County to fine owners of unlicensed pets

March 17, 2009

By Staff

Starting April 1, King County will penalize owners who fail to license their cats and dogs. The $75 penalty is designed to increase the number of pet owners who protect their pets with a license.

A license for a spayed or neutered pet is $30 per year. The fee for an unaltered pet is $90 per year. Owners of unlicensed pets will first be offered an opportunity to purchase a license. If they refuse to license their pets, they will be fined. 

Discounts are available for owners whose pets are less than six months old. Senior citizens are eligible to purchase a license for the lifetime of each pet. 

Licenses can be purchased online, by mail and at more than 100 sales outlets, veterinarian offices, city halls, animal shelters and county community service centers. For a list of outlets or to purchase online, go to

The first time county Animal Care and Control officers find a licensed pet running loose, officers will attempt to give the pet a free ride home. If a licensed pet is taken to a King County shelter, staff will keep the animal for a longer period and work to inform the owner that the pet is available for pickup.

Owners of licensed pets are also eligible for the Vacation Pet Alert program. Owners can alert the county when they are on vacation and provide the number for the pet’s caretaker. If the animal gets loose, animal control staff can reach the caretaker in the owner’s absence.

A licensed pet can be picked up for free if the owner decides to release it to King County. Owners of licensed pets can also use the county’s humane euthanasia service for free. 

Revenue from license sales supports county efforts to provide shelter, adoption services, and medical treatment for the more than 12,000 cats and dogs that pass through county shelters each year. Revenue also supports animal control enforcement and the animal cruelty investigation program, according to a news release. Animal Care and Control is working to become completely supported by pet license revenue and other fees instead of relying on general tax dollars. 

The county modeled the license program after a successful Seattle effort that increased pet licensing by instituting fines.

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