News / Vancouver

Vancouverites urged to throw the city a bone and license their dogs

Only one in seven— or 20,000 of the estimated 145,000 dogs living in Vancouver— are licensed, according to animal services.

Vancouver dog owner Tamaki Kano holds the licence for her rescued mutt, Stanley.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Vancouver dog owner Tamaki Kano holds the licence for her rescued mutt, Stanley.

When Tamaki Kano picked up her rescued mutt Stanley from a shelter nearly three years ago, she didn’t hesitate in getting the dog licensed right away.

As soon as Stanley was in her care, the Vancouver resident said she paid a $41 fee to the city, which she renews annually, and attached the licence tag to Stanley’s collar.

“I’m a rule follower,” she told Metro. “I registered my dog only because I never thought not to.”

While that mentality might seem like the norm to some dog owners like Kano, the real rate of pet licensing in Vancouver paints a rough picture.

Only about 20,000 dogs are licensed in the city, according to Vancouver Animal Services, despite estimates that up to 145,000 pooches live here.

Under Vancouver’s animal control bylaw, anyone who owns a dog older than three months is required to license the animal and pay an annual fee of $41. Still, many dog owners in Vancouver don’t seem willing to throw the city a bone and buy in. 

Dog owner Tamaki Kano runs with her dog Stanley at an off-leash dog park in Vancouver.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Dog owner Tamaki Kano runs with her dog Stanley at an off-leash dog park in Vancouver.

That makes planning for pet-related amenities, like off-leash parks, a challenging task for city planners, said Steve Simmonds, the city’s animal services manager.

“Vancouver’s rate of licensing is 50 per cent below the national average,” said Simmonds. “If we know that there’s 145,000 dogs in the city, imagine how the landscape of off-leash areas might change. Not only is it the responsible thing to do, but they’re actually helping plan amenities for the future of animals in the city.”

In November, the city of Vancouver issued a request for proposals for a strategy to make improvements to the city’s off-leash dog parks.

Without accurate data, however, on the number and location of dogs in Vancouver, Simmons said developing that strategy is difficult.

It’s possible that even the city’s estimate that 145,000 dogs could be living here is inaccurate, added John Gray, assistant manager of animal services.

“Maybe we’re totally out of line,” he said. “We just don’t know. We don’t have the statistics.”

Steve Simmonds, the city's animal services manager, says not knowing how many dogs are living in Vancouver makes it difficult for the city to plan for dog-related amenities, like off-leash parks.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Steve Simmonds, the city's animal services manager, says not knowing how many dogs are living in Vancouver makes it difficult for the city to plan for dog-related amenities, like off-leash parks.

It’s unclear why Vancouver’s dog owners are less likely to license their pets, although a recent online survey carried out by animal services suggest a variety of reasons, from a lack of information about the benefits of dog licensing to a belief that it’s not legally required.

“Some people just think it’s a tax grab,” said Gray. “People in Vancouver have always been less structured. They’ve had less buy in.”

Despite efforts by animal services to improve the rate, allowing dog owners to apply for and renew the licence online, a process that takes only a few minutes, the number has not significantly increased.

Meanwhile, Simmonds said animal control is trying to focus on educating the public about the value of dog licences.

If all 145,000 of the estimated dogs living in Vancouver were licensed, the city could receive an additional $5.1 million in revenue. That would be less of a drain on all taxpayers, not just those with furry friends.

Simmonds said licensing helps animal services reunite between 700 and 1,000 lost dogs to their owners every year.

If more dog owners licensed their pets, the city says it would be able to better plan for amenities like off-leash areas.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

If more dog owners licensed their pets, the city says it would be able to better plan for amenities like off-leash areas.

If a dog has a tag, an animal control officer can return it to the owner free of charge. Without a tag, however, the officer is forced to bring the dog to the shelter and wait for the owner to pick it up.

Much of the revenue collected from licensing goes toward providing veterinary care for dogs that end up at the shelter.

If more revenue were available, that funding could be allocated toward more amenities and improved services for dogs.

Simmonds said he’s still surprised that more people don’t license their pets, especially considering so many Vancouverites seem to love dogs.

He said most dogs at the shelter don’t spend more than three to five days before they find a new home.

“That tells you that Vancouver citizens care about animals and they want animals in their lives,” he said. “But with that comes the responsibility of licensing and understand what the regulations are in their respective communities.”

Dog owner Tamaki Kano agrees.

While she recognizes that some dog owners may have their own reasons for not licensing their pet, Kano said they should also realize that, in not doing so, they lose the right to complain about a lack of dog services in the city.

“It’s their personal choice,” she said. “But if they start claiming that they have a right to be served just as much as my dog is, and they want their location and dog parks catered towards them, that’s where my issue is.”