With big fines coming, Sacramento pet owners rush to license animals

Sacramento pet owners react to city's new plan to aggressively enforce the licensing of animals

The City of Sacramento next month will begin enforcing a regulation requiring pet owners to obtain licenses for their pets. Failure to comply will result in a fine of $300.
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The City of Sacramento next month will begin enforcing a regulation requiring pet owners to obtain licenses for their pets. Failure to comply will result in a fine of $300.

Sacramento pet owners appear to be hearing the city’s message loud and clear: License your pets or face big fines.

So far this month, the city of Sacramento has sold 2,022 pet licenses, compared to 1,230 licenses in June 2016, said Front Street Shelter manager Gina Knepp.

Knepp attributes the dramatic jump to media accounts earlier this month about a crackdown on people whose pets are unlicensed. The new enforcement program begins on Saturday, and those who persistently fail to comply will get hit with fines of up to $500.

“I’m not surprised about the response,” Knepp said. “Most people don’t want to get a ticket.”

As of July 1, the city will begin enforcing a longtime code requiring that dogs and cats be licensed and vaccinated against rabies. The licenses cost $20 annually for a neutered or spayed animal and require proof of a rabies vaccination.

Pet owners in the city’s data system will begin receiving notices as their cat and dog licenses expire. Those who fail to obtain a renewal within 30 days will receive a second notice. After that, failure to comply will result in a “correctable” $300 citation, which can be waived if a license is obtained within 30 days. If not, the citation will be permanent. Further citations will cost scofflaw pet owners $500.

Only 13 percent of pets in Sacramento are properly licensed, the city estimates, compared to a national average of about 30 percent.

But if the current momentum continues, the city’s number should rise significantly, Knepp said. Pets, people and the shelter will benefit from the increase, she said.

Although rabies cases in humans are rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wildlife in California can carry the rabies virus and infect domestic animals. Licensed pets also are easier to track and reunite with their owners, Knepp said.

The city estimates that it could have collected about $150,000 last year from residents who failed to renew their pet licenses. Knepp said that money could be used to fund more animal control officers to respond to emergency calls and programs and improvements at the overcrowded downtown shelter.

Knepp noted that the city has received some flak from pet owners who have called the licensing crackdown a “money grab” on social media.

The criticism is unfair, she said. The city has required that pets be licensed “as early as 1854,” Knepp said, but the code has never been strictly enforced. In the old days, she said, the cost of licensing a dog was $5. That would translate to about $135 today, she said. “So we actually are not charging pet owners as much as we potentially could.”

The city’s $20 licensing fee includes a free rabies vaccine and identifying microchip, plus “a quick health evaluation,” she said. “It’s a bargain.”

Residents who participate in programs for people with low incomes, including PG&E and SMUD utility assistance, can get their licenses for free if their pet is spayed or neutered, Knepp noted.

Licenses can be renewed by mail, at the Front Street Shelter or online at

Cynthia Hubert: 916-321-1082, @Cynthia_Hubert

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