By law, all dogs over four months of age must be licensed. This applies to all dogs living in Santa Cruz County, regardless of whether they reside in a city or unincorporated area of the county. If your dog is unlicensed you can be cited and fined $100.

Licensing is handled by the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter, for more information regarding licensing or licensing laws visit or call (831) 465-7200.

Dog licenses are considered permits mandating specified responsibility and privileges of ownership.

Dog licensing:

  • Helps to reunite lost pets with their owners. There are over 90,000 dogs in Santa Cruz County. 4,500 dogs are lost each year. Less than one-third are reunited with their owners. A license can be a ticket home for a lost dog and can be traced 24 hours a day, every day of the year by an on- call animal control officer in any part of the county. Prior to the dog license, dog owners were only required to have a current rabies tag on their dog. Rabies tags could only be traced through the issuing veterinary clinic and only when the clinic was open.

  • Ensures that dogs are vaccinated against rabies, a fatal disease. Reminders are sent owners to revaccinate their pet prior to the rabies vaccine expiration date.

  • Protects pet owners and their animals by tracking dangerous and aggressive dogs and habitual offenders of animal laws.

  • Reduces the number of unwanted animals by encouraging owners to spay and neuter pets by differential fees.

  • Provides additional revenues to Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter to help provide funding for the rescue, shelter and care for the County‚Äôs lost, unwanted, injured, abandoned and mistreated animals.

  • Provides important information on pet populations in cities and can affect how government resources are allocated to fund animal related programs.