Animal and Pet FAQ
Why should I license my pet?
City Ordinance requires an annual tag. It lets the City contact you immediately if your pet is found.
What is the license fee used for?
Fees collected for animal licenses are deposited into the City’s general fund and are used for enforcement of animal ordinances and to fund expenses for the Animal Shelter.
What if my pet has a license from another City?
You may bring the current tag issued from another City, along with a current rabies certificate, and we will exchange your existing tag for a City of Des Moines pet license at no charge.
What information do I need to obtain a pet license?
- A current rabies vaccination certificate
- Proof of spay or neuter, if applicable
- The application
- The required fee
Where can I purchase a City of Des Moines pet license?
- The City Clerk’s Office, City Hall, 400 Robert D Ray Drive. Currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
- Print the application form on the City of Des Moines website and mail it with the appropriate information and fee to City Clerk’s Office, PO Box 10326, Des Moines, IA 50306-0326, or drop it off using the secure dropbox outside City Hall (400 Robert D. Ray Drive).
Are there any restrictions for a Pit Bull?
- Des Moines’ ordinance defines any of the following breeds as high risk
- Staffordshire Terrier
- American Pit Bull Terrier breed
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Any dog that has the appearance and characteristics of being predominately of the breeds of Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier
- The owner must provide
- A current rabies certificate
- Written proof of spaying/neutering, if applicable
- Proof of insurance coverage, such as homeowner’s or renter's policy, with a minimum liability amount of $100,000
- The pet must be confined as required by Section 18-56 of the Municipal Code.
What happens if I don't license my pet?
Any owner of any unlicensed pet is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be punished by a fine up to $500 or by imprisonment up to 30 days.
What is the limit on the numbers of dogs/cats I may have living at my residence?
City Ordinance allows a total of six cats and dogs, not more than three of which may be dogs, per household.
If I have four dogs, am I in violation of the ordinance?
- The ordinance allows the City Clerk to grant a waiver of the three-dog limit for one additional dog under the following conditions
- The dog's full grown weight is not more than 20 pounds as certified in writing by a veterinarian (certification must be within thirty days prior to purchasing license)
- The owner provides a current rabies vaccination certificate for the dog
- The owner provides proof the dog has been spayed or neutered
- No more than two cats reside on the property subject to the waiver
- The waiver certificate shall be maintained by the owner, and must be available upon request.
What are the requirements for pet waste?
- No owner, possessor, or person in charge of a dog, cat, horse or other animal shall fail to clean up or immediately remove any excrement or droppings deposited by such dog, cat, horse or other animal on any public or private property not owned or in control of that person
- In addition, the owner of the pet is also required to remove any excrement or droppings from his or her property.
Does the City of Des Moines have a leash law?
- If the dog is on the owner's property it must be restrained by an adequate protective fence or by leash, cord, chain or other similar restraint or the pet must be always within the actual physical presence of and immediately obedient to the commands of the owner or person given charge of the dog and at no time be more than six feet from such person.
- If the dog is off the owner's premises it must be on a leash, cord, or chain or other similar restraint not more than six feet in length and under the control of a person competent to restrain and control the dog.
- Cats are not required to be leashed; however, if a cat is not confined within a premise, it is required to be spayed or neutered, and properly licensed.
Is there a noise ordinance regarding barking dogs?
No person shall own, possess or harbor any animal or bird which frequently or for continued duration emits sounds native to the species which are a noise disturbance across a residential real property boundary or within a noise sensitive area.
Who do I contact if my pet is lost?
- Anyone who has lost a pet is encouraged to visit the ARL of Iowa Animal Care and Control Center at 1615 SE 14th Street in Des Moines.
- We encourage more than one visit to the shelter because stray animals arrive daily to the shelter.
- We recommend that pets display ID tags/licenses and rabies tags and/or microchips for identification, so the City can quickly return them to their families.
How do I report a barking dog?
Call the Des Moines Police Department Non-Emergency Dispatch line (515) 283-4811.
How do I report an animal bite?
Any victim bitten by a warm-blooded animal or owner of any animal which bites a human or another animal should immediately report that incident by calling the Des Moines Police Department at (515) 283-4811.
How do I report a stray dog?
- Des Moines Animal Control Unit will attempt to catch any stray dogs or cats that roam your neighborhood.
- If you have a continuous problem with stray animals, you may request a live trap to be placed at your residence.
- To report a stray animal, call the Des Moines Police Department Non-Emergency Dispatch Line (515) 283-4811.
Where do I go to adopt a new pet?
There are many pets of various breeds and ages waiting for a new home at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa. Find a location at the ARL website