When you adopt a new pet, everything you have to do can seem overwhelming. One to-do list item that often falls through the cracks is registering your pet with the city. Town and Country Animal Hospital can help you take care of your “new pet checklist” tasks. Read on for answers to the top five questions about when, how, and why to register your puppy or dog with the city of Fairfax.

#1: When am I required to license my pet with the city?

Puppies must be registered with the city when they reach 4 months of age and have received their rabies vaccination. As of 2019, the city of Fairfax has transitioned to issuing lifetime pet licenses only. Rather than purchasing a yearly pet license, pet owners now pay once for a license that lasts for the pet’s lifetime, making pet registration more affordable and convenient for pet owners. If you adopt an adult dog, remember to license your new pet, or check with the city to update the registration with your information.

#2: How do I register my pet with the city of Fairfax?

You can purchase your dog’s city license by bringing their rabies certificate to the treasurer’s office at Fairfax City Hall, Room 234. If you can’t purchase the license in person, you can go online to the city of Fairfax website, download the pet registration form, and mail the completed form, plus rabies certificate, to the address on the form (i.e., City of Fairfax Treasurer’s Office 10455 Armstrong Street Fairfax, VA 22030). A city pet license costs $20. In Fairfax, your dog’s spay/neuter status is no longer a factor in the cost of the license, but registering a pet who is not spayed or neutered may cost $50 per year or more in some cities. If you have questions, email the treasurer’s office for more information (treasurer@fairfaxva.gov), or call them at 703-385-7900.

#3: Why does the city require pets to be registered?

When you purchase a pet license, you are helping our city’s people and pets stay safe and healthy in many ways. 

  • Rabies — Pet registration helps ensure that pets are vaccinated for rabies, which is a nearly universally fatal disease that can affect people as well as animals.
  • Identification — When you register your pet, you will be issued a dog tag which, if worn by your dog at all times, can help identify them and return them to you if they become lost.
  • Preparedness — When pets are registered, city officials have increased awareness of the current dog population, which helps pet safety in areas such as city-wide disaster preparedness.
  • Public health — If pets are licensed, veterinarians and public health specialists can better track pet statistics, providing vital information in rabies surveillance and other disease outbreak mitigation efforts.
  • City ordinances — Information from pet registration helps the city ensure compliance with local ordinances, including the duty to restrain law (i.e., leash law), and the maximum number of dogs allowed per household.
  • Animal shelter — Your pet registration fee helps the city animal shelter provide better care for lost and unwanted pets.

#4: How will the city know, and what will they do, if I do not register my pet?

All dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens must by law receive a regular rabies vaccination. When a veterinarian administers your pet their rabies vaccination, a rabies certificate is generated, and a copy of this certificate is sent to the city. If the pet described on the certificate is not licensed with the city, a licensing application will be mailed to the pet owner, along with instructions on completing the city pet licensing process. In many cities, failure to license a pet can result in a fine or a misdemeanor charge.

#5: Do cats have to be registered with the city?

Commonwealth of Virginia law states that all dogs in our state must be licensed, but the requirement to license cats is determined at the local rather than the state level. The city of Fairfax does not require cats to be registered/licensed, although, by law, cats must be vaccinated for rabies. Other cities and counties in Virginia may have different cat licensing laws.

If you live outside Fairfax in a neighboring town or in the county, find out what animal licensing laws apply in your area by checking with your city or county government animal services office. Registering your pet is part of responsible pet ownership, and benefits your and your community. Call Town and Country Animal Hospital if you have questions about registering your pet with the city, or if your pet needs their rabies vaccination.