Dog Licensing

Why obtain a dog license? Simply put, it's the law! 

In countries with no rabies control measures, many people die each year after contracting the disease.  Rabies is almost always fatal.  As a result, every state in the United States requires their counties and cities to protect their residents from contracting rabies by mandating that every owned dog (and sometimes cats) be given a rabies vaccination. The only way for cities to avoid being in violation of this state mandate is to require that their residents vaccinate their pets. Cities have no way of obtaining proof that their residents have complied with the law unless they have a record. In order to obtain a record, cities must require residents to license their pets with the caveat being they cannot license their pet without first supplying proof of rabies vaccination. The City of Palo Alto can then ensure that all dogs licensed in our jurisdiction have proof of rabies vaccination and are therefore in compliance with the State Rabies Mandate. For more information, see State of California Health & Safety Code 121690, California Code of Regulations Title 17 Section 2606.4, Palo Alto Municipal Code 6.16.010, Los Altos Municipal Code 5.12.010, and Los Altos Hills Municipal Code 6-1.511.

  • If you are cited for owning an unlicensed dog, you could face fines of $50-$150 per dog. Also, if your pet becomes lost, a license tag on your pet's collar is the fastest way to reunite you and your pet. Even if your pet has a microchip, a license tag is immediately visible and does not require a scanner.
  • A rabies tag (which may be provided by your veterinarian) is different than a license tag. The issuer of the rabies tag cannot license your pet. It is your responsibility to license your pet with the local animal control jurisdiction.

Learn more about dog licensing


Before completing your dog license application, please ensure that you meet the following requirements:

  • You live in Palo Alto, Los Altos, or Los Altos Hills
  • You are in possession of a current rabies certificate for your dog
  • You have your license fee ready.  It is payable via cash, check, or debit/credit card (Visa, MasterCard, or American Express)
  • Proof of spay/neuter (not required, but this will reduce the license fee by 50%)

Complete Your Dog License Application / Renewal

If you are a resident of Palo Alto, Los Altos, or Los Altos Hills, you must license your dog with Pets in Need, the City of Palo Alto's animal shelter contractor.

License your dog online now! 

If you would prefer, you can also download a hard copy of the license application/renewal form(PDF, 103KB) and submit the application with your payment, rabies certificate, and spay/neuter certificate (if applicable) to Pets in Need at 3281 East Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303.

Unfortunately Pets In Need is not offering in-person licensing at this time.

Rabies Exemption

If your veterinarian has determined that receiving the rabies vaccine is a health hazard for your dog, you may file for an exemption from having to provide proof of a rabies vaccine under California Health & Safety Code 121690 in order to obtain your dog license.  A dog license is still required by law.  Complete this "Exemption from Canine Rabies Vaccination" form(PDF, 131KB) and submit it with your dog license application (see above accordion) or renewal fee, as appropriate.

Service Dogs

Service Dogs are also required to be vaccinated against rabies and licensed. However, service dogs are licensed free of charge! If you are licensing a service dog, please complete and submit the Service Dog Affidavit(PDF, 88KB) with your application. Note: Only one service dog is allowed to be licensed per person.