Seattle Is Making Me License My Cats, and I Think It’s Great


One of the most interesting things about moving to Seattle is that I’ve had to learn to navigate a new bureaucracy and figure out which licenses, registrations, tests, and tags I need to have in order to comply with state and local regulations. I was surprised to find out that cats need licenses.

That’s right — all pets, including cats, over the age of eight weeks need to be licensed.

I’m sure some of you are positively gnashing your teeth with anger over this. After all, it’s just another manifestation of an over-regulated "nanny state," right?

Well, no. I disagree. Instead, I think cat licenses help to provide vital animal services.

You see, Seattle has a population of about 621,000, many of whom have pets and benefit from the city’s animal services such as low-cost spay/neuter, humane animal law enforcement, lost pet recovery, animal control and the ability to adopt healthy animals from the Seattle Animal Shelter.

When I purchased my cats’ licenses, I was helping to pay for:

  • Low-cost spay/neuter services for low-income and disabled residents.
  • A ride home. If one of my cats gets out and an animal control officer finds him or her wandering the street, that person can do a license check and find my phone number and address. This prevents my cats from being impounded at the shelter, where they could be exposed to diseases or, heaven forbid, "run out of time" before I found them. I also wouldn’t have to pay a shelter impound/recovery fee if an ACO gave my cat a ride home.
  • If one of my cats did end up at the shelter or at a veterinary hospital, their license numbers could be used to contact me. This would be especially important if the cat were seriously injured and needed immediate veterinary care. (My cats have microchips and collar tags, too, but I say there’s no such thing as too many ways for people to get in touch with you if they find your pet.)
  • Worry-free vacations. When I go out of town, I can call Seattle Pet Licensing and let them know who’s taking care of my cats while I’m away. Then, if something happens to one of them, they know who to contact locally.
  • The feeling that I’m helping to support the community of pet caretakers who call Seattle home.

Is the license expensive? I don’t think so. A two-year license for a spayed/neutered cat costs $27. Licenses for intact cats cost more.

Of course, $27 isn’t exactly chump change if you’re living in poverty, so the city does offer a 50 percent discount for senior citizens and disabled people, as well as a substantial discount for licensing of service animals.

Cat licensing could be a great way for cities to bring funding to desperately needed programs such as low-cost spay/neuter, mobile vet clinics to make care and vaccination more accessible to people without transportation, TNR for community cats, and a host of other activities, which would go a long way to remedy the cat overpopulation problem.

What do you think? Would you be willing to pay for a license for your cat? If so, is there any activity you would not want a pet license program to fund? Sound off in the comments.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.

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