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Animal & Pet Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
  • Animals & Pets
    • How; How do I; How can; How . . .?
      • Q: Why should I license my pet?
        • A: Obtaining the annual tag is required by City Ordinance, and enables the City to contact you immediately should your pet be found.

      • Q: What is the cost of a pet license?
        • A: A spayed or neutered pet may be licensed for a fee of $15.00; a non-spayed or non-neutered pet is $35.00. A senior citizen may license one cat for $5.00 and one dog for $5.00 with any additional pets at regular rates. A service dog may be licensed at no charge when proof is provided. Any application received after March 31st will be assessed a $50 late fee, with the following exceptions:
          • If you obtain a new pet under the age of six months, you are not required to purchase a license until the animal is six months old.
          • If you are a new resident of Des Moines, you are required to purchase a license immediately

        • Animal License Application
      • Q: What is the license fee used for?
        • A: 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.

      • Q: What if my pet has a license from another City?
        • A: You may bring the current tag issued from another City, along with a current rabies certificate, and we will exchange your existing tag, at no charge, for a City of Des Moines pet license.

      • Q: What information do I need to obtain a pet license?
        • A: You will need to submit a current rabies certificate and proof of spay or neuter, if applicable, along with the application and required fee.

      • Q: Where can I purchase a City of Des Moines pet license?
        • A: You may purchase your license in the City Clerk’s Office, City Hall, 400 Robert D Ray Drive or print the application form which is available 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.

      • Q: Are there any restrictions for a Pit Bull?
        • A: Des Moines’ ordinance defines any Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog, American Pit Bull Terrier breed of dog, American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog or 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 as vicious. The owner of such an animal must provide a current rabies certificate, written proof of spaying/neutering, if applicable, proof of insurance coverage, as in a homeowners policy, with a minimum liability amount of $100,000 in addition to a letter from the agent on his/her letterhead that states the insured’s vicious dog, by name, is specifically covered by the policy in force. The pet must be confined as required by Section 18-56 of the Municipal Code.

      • Q: What happens if I don’t license my pet?
        • A: 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.

      • Q: What is the limit on the numbers of dogs/cats I may have living at my residence?
        • A: City Ordinance allows a total of six cats and dogs, not more than three* of which may be dogs, per household.

      • Q: If I have four dogs, am I in violation of the ordinance?
        • A: *Not necessarily. The ordinance allows the City Clerk to grant a waiver of the three-dog limit for one additional dog under the following conditions:1. 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), 2. The owner provides a current rabies vaccination certificate for the dog, 3. The owner provides proof the dog has been spayed or neutered, and 4. 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.

      • Q: What are the requirements for pet waste?
        • A: No owner or possessor, or person in charge of a dog, cat, horse or other animal shall fail to clean up or remove immediately 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 owner, possessor or person in charge of such dog, cat, horse or other animal. In addition, the owner of the pet is also required to remove any excrement or droppings from his or her property.

      • Q: Does the City of Des Moines have a leash law?
        • A: Yes, 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 at all times 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.

      • Q: Is there a noise ordinance regarding barking dogs?
        • A: Yes. 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.

      • Q: Who do I contact if my pet is lost?
        • A: Effective July 23, 2005, the Animal Rescue League of Iowa began providing animal shelter services for the City of Des Moines. 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 also encourage more than one visit to the shelter because stray animals are found daily and taken 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.

      • Q: When does a tenant with a disability have a right to have a pet?
        • A: You have the right to keep a service animal, if it is required for health reasons, even in a “no pet” community. Animals trained to assist or support those who are blind, deaf, suffer depression, or mobility-impairment can be deemed medically necessary.

      • Q: How do I report a barking dog?
        • A: If you have a problem with a barking dog and would like to report it during normal business hours (M-F, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM, call our Animal Control Unit at (515) 283-4811.
          After hours or on weekends, call the Des Moines Police Department Non-Emergency Dispatch line at (515) 283-4811.

      • Q: How do I report an animal bite?
        • A: 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 Animal Control Unit (515) 283-4811 or the Des Moines Police Department (515) 283-4811.

      • Q: How do I report a stray dog?
        • A: 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 contact the Animal Control Unit at (515) 283-4811 (M-F 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM.) After hours or on weekends, call the Des Moines Police Department Non-Emergency Dispatch Line at (515) 283-4811.

    • Where, Where do I; Where can; Where . . .?
      • Q: Where do I go to adopt a new pet?
        • A: There are many pets of various breed and ages awaiting a new home and available through the Animal Rescue League of Iowa. These pets are available at the following locations: • Southridge Mall, 1111 E. Army Post Road, (515) 473-9134 • 5452 NE 22nd Street, (515) 262-9503 • 1500 22nd Street, West Des Moines, (515) 473-9133 • PetSmart, 1715 Delaware, Ankeny, (515) 289-0667.