home may be the license and identification tags it is wearing. An owner with a dog that is wearing a current license and information, is easier to contact and thereby requiring less work on the part of humane society staff, and is less expensive to redeem your dog from the shelter. Although it is not a current law that the feline companions of Lincoln County have a license, please make sure your cats have the rabies vaccination and wear a current identification tag and be microchipped in the event they become lost.
If you purchase the current dog license before March 31, it is a cheaper fee. It is only $10 to license a spayed or neutered dog and $30 for an unaltered dog. After March 31, the fees will be increased. According to the Merrill Police Department, the fine for a first offense of a dog not having a rabies vaccination is $77.50 and the same rate applies to a dog that is not licensed. Imagine paying $155 in fines and still being required to pay the original license fee.
In Lincoln County, over 90% of the fee paid for a dog license is given to the humane society as required by state statute. Fifty cents from each license is kept by the “seller” whether that is a town treasurer, the county treasurer, or the Lincoln County Humane Society. Many of these providers of licenses donate this money back to the shelter. In 2016, LCHS received more than $40,000 in dog license fees. This is a major part of our annual operating budget. In Lincoln County, over 3,500 dog licenses are purchased each year. Because less than 50% of Wisconsin’s dogs are licensed, there are millions of dollars’ worth of licensing fees that go uncollected statewide. Don’t think of it as a tax on your dog, think of it as another way support the humane society.
In the unlikely event that your pet does bite someone, having a current rabies vaccination is also a money saving investment. If your pet were to bite and does not have a current rabies vaccination, the pet will need to be quarantined for 10 days in an appropriate facility. This quarantine includes three veterinary checks to ensure that the rabies vaccination is not present. If your pet is current on rabies, the quarantine can take place at home and the pet owner will not be responsible for paying the quarantine and vet check fees. We often hear people say, “My pet never leaves the yard,” or “My pet is too friendly to bite,” but it is safer and less expensive to prepare for the worst possible scenario than to struggle with license, quarantine, and vaccination fees unexpectedly. Quarantine fees through the Lincoln County Humane Society are $20 per day – that amounts to $200 on a 10-day quarantine hold.
Please be a responsible pet owner and provide this service to your pet. Current rabies vaccinations and licenses will potentially save money, create a safer environment for your pet, and increase the level of responsibility for pets within your community. Isn’t your pooch worth that investment?