Animal Licensing

Cat and dog

If you currently own a pet in the City of Des Moines, you need to have them licensed. It’s important because if your pet were to get lost, the City can help get them home with identification. The fees also help with the funding expenses for the animal shelter.

Mail-in/Drop-off Location:
City Clerk's Office
400 Robert D. Ray Drive
Des Moines, IA 50309

Contact us:
(515) 283-4209

What pets need a license?

Any dog and/or cat over six months of age needs to be licensed. The fee is due January 1 each year, but we give you until March 31 before we start charging late fees.

If your pet will not turn six months old until after March 31, you won’t have to pay a late fee, but you need to register them as soon as they are old enough. The same applies to those who bring home a new pet or move into Des Moines after March 31 as well. You can use an adoption form from a local rescue to provide proof of a new pet, or provide a utility bill for proof of a new address.

What is the cost?

If your cat or dog is spayed or neutered, the fee is $15 per animal. If your pet is not fixed, it’s $35 per animal. If you are 65 years old or older, you may register one cat and one dog for $5 each, with additional animals at the regular fee.

What about service animals?

Service animals have no fee, with proper certification. You can provide a certificate of completion from a service animal program, an accreditation form or a doctor's written approval to provide proof that your pet is an official service animal. Please download and complete the service animal application to include with your certification.

How do you license your pets?

2022 animal licenses will be available online beginning December 2021.  You will be asked to upload copies of your rabies vaccination certificate and proof of spay or neuter (if applicable). Your license will not be issued without all necessary documentation. 

If you prefer to not apply online, download and complete the License Form, then mail it or place it in the secure drop box outside of City Hall:

City Clerk's Office
400 Robert D. Ray Drive
Des Moines, IA 50309

You must also submit current rabies and proof of spay/neuter (one time only) from your veterinarian, along with the required fee. Fees can be paid by cash or check with our secure drop box outside City Hall, or with a Visa/Mastercard over the phone or online.  If your dog is considered high risk, download the attached High Risk Compliance application and provide the required information with your application.

Fees will be accepted and processed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or on the next business day.

If you would like to purchase an annual Dog Park Permit, you can include an additional $20 with your annual license payment. The Dog Park Permit provides you access to the City's three Dog Parks with unlimited use for the year. Visit Des Moines Parks and Recreation to learn more about Dog Park locations and rules.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why should I license my pet?
City ordinance requires an annual tag.  This allows the City to contact you immediately if your pet is found.
What is the license fee used for?
Fees collected for animal licenses are used for the enforcement of animal ordinances and to cover the expense of running animal shelters that serve animals in need throughout the City of Des Moines. Collected fees are deposited in the City's General Fund and designated for these uses.

Learn more about Animal Care and Control in Des Moines.
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 do I need to obtain a pet license?
  • A current rabies vaccination certificate
  • Proof of spay or neuter, if applicable
  • A completed Pet License Application
  • The required fee, listed on the Pet License Application each year
Where can I purchase a City of Des Moines pet license?
  • 2022 animal licenses will be available online beginning December 2021.
  • The City Clerk’s Office, City Hall, 400 Robert D Ray Drive.   
  • If you would like to mail-in or drop-off your registration documents and pay your fee via check, complete and 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).
Where can I purchase a Dog Park Pass?
A current pet license is required to purchase a dog park pass. You can opt to purchase a dog park pass when applying for your annual pet license.

Visit Des Moines Parks & Recreation for more information about the City's dog parks.


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, located 1615 SE 14th Street in Des Moines. Please visit in-person for a walk-through of the shelter anytime between 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Lost animals are held five days without ID, and seven days with ID.

While searching for your pet, we encourage more than one visit to the shelter because new stray animals arrive at the shelter each day.

To help the City quickly and safely return your pet, we recommend that your pets wear their ID tags and rabies tags. Consider having your pet microchipped for identification.

How do I report a stray pet?
  • 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.
How do I report a barking dog?
If you are not comfortable discussing with your neighbor, please call the Des Moines Police Department Non-Emergency Dispatch line at (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.

City Ordinance and Enforcement

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.

Any unlicensed pet that gets loose and is involved with biting a person or another animal will not qualify for at-home quarantine, as described in Des Moines Municipal Code.
What is the limit on the numbers of dogs/cats I may have living at my residence?
City ordinance allows for no more than six licensed pets per household. No more than three licensed dogs are permitted in a household.
You can apply for a fourth dog waiver by completing and submitting the fourth dog waiver application form.
If I have four dogs, am I in violation of the ordinance?

The City ordinance allows the City Clerk to grant a waiver of the three-dog limit for one additional dog under the following conditions:

  • The additional dog's full grown weight is not more than 20 pounds as certified in writing by a veterinarian (certification must be within 30 days prior to purchasing license)
  • The owner provides a current rabies vaccination certificate for the additional dog
  • The owner provides proof the additional 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

Download and complete the application for fourth dog waiver to submit when registering your pets.

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 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 their property.

Pet waste should be disposed of in garbage cans, not yard waste containers or storm drains.

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 which frequently or for continued duration emits sounds native to the species which are a noise disturbance across a residential property boundary or within a noise sensitive area.

If you are not comfortable discussing violations of this ordinance with your neighbor, please call the Des Moines Police Department Non-Emergency Dispatch line at (515) 283-4811.

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

Owners of these breeds 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.  The owner is required to complete the High-Risk Compliance form.  


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.