It’s the law, but a dog license offers benefits you may not realize

Pasadena Humane licensing team

The Pasadena Humane licensing team, Cathy Mabry, Joe Jennings, Ruth Marron, Torrie Martinez, Alondra Manuel and David Novak.

Joe Jennings has been a licensing canvasser at Pasadena Humane for almost two years. He has walked hundreds of miles and knocked on countless doors. He prides himself on being a friendly face in the community.

Licensing your dog is a requirement everywhere you live in California, including the nine cities Pasadena Humane contracts with to provide licensing services.

Unfortunately, national compliance among pet owners with pet licensing laws is estimated to be only around 30%.

Door-to-door canvassing is one of the ways we alert people to the importance of licensing, and it’s also a great opportunity for us to talk about the services we provide at Pasadena Humane.

“It’s common for people to be a little wary when a stranger knocks on their door, but more often than not, they are really happy to talk with us, Jennings explained.

“We’re not selling anything; we’re not the dog police. We’re checking in to provide a service to pet owners and non-pet owners alike. I view it as inviting people to get to know the shelter.”

The fees collected through pet licensing help Pasadena Humane fund many of the services we offer. For pet owners, those services include — but are not limited to — low cost spay/neuter surgery, vaccine clinics and pet training.

Even if you don’t have a pet, you may need our help if you encounter a stray dog, injured wildlife or have another animal-related issue.

“I think many people realize that licensing their dogs is a requirement due to state and city ordinances,” Joe said. “What can be surprising is those additional benefits that a license tag provides.”

A license is proof of rabies vaccination, Joe explains, which gives peace of mind to everyone in the community.

“If you’ve ever been bitten by a dog, it’s important to know the dog is not rabid. Rabies is such a preventable disease, getting that shot for your dog is a no-brainer.”

Licensing is also incredibly helpful in reuniting lost pets with their owners.

An up-to-date license tag is an easy way for animal control officers to quickly reunite a lost dog with their family. Our officers will give a lost dog a ride home (rather than a ride to the shelter) if they are able to identify and reach the owner.

In addition, a licensing history can be equally helpful.

“We don’t like to think of dogs as property, but I have heard a number of stories of dogs being stolen,” explains Joe. “We all understand that a tag or even a collar may fall off, but having a documented history of licensing your dog gives you proof that a lost or stolen dog belongs to you.”

For pet owners Joe encounters whose dogs are not licensed, the opportunity to talk about the many benefits of licensing can be eye-opening.

“That’s what I think is one of the highlights of my job — the chance to talk with people in the community about their pets and the services that their shelter provides for them.”

Pasadena Humane licensing canvassers can license pets on the spot. Pet owners in our licensing service area can also renew a license or apply for a new license online, in person at our Shelter Shop, or by mail.

If you see Joe or one of our other licensing canvassers in your neighborhood, please say “hi.”

They are, as Joe says, friendly faces who provide a valuable service to our community!

For more information on pet licensing or to license your pet, please visit


Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane. 

This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on January 25, 2024.