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Is requiring a dog license a state law or left to the discretion of counties?

Ken Little
Margaret Hobgood walks Emily in Hugh MacRae Park on May 1, 2006. StarNews file photo.

A dog owner walks her dog in Hugh MacRae Park in 2006. StarNews file photo

Q. Is licensing of dogs required by N.C. State statute, or is it left to the discretion of individual county ordinances? If licensing dogs is optional at the county level, what are the stated reasons for licensing? And, what percentage of counties in N.C. requires registration of dogs? Is a county ordinance for licensing dogs applicable to towns, or is a town ordinance required?

A. The N.C. General Assembly has enabling legislation on the books authorizing “an annual license tax for the privilege of keeping dogs or pets,” said Kemp Burpeau, deputy attorney of New Hanover County.

Each of the state’s 100 counties is able to enact some form of dog tax.

New Hanover County is one of them. Burpeau said about one-third of the counties in the state charge a license fee of some sort fee to dog owners.

“The dog license tax is up to the county. It’s a state enabling law, so it’s up to the counties if they want to use that power,” he said.

Some funds from the dog tax are directed toward public health. That includes rabies shots and tags, which are mandatory across the state.

“We want to make sure the state law in complied with. The registration or license fee is optional and the county has chosen to make it mandatory,” Burpeau said.


Do New Hanover County leash laws apply to service dogs when just being walked by the owner?

Which Wilmington-area bars allow well-behaved dogs?

User-contributed question by:
Paul Foster

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