Top Five Reasons to Register Your Dog

Most municipalities require that you register your dog annually, and it’s not just a way for them to collect fees from you. I had the privilege recently of hearing a lecture by one of the animal control officers from Columbus, Ohio. After his talk, I asked him what he considered the top two things a dog owner should do. His response:

Dog with a tag
A dog tag can save your dog's life in more ways than one!
  • First, know where your dog is at all times.
  • Second, register your dog every year.

Since he put so much emphasis the topic of registration, here’s my top five list of reasons why you should register your dog every year.

  1. The colorful tag makes that nice jingling noise when it hits the rabies tag on your dog’s collar. You will always hear your dog coming when you hear that jingle. This might be especially important for small dogs so you won’t step on them when they get underfoot.
  2. It’s the law. Nearly every municipality in the United States requires that dogs be licensed. Most of us pride ourselves on being law-abiding citizens, and this is one way to show that. If you register late, you will likely have to pay double the regular fee, but if you don’t register at all, you may be issued a citation. Fines vary between jurisdictions, but they can become costly, particularly if you have more than one dog.
  3. The registration fee helps fund your local dog pound, allowing them to keep lost dogs in their care for a little longer before they have to euthanize them. As with shelters, dog pounds often have space issues. If dogs aren’t claimed promptly, the animal control office incurs expenses for their food, shelter, and care. They will keep your dog alive as long as possible, but when they run out of space they have to euthanize the dogs who have been there the longest.

    Your registration fees also fund education programs to teach children and adults about dog safety and care. Animal control offices also often participate with the police in breaking up dog fighting rings, resolving citizen complaints about dogs, and protecting people from dangerous and vicious dogs.
  4. Dog with a tag
    Registering your dog is often the law. Avoid fines and increase your chance of finding your dog if it gets lost.
  5. Registered dogs are usually held longer than un-registered dogs when space becomes tight at the dog pound. When there are more dogs than cages at the dog pound, something has to change. If no shelters or rescues step forward to pull dogs, animal control must make a choice as to which dogs should be euthanized. First to go are those who are deemed vicious or dangerous and those who are too ill or injured to be successfully treated.

    When there are only healthy dogs left, registered dogs are often kept rather than un-registered dogs. It’s a horrible choice, to be sure, but one that is too often necessary. Most animal control offices have a protocol that specifies a minimum number of days a dog will be held in order to allow the family time to find him. This minimum is often longer for registered dogs than for unregistered dogs. For example, in Columbus, unregistered dogs may be euthanized after just three days, while registered dogs are held for a minimum of 14 days.
  6. Registered dogs are much more likely to be returned to you if they become lost. When your dog wears his registration tags, all it takes is a quick phone call to the jurisdiction where he’s registered to find out how to contact you. Any Good Samaritan can return your dog to you quickly, based just on that tag that cost you such a small fee. It’s one of the easiest, quickest ways to get your dog back to you when he wanders.

Although micro-chips are great, the average person will not have a scanner, and may not want to be bothered with taking your dog to a vet or shelter to have him scanned. Besides, since micro-chips are internal, the person who finds your dog may not think about scanning for one. The tags are a visible reminder that someone cared enough about the dog to provide an easy way for the dog to be returned when lost.

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