Must You Register Your Cat with the State? Answers for PA Pet Owners

Introduction

This article provides an overview of cat registration laws in Pennsylvania. The purpose is to inform cat owners whether they are legally required to license their cats in Pennsylvania, and explain the registration process and benefits if they choose to do so voluntarily.

Licensing Requirements

In Pennsylvania, there are currently no state laws requiring cat owners to license their cats like there are for dog owners. However, some local municipalities and cities may have additional regulations.

For example, Pittsburgh requires licenses for cats over 3 months old within city limits. Proof of a current rabies vaccination is also required to obtain a license https://pittsburghpa.gov/publicsafety/pet-owners. The city code states “No person shall keep, harbor or maintain a dog over the age of three (3) months unless the owner obtains a license from the City Treasurer or his or her authorized agent” and this requirement extends to cats as well https://library.municode.com/pa/pittsburgh/codes/code_of_ordinances/337524?nodeId=COOR_TITSIXCO_ARTIIIDOCAOTAN.

So while Pennsylvania state law does not require licensing for cats, some local municipalities like Pittsburgh do have licensing requirements for cat owners.

Microchipping

In Pennsylvania, there is no state law requiring cats to be microchipped. However, some individual municipalities and counties may have local ordinances mandating microchipping for cats. For example, in 2008, the city of Lancaster passed a law requiring all cats over 6 months old to be microchipped (1).

While not mandated statewide, microchipping cats is still highly recommended by veterinarians and animal welfare groups in Pennsylvania. A microchip is a rice-sized device implanted under the skin that contains a unique ID number. If a lost microchipped cat ends up at an animal shelter or vet clinic, they can scan the chip to get the owner’s contact information and reunite the cat with its family. Given that over 2 million cats enter shelters every year in the US (2), microchipping greatly increases the chances of finding lost cats.

Some key reasons to microchip cats in Pennsylvania include:

  • Permanent ID if a collar and tags are lost
  • Proof of ownership
  • Increased likelihood of being returned if lost

While non-mandatory statewide, microchipping provides cat owners in Pennsylvania an extra layer of protection and peace of mind. Consult your local vet or shelter for microchipping services to provide your cat permanent identification.

(1) https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/li/uconsCheck.cfm?yr=1986&sessInd=0&act=181

(2) https://www.aspca.org/helping-people-pets/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics

Rabies Vaccination

The state of Pennsylvania requires all cats over 3 months of age to be vaccinated against rabies. This requirement is outlined in Pennsylvania Act 65 of 2013 and in Title 7 of the Pennsylvania Code Chapter 16 on Rabies Prevention and Control.

Specifically, the law states that a cat must be vaccinated against rabies within 4 weeks after it turns 12 weeks old. After the initial vaccination, cat owners must get their pets revaccinated periodically according to the vaccine label instructions to maintain up-to-date rabies protection.

Rabies vaccinations for cats are available as 1-year or 3-year vaccines from veterinarians. Some common rabies vaccines used for cats in Pennsylvania include Nobivac 1-Rabies and Nobivac 3-Rabies from Intervet Inc.

Proof of rabies vaccination is required for cats in the form of a rabies certificate or tag. Cat owners must present documentation of rabies vaccination any time it is requested by public health officials or police officers.

Failing to vaccinate a cat against rabies or provide proof of vaccination is considered a summary offense in Pennsylvania and owners may face fines up to $300.

Registration Fees

In Pennsylvania, cat owners must pay an annual or lifetime license fee to register their cats. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, an annual license costs $8.50 while a lifetime license is $51.50. If the cat is spayed or neutered, the annual fee drops to $6.50 and the lifetime fee is reduced to $31.50 [1].

Some key things to know about cat registration fees in PA:

  • Fees are lower for spayed/neutered cats.
  • Lifetime licenses cost more upfront but can save money long-term.
  • License fees are non-refundable.
  • Multi-pet discounts may be available.
  • Penalties apply for late registration.

When registering a cat in Pennsylvania, owners should be prepared to pay the required license fee. Keeping cats properly licensed is important for public health and owner accountability.

Registration Process

Unlike dogs, there are no statewide laws requiring cat owners to license their pets in Pennsylvania. However, some individual counties and municipalities may have local ordinances mandating cat registration. Cat owners should check with their local animal control agency or borough/township office to find out if there are any cat licensing requirements where they live.

If cat licensing is required locally, owners typically need to complete an application and provide proof of their cat’s rabies vaccination. There is usually a small registration fee, which can range from $5-15 per year. Licenses can frequently be obtained from the local animal control office, municipal building, or police department.

For example, in York County, cat owners can register their cats online or by mailing a form to the York County Treasurer’s Office. Proof of a current rabies vaccine is required. The annual registration fee is $5 per cat.

Even if not mandated by law, some cat owners choose to license their pets voluntarily through national registries like the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Pet Passport program. This provides identification if the cat becomes lost.

Benefits of Licensing

There are several benefits to licensing your cat in Pennsylvania even though it is not required by law. According to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, licensing your cat provides proof of rabies vaccination [1]. Having a license can help reunite lost cats with their owners more quickly. Licenses can also provide discounts on veterinary care and waive shelter surrender fees if a cat is found roaming and needs to be temporarily sheltered. Some counties may offer additional benefits for licensed cats, such as waived boarding fees if the owner needs to be hospitalized.

Licensing alerts animal control officers that the cat is owned and up to date on its rabies vaccination. It provides contact information for the owner in a central database. Overall, a license is the best way to identify your cat if it gets lost. With the license and tag, you have a much better chance of being contacted if your lost cat ends up at a shelter or vet’s office.

Exemptions

Pennsylvania law exempts some cats from the licensing requirements. Cats under 8 weeks old are exempt from licensing. Additionally, according to the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medicine Practice Act, Section 485.32, cats “confined at all times in laboratories” and cats brought into the state for less than 30 days are exempt.

The city of Pittsburgh also exempts cats classified as indoor pets that never go outside from licensing requirements, according to the Pittsburgh Code of Ordinances. However, even indoor cats in Pittsburgh must be microchipped.

Enforcement

Licensing laws in Pennsylvania are enforced by animal control officers, police officers, humane society police officers, and other authorized personnel. According to Pittsburgh’s municipal code, it is illegal to keep an unlicensed dog or cat over 3 months of age. This applies to cats whether they are indoor or outdoor pets.

If a cat is found unlicensed, the owner will be issued a citation and fine. Failure to license a cat within 15 days after being notified can result in an additional fine. Continued noncompliance could lead to the cat being impounded until proper licensing is obtained. Criminal charges may also be filed for repeat offenders.

Fines and penalties for unlicensed cats vary by municipality, but often range from $25-$300. The penalties are in place to encourage pet owners to properly license their cats and comply with state laws. Proper licensing helps ensure pets are vaccinated against rabies and provides identification if a cat becomes lost.

Conclusion

In summary, Pennsylvania does require cat owners to license their pets, though the rules vary by municipality. Some of the key points are:

  • All cats 3 months and older must be licensed.
  • Licenses must be renewed annually.
  • Cats must have a current rabies vaccination to be licensed.
  • Fees are typically $5-10 per year.
  • Licensing provides identification if your cat is lost.
  • Failure to license may result in fines.

So in conclusion, yes, cat owners in Pennsylvania do need to register their cats in compliance with state and local laws.

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