County dog licensing to begin Jan. 1

Starting today, owners of dogs in Sussex County will need to deal with county officials instead of state agencies when it comes time to license their dogs. Beginning Jan. 1, 2010, responsibility for dog control and licensing has transferred to Delaware’s three counties.

The change will also mean an increase in licensing fees, as the county attempts to make less of a dent in its own coffers than might have been required under the previous fee structure.

State fees to license a spayed or neutered dog were $3 per year, or $6 per year for an unaltered dog. Beginning Jan. 1, the cost to license dogs in the county will be $10 annually for spayed and neutered dogs; for non-spayed and unneutered dogs, the cost will be $15 yearly.

Dog owners have until March 1 to obtain a license from the county for animals 6 months or older and can purchase one-, two- or three-year licenses based on how long the dog’s current rabies vaccination will remain in effect. Dogs must be current on their rabies vaccinations at the time the license is obtained.

The licenses run through Dec. 31 of the final year of the licensing period, regardless of when they are purchased.

Fees are waived for seeing-eye, lead or guide dogs and those that have previously served in a branch of the U.S. military.

Other fees set by the county’s new dog-control ordinance include those for kenneling operations, which range from $60 to $200 per year, depending on the number of dogs kenneled.

Owners who fail to comply with licensing requirements could face an initial $50 fine, with a maximum fine of $100 for repeat offenses within a 12-month period.

The county has been accepting applications for 2010 dog licenses since mid-December, as officials prepared to take on dog control responsibilities. Dog owners can now obtain an application in person at the Dog Licensing Office inside the County Administrative Offices building, 2 The Circle, in downtown Georgetown, or by downloading a form online at

Brochures containing applications for Sussex County dog licenses were also to be distributed to libraries throughout the county.

Other details of county dog control were also established in the ordinance adopted by the Sussex County Council on Dec. 1, though most of those elements won’t be a change from the existing law.

Eddie Parker, director of Sussex County’s Assessment Division, explained, “We’ve basically taken the state ordinance as it exists and put it into our ordinance.”

As Parker noted, the only significant change the county has made in existing dog-control laws is the fees associated with certain aspects the ordinance. Otherwise, all the provisions currently exist in state law.

The Sussex County Council in December also awarded a one-year contract to the Kent County SPCA to continue to provide dog control services in the county, but under the county’s own auspices. The Kent SPCA’s duties will include investigating complaints, retrieving unleashed dogs and inspecting kennel operations.

While higher than the previous state fees, the increased licensing fees are expected to only generate approximately $68,000 in revenue annually, far below the total cost of dog-control services – more than $670,000. The State of Delaware capped the license fees for the first two years of county-run dog-control, with the maximum fees being those $10 and $15 fees.

To learn more about dog licensing requirements in Sussex County, click on the “Dog Licenses” link listed under the Online Services tab of the county’s Web site at To read the adopted ordinance, visit the “Ordinances” page, also listed under Online Services.

For questions about dog control services and licensing requirements, contact the Sussex County Dog Licensing Office at (302) 855-7380.