Do I Still Need a License If My Dog is Microchipped?

What is Microchipping?

Microchipping is a method of identifying dogs and cats using a small implanted microchip. The microchip itself is a tiny radio transponder encased in bio-compatible glass about the size of a grain of rice. It is implanted under the skin usually between the shoulder blades using a hypodermic needle.

The microchip contains a unique identification number that can be detected using a special scanner. When the scanner is passed over the area where the microchip is located, it activates the chip which then transmits the identification number. This allows the pet to be identified if it gets lost and is taken to an animal shelter or veterinary clinic where it can be scanned to retrieve the ID number.

Microchipping provides permanent pet identification that helps reunite lost pets with their owners. Unlike collars and ID tags which can fall off, the microchip is implanted in the pet and remains with it for life. Microchipping has become a standard practice recommended by veterinarians and animal welfare organizations. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, studies show lost pets with microchips are returned to their owners at much higher rates than unchipped pets.

For more information, see:

What is Dog Licensing?

Dog licensing is the registration and identification of dogs by local governments. Licensing a dog is required by law in most areas of the United States.

Licensing a dog typically involves providing proof that the animal has received a rabies vaccination. Dog owners are then issued a license tag that must be displayed on the dog’s collar.

Dog licensing provides identification if a lost dog is found and ensures rabies vaccinations are up-to-date. The fees from licenses help fund animal shelters and animal control services. Licensing allows authorities to identify and return lost dogs to their owners.

Cities, counties and states set their own requirements and fees for dog licensing. Fines are typically imposed on owners with unlicensed dogs. Exact regulations vary between jurisdictions.

Do You Still Need a License if Your Dog is Microchipped?

In most areas, the answer is yes – you still need to license your dog even if they are microchipped. A microchip and a license serve different purposes. While a microchip is a permanent form of identification that can help reunite you with your lost pet, a license is a requirement in most cities and counties that helps fund local animal services.

As explained on the American Veterinary Medical Association website, “A microchip doesn’t replace a license” ( The license serves as your proof of rabies vaccination and registration with the city, which the microchip does not provide.

dog with license tag on collar
The license also helps support animal control services and shelters in your community. The fees from licensing dogs provide these agencies with funding to care for stray and lost pets. So while the microchip is a useful permanent ID, you still need the license for legal and administrative purposes in most jurisdictions.

Benefits of Licensing Your Microchipped Dog

There are several benefits to licensing your dog even if they are already microchipped. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), licensing provides proof that your dog is properly vaccinated against rabies and can facilitate reuniting you with your lost pet [1]. Key benefits include:

Supports animal control services – Fees from dog licenses help fund animal shelters and animal control departments. This allows them to care for lost and homeless animals as well as enforce animal welfare laws [2].

Proof of rabies vaccine – Most jurisdictions require dogs to be vaccinated for rabies before they can be licensed. Having a license provides proof your dog is properly vaccinated [3].

Reuniting lost dogs – Licenses provide contact information so you can be reached if your lost dog ends up at a shelter. They allow animal control to quickly identify dogs and get them back home [4].

How to License Your Microchipped Dog

Licensing a microchipped dog is a straightforward process that involves contacting your local animal services department, providing proof of your dog’s microchip, paying the required licensing fee, and receiving your dog’s license tag.

The steps are:

  1. Contact your local animal services department, animal control office, or town clerk’s office to begin the licensing process. This is the agency that handles dog licensing in your area.
  2. Have your dog’s microchip number ready to provide as proof that your dog is microchipped. Some offices may also accept vet records showing the microchip information.
  3. Pay the required license fee, which is typically an annual fee ranging from $10 – $30 depending on the city/town.
  4. Once payment is processed, you will receive an official dog license tag to attach to your dog’s collar. This tag shows your dog is licensed in your jurisdiction.
  5. person registering dog license

To find your local animal services agency’s contact information, visit your municipal website or search online for “[your town/city] animal control” or “[your town/city] dog license.” Be sure to have your dog’s microchip number and rabies vaccination records available when beginning the licensing process.

Cost of Dog Licenses

The cost of a dog license can vary significantly depending on your location. Licensing fees are set at the state, county, and municipal levels.

Some common ranges for annual dog license fees include:

  • $8 – $20 for spayed/neutered dogs
  • $20 – $50 for unaltered dogs

Many jurisdictions offer discounted license rates for seniors (65+ years), service animals, working dogs, and more. For example, in Pennsylvania, seniors pay $6.95 for an annual license [1].

In addition to base licensing rates, most areas charge late fees if you fail to license your dog on time. Late penalties commonly add $5 – $20 per year to the cost. Renewing promptly can save money.

Check with your local county treasurer’s office, municipal clerk, or animal control department to learn the exact dog license fees and discounts in your region.

Enforcement of Dog Licensing Laws

Local governments and animal control agencies take enforcement of dog licensing laws seriously. There can be significant consequences for dog owners who fail to properly license their pets.

One of the most common penalties is fines for having an unlicensed dog. For example, in Los Angeles County, owners can face fines up to $250 for failing to license their dogs Unlicensed dogs are also more likely to be checked by animal control if they are found roaming loose. Having a license can help ensure lost dogs are safely returned.

Most shelters require owners to show proof of a license when reclaiming lost pets. Without a license, owners may need to pay additional fees to reclaim their dog from a shelter. Licensing provides proof of ownership and ensures lost dogs can be quickly reunited with their families.

dog being scanned for microchip id

Alternatives to Licensing

Some people choose not to get an official license for their dogs and instead opt for alternatives that can serve a similar purpose of identification. Two common options are:

Voluntary registration with microchip company

Most microchip companies, like HomeAgain and 24PetWatch, offer voluntary registration services. You provide your contact information and it gets linked to your pet’s microchip ID number in their database. That way if your lost pet ends up at a shelter, they can scan the microchip and look up your info to contact you.

The downside is that registration is not automatically renewed each year like a license. And microchip registries are maintained by private companies rather than government agencies.

ID tag with owner information

Attaching an ID tag to your dog’s collar is a simple, low-cost way to provide your contact information. But tags can fall off or get lost. And they don’t contain the permanent identifying information that a microchip does.

So while ID tags are helpful, they may not be sufficient on their own for recovering a lost pet. They work better as a secondary backup when paired with microchipping.

Importance of Keeping Contact Info Updated

It is crucial to keep your contact information updated with both your dog’s microchip registry and on their license records. Your dog’s microchip is implanted under their skin and contains identification details registered to you. If your dog gets lost and is found, shelters and veterinary offices can scan the microchip to get your contact information and reunite you with your pet. However, if your address, phone number or email is out of date in the microchip registry, you may not be reached if your dog is found.

According to Preventive Vet[1], you should check your contact details in your pet’s microchip registry at least once a year and any time you move or change phone numbers. Most registries allow you to update details online for free. Keeping your dog’s license records up to date is also important, as animal control uses license information to identify lost pets and contact owners.

Licensing Supports Your Community

owner updating dog microchip info

Dog licensing provides valuable support for animal control and shelters in local communities. The annual or renewal fees paid to license a dog go directly to animal control agencies and help fund their programs and services.

According to the American Kennel Club, the money collected from licensing helps keep shelters operational and staffed so lost pets can be housed and reunited with their owners (Cesar’s Way, 2019). It provides resources needed for shelters to care for stray, injured and abandoned animals. Licensing fees also enable animal control agencies to sponsor low-cost vaccination, microchipping and spay/neuter clinics to benefit public health.

Dog licensing further promotes public safety by requiring verification of rabies vaccinations. Requiring proof of rabies vaccination through licenses helps prevent the spread of rabies and reduces the number of stray or loose dogs that may pose a danger. The fees assist animal control in responding to animal-related emergencies in the community.

Overall, licensing dogs supports animal shelters, public health initiatives and safety services that benefit the whole community. It represents a small investment from pet owners that makes a big difference for animal welfare and control efforts where they live.

Scroll to Top