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March 11, 2009

Goal: to reunite more lost pets with owners and increase the number of licensed pets

King County will take a proven approach to enhancing pet licensing in 2009 with the introduction of a penalty for failing to license cats and dogs. The $75 penalty is aimed at increasing the number of pet owners in unincorporated King County who protect their pets with a license. Penalties will begin to be issued on April 1st.

The introduction of a penalty for failing to license pets is modeled after the successful City of Seattle program that increased pet licensing after the agency instituted licensing fines. Owners of unlicensed pets will first be offered the opportunity to purchase a license before receiving a penalty. Those who refuse to license their pet after this opportunity will be assessed a $75 penalty.

“The new penalty will get people’s attention but licensing your pet is really about being a responsible pet owner,” said Carolyn Ableman, Director of the Records and Licensing Services Division. “It is simply a tool that will increase the chances that you will be reunited with your dog or cat if it get lost by making sure animal control staff have a record of how to reach you. We’re confident that this new penalty will increase the number of pets in unincorporated King County that are reunited with their owner, rather than housed and put up for adoption at the county’s expense.”

There are many benefits that come with a King County pet license:

  • The first time a licensed pet is found running loose, King County will attempt to give it a free ride home.
  • If a licensed pet ends up in a King County shelter, staff will hold it for a longer period and make every effort to call or write the owner to inform them that the pet is at the shelter and available for pickup.
  • Owners of licensed pets are eligible for the Vacation Pet Alert program. You can alert King County when you are on vacation and provide the number for your pet’s caretaker so that if your pet gets loose, animal control staff can reach the right person in your absence.
  • Your pet can be picked up at no charge at your home should you need to release it to King County.
  • You can use King County’s humane euthanasia service at no charge if your pet ever needs the procedure.

In 2009, King County Pet License fees increased for the first time in five years. The fee for a pet license for a spayed or neutered pet is $30 per year. The licensing fee for an unaltered pet is $90 per year and both must be renewed each year. Discounts are available for owners of juvenile pets (under six months of age), and for senior citizens, who are eligible to purchase a license for lifetime of each pet.

King County Animal Care and Control is striving to become completely supported by pet license revenue and other fees, and not reliant on general tax dollars. The agency is about three-quarters of the way there.

Licenses can be purchased on-line, by mail, and at more than 100 convenient sales outlets in King County’s service area, including many local QFC stores, local veterinarians, city halls, general licensing locations, animal shelters, and King County community service centers. For a complete list of pet license sales outlets or to purchase a pet license on-line, please visit the King County Animal Care and Control website at

The revenue from pet license sales supports King County’s animal care and control program, providing shelter, adoption services, and medical treatment for more than 12,000 cats and dogs that come through county shelters each year. Licensing revenue also supports animal control enforcement, and to bring those that abuse animals to justice through the animal cruelty investigation program.

King County is building a model animal care and control program that focuses on saving lives through proactive licensing education and enforcement, enhanced pet adoption programs, and a stronger veterinary medical program. Pet license sales provide the primary revenue source needed for this important effort. In the last two years, King County has used pet license revenue to make significant improvements to its animal care program, lowering the euthanasia rate to 21 percent, making it one of lowest in the country. Pet license revenue has also been used to revamp King County’s animal cruelty investigations program, increasing the number of cases sent to prosecutors by more then 300 percent.

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King County Animal Care and Control's service area is unincorporated King County and 34 cities within King County. The agency has been promoting responsible pet ownership and providing animal related services to both people and animals for over 37 years.