Unlicensed pets can cost owners big money

Unlicensed pets can cost owners up to $250 in King County. - Raechel Dawson, Kirkland Reporter
Unlicensed pets can cost owners up to $250 in King County.
— image credit: Raechel Dawson, Kirkland Reporter

Cat and dog owners might want to consider checking up on the status of their pet license. Late fees apply after the annual duration of a pet license. With summer being a popular time for pet adoption, many Kirkland pet owners may find themselves looking at a bill, which could range $15 to $30 or more.

Pet owners have 45 days until the first late fee and then it gradually increases in cost as the days grow.

Marie Stake, communications manager for Kirkland City Hall, said city hall has been working from a list of about 300 expired pet licenses in which they call the pet owners to remind them of an end-of-the-month deadline. She said she received the list from King County on July 23 and will likely receive another list during the third week of August.

If a pet is discovered to be unlicensed, pet owners could face a $125 fee for spayed or neutered pets and a $250 fee for unaltered pets. Animal Control officers check the status of pet licenses when they respond to animal-related complaints. Regional Animal Services of King County periodically “canvass” neighborhoods in person to verify pet licenses as well as “spot patrols” in dog parks. Otherwise, licensing is a voluntary compliance.

“Overall, 19 percent or about 8,200 pets in Kirkland are licensed, which is slightly higher than the RASKC (Regional Animal Services of King County) service area average of 18 percent,” said Cameron Satterfield, communications manager for the King County Department of Executive Services. “Of course, we would like for that number to be 100 percent, and we’re working to increase pet licensing.”

Since January 1, Satterfield said 4,501 pets were licensed in Kirkland, which shows a positive trend compared to last year’s figures (2,955) in the same time frame.

But that trend might not be as positive as it seems because last year Kirkland annexed 30,000 people with many pets to follow.

“We don’t have an exact census of pets in Kirkland city limits, but based on a formula from the American Veterinary Medical Association, we estimate there are 43,000 pets in Kirkland,” said Satterfield.

Dr. Judy Hung, veterinarian for Eastside Veterinary Associates said licensing is important but in the case of lost animals, the microchip and licensing combination is the most effective in finding their homes.

Eastside Veterinary Associates offers microchipping for roughly $65, which includes the piercing fee, the actual microchip and the registration with the microchip’s company. Hung said her microchips belong with Home Again.

When animals are brought into Eastside Veterinary Associates, many don’t have identities, but if they do, the contact information on their microchip is outdated.

“The goal is to try to reunite the pet quickly with the owner whether they have a license or not,” said Hung.

But even if a cat or dog has both, the process of finding owners can range between three to five hours. Hung said the veterinary clinic is not obligated to reunite the pets but they do it because of the “huge burden” lost pets face.

When the clinic is presented with lost animals they are sent to King County animal control. Hung said her clinic is not required to disclose whether the pet is licensed or not.

Pet owners are promised certain benefits from the $15-to-$60 license.

If a licensed, lost pet is found by RASKC officials, they are reunited with their owner via a “free ride home” for their first time. If by some chance the licensed pet makes it to the Pet Adoption Center, they will be cared for longer before being put up for adoption.

When pet owners go on vacation Animal Services guarantees it to be stress free. If owners sign up for the Vacation Pet Alert they will be notified if their pet escapes.

In addition to personal benefits, Satterfield claims the fees help support returning strays to their owners, finding new homes for homeless cats and dogs and funding investigations of animal cruelty.

Animal services encourages all pet owners to license their pets - even if they’re indoor.

“Animals who stay indoors do need licensing and microchips, as well, because they can escape,” said Hung.

Hung has two licensed, indoor cats.

When pet owners purchase licenses, permanent steel tags that should “last the lifetime of a pet” are provided.

Licenses are sold at more than 100 locations in King County, including Kirkland City Hall.


Pet licensing locations

Kirkland City Hall, 123 5th Avenue

Eastside Auto Licensing, 12006 NE 85th St

QFC Parkplace, 211 Parkplace Center

QFC Totem Lake, 11224 NE 124th Lane

QFC Inglewood, 14130 Juanita Dr. NE


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