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Column: Changes in pet licensing

A quiet but dramatic change has reshaped the world of pets and pet owners in Duluth.

A new licensing law for dogs and cats took effect this year, bringing the first major changes in decades to the process, along with modern thinking that is among the best in the nation. Mostly, Duluth’s new law places strong rewards on vaccinating as well as spaying and neutering pets. Its goal is to keep animals healthy and to prevent unwanted litters.

The new law presents many firsts for our community. Here’s a quick rundown about what you need to know — and do — to comply with the new law in Duluth:

For the first time, the city offers pet owners the opportunity to buy bargain-price lifetime licenses for their animals. But only pets that have been spayed or neutered and are up-to-date on their rabies vaccine are eligible for the one-time fee of $65.

For owners of altered pets who want to buy just an annual license, the fee is $10. But if your dog or cat has not been spayed or neutered, the annual fee jumps to $75. You can see where the city is headed, emphasizing the importance of spaying and neutering.

Also for the first time under the new law, fees from pet licensing will go directly to the city of Duluth’s Animal Control operations. In the past, pet licensing fees have gone to the city’s general fund. Many Duluth residents didn’t license their pets in the past because they saw little benefit from the process. But now, responsible pet owners know that they’re helping less-fortunate Duluth animals when they license their own pets.

Another change under the new law is that veterinarians can sell pet licenses at their clinics. This makes it easier for pet owners to buy a license at the same time they bring their animals in for vaccines, check-ups or other care. No longer do they need to make an extra trip downtown to City Hall.

PetCare of Duluth is the pilot site for this program. But other veterinarians are expected to offer licenses soon. Vet clinics are responsible for collecting all data about the animal and submitting the paperwork and the payment to the city. The city then mails the license to the pet owner. It’s another option — and an easy choice — for pet owners. The city and the local veterinary community hope it will encourage more pet licensing.

One more first for the licensing law is that your animal now gets one free ride home from the city if Animal Control officers find it as a stray — and if your pet has a city license on its collar. It’s just one more incentive to license your dog or cat.

Across the country, the most effective animal control programs have strong buy-in from their communities. In the past, Duluth pet licenses have been purchased mainly by owners after the city has found them guilty of not complying with the law.

Dr. Amanda Bruce is owner of PetCare of Duluth, 2701 W. Superior St., Suite 102, Duluth. You can reach her or ask questions for future columns at or (218) 461-4400. For more information about this subject go to