70% of Charlotteans don’t license their pets. Are you one of them?

70% of Charlotteans don’t license their pets. Are you one of them?
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As you all know, I got the most adorable puppy in the world and her name is Esther.

Esther recently finished up her vaccinations and now that she’s protected from the deadly Parvovirus, I can finally stop doubling up on my anxiety medicine.

But a few weeks after she completed her vaccinations, I got a postcard in the mail. It was from CMPD Animal Care & Control.

pet license


The postcard said that Esther was required by Charlotte law to be licensed. I’ve never heard anyone talk about pet licenses before, so I hit the Twitter to find out if this was some sort of money-making scam.

pet license twitter

Apparently no one else has heard about this Charlotte law either. Well, except for Scott Lundgren, pet license genius.

I went to the CMPD Animal Control website to see if getting a license was necessary or just simply a suggestion. Here’s a quick run-down of what I found:

“Any Charlotte dog, cat or ferret that is four months and older must have a pet license. But you can only license your pet if you have proof that they were vaccinated for rabies. Also, fees are three times higher if your pet isn’t neutered/spayed.”

Let’s pause for a minute. Ferrets? Why are ferrets included in this ordinance? I, for one, have a strict no-rodent policy (which is ironic since my dog looks like a mouse). Why are ferrets in the same category as dogs and cats? Why are gerbils excluded? Can ferrets even be neutered? I needed answers.

To get me the answers I so desperately sought, I spoke with Melissa Knicely, the public information specialist at CMPD. Here’s our conversation:

Me: Why is it important to license your pet?

The easy answer is because it’s the law.

However, there are a couple of really good reasons that pet licensing is important. In order to obtain a Mecklenburg County pet license, you have to show proof of a rabies vaccination. This is the only legally required vaccination by the state of North Carolina. The reason this is so important is because we do find positive rabies cases in our county each year.

Also, if a pet is found and is wearing a pet license/rabies tag then we can locate the owner.

Me: How much does it cost to license your pet?

Here are the license fees:


Me: Why are ferrets included in pet licensing?

Ferrets are pets that can carry rabies and there is an approved rabies vaccine for ferrets. The only species that have approved vaccines against rabies are canine, feline and ferret.

Me: I think ferrets are creepy.

That’s not nice.

Me: What percentage of pets do you think are licensed in Charlotte?

Approximately 30%.

esther in pool

Me: What are the repercussions of not having your pet licensed? Is there a fine? Could I be arrested? Could Esther be arrested?

There can be a fine. Most of the time we will give a warning citation and provide the pet owner with info on how to get a pet license. Since you must have proof of a current rabies vaccination to get a license, chances are they could also receive a warning requiring they update their animal’s rabies vaccine.

Side Note: If you keep getting caught owning a pet without a license the city ordinance says that you will be charged $50 for a first offense. By the fifth offense you will have to pay $500 and they can take away your pet. #nightmare

Me: How can you get caught without a pet license? Do the police ever do random checks?

The lack of a pet license issue will surface because we are at the owner’s house or interacting with the pet owner on a call for service. Examples of calls for services are leash law violations, dog attacks or a found dog traced back to owner. When we have a call for service, we check for a current rabies vaccination and a current pet license.

We typically don’t do random checks for pet licenses.

Me: Is there anything else pet owners should know?

We offer monthly rabies clinics where pet owners can get a FREE rabies vaccination for their animals. We also offer FREE spay/neuter surgeries for Mecklenburg County pet owners.


Image via Instagram

Ok, so licensing your pet is pretty much Charlotte’s way of making sure rabies doesn’t run rampant in our city and kill all our pets. I get that. But what I don’t get is why CMPD made Esther’s license payment due before she was six-months-old and able to be spayed. That means that I would have to pay for an unaltered pet ($30 for one year as opposed to $25 for three years).

mary and esther

Since I’m cheap and would rather spend my money on dog clothes and hummus, I called CMPD customer service and complained.

They told me to send a note explaining my situation with a payment for a spayed/neutered pet and then send proof of her spay when she had her surgery.

Wouldn’t it just be easier if pet owners had at least eight months to get a license? This would allow time for most of our animals to be “altered.”

pet data website

If you’re like me and had no idea that pet licenses were a thing, you can get one online here.

The only caveat is that you may have to pay the $10 late fee, but it’s better than paying a $50 fine or getting your pet taken away.

Bonus: If you’re 62 or older you get your pet license for free, which means I’m excited to be 62 so I don’t have to pay for Esther’s anymore. (And yes, she WILL live that long.)

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