The Pros and Cons of Multi-year Pet Licensing

The Pros and Cons of Multi-year Pet Licensing 

The majority of Pet Licensing Organization’s (PLO) in North America engage in annual license sales. However, there are still many PLOs that offer an option to purchase either a 2-year, 3-year or lifetime license. Before we discuss the pros and cons of conducting multi-year pet licensing in your community, it is important to understand where the practice originally came from.

The History of Multi-year Pet Licensing 

The practice of licensing pets gained traction in the 1950s, especially in rural communities where the practice helped to identify who the pet belonged to. As pet licensing continued throughout the rabies scare of the 1970s it found a new purpose: licenses were now being used as a means to show that the pets were up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. This purpose stuck and the majority of PLOs in the United States still to this day use licensing as a means to track vaccination records. Therefore, it is common to see licenses for sale that correlate with conventional vaccination lengths (1-year - 3-year durations).

There is, however, one other type of multi-year license that has little to do with rabies vaccinations: the lifetime license. The sale of lifetime licenses in a community tends to originate when a PLO lacks the funds or resources to keep a consistent licensing program in effect.  This form of multi-year licensing is more passive, allowing pet owners to purchase a license once for the entire duration of their pet’s life.

In these situations when a PLO does not have the ability to actively enforce, promote, or incentivize pet licensing, their compliance drops significantly, which in turn further lowers their access to funds to implement a comprehensive pet licensing program, creating a negative cycle. The PLO will then choose to initiate a lifetime license, where they can sell the license once and put little effort into maintaining the program year round.

The Pros:

Looking forward to today’s licensing programs, with so many PLOs engaging in multi-year licensing, there are clearly some strong benefits, including:

Cost Savings: One of the main reasons PLOs decide to implement multi-year licensing is the obvious cost savings they receive from decreasing the number of times the licensing process is completed. This includes a decrease in staff labor, annual renewals, data management, and customer service, to name a few.

Efficiency: With this decrease in repetitive processes comes an increase in efficiency as the absolute amount of work performed is also decreased across the department.

A Tie to Rabies Vaccinations: Lastly, one of the most commonly cited reasons for multi-year licensing is the synchronization to rabies vaccinations - where PLOs try to make it more convenient for their pet owners by allowing them to renew their license at the same time that they renew their rabies vaccinations.

The Cons:

Conversely, there are also many negative consequences to implementing multi-year licensing, including:

Lack of Pet Owner Communication: When initiating multi-year licensing PLOs lose the ability to communicate frequently (at least on an annual basis) to their pet owner community.  This ongoing reinforcement and promotion is vital to the education and awareness around the need to license and renew, and can highlight any animal service initiatives occurring in the jurisdiction.  



Did You Know: Actively running Awareness Campaigns is the largest factor that differentiates healthy and unhealthy licensing programs, with 83% of healthy programs running some form of awareness campaign.




An Overall Decrease in Compliance: As communication with the pet owner community decreases, and less promotion is sent out about pet licensing, PLOs tend to see a significant decrease in compliance.

Inaccurate and Out-of-Date Data: Multi-year licenses not only sever the ongoing line of communication with the PLO,  but they also cease the ability for pet owners to change their information with ease: their addresses, their payment information, report a deceased pet, or relay any other pertinent information that is recorded during the licensing process.

Inconsistent Revenue: One of the most noticeable negative consequences to multi-year licenses is the inconsistent and sporadic revenue stream they produce. As PLOs accept multi-year licenses they’re allowing revenue to come in waves every few years, making budgeting quite difficult in the “off years”. This is because it can be challenging to track with precision how many pet owners will renew each year, how many pets have passed away, and how many new licenses the PLO will be able to sell. It is also seen that as compliance decreases from the lack of promotion, your actual revenue year over year will decrease with the number of pets active in your licensing database starting to fade.

Despite the fact that there are a few benefits to multi-year licensing, DocuPet recommends annual licensing. Although the ability to collect a higher amount of revenue right away without having to upkeep the relationship with the pet owner community may seem tempting in the short run, in the following years it is typically observed that revenue figures start to drop, compliance starts to fade and animal service officials have a more difficult time up-keeping the records of their pet community.

We understand that it takes time and effort to conduct annual licensing, and that’s where DocuPet can help. DocuPet provides pet licensing programs for over 35 jurisdictions across North America, we work collaboratively with our partners to create a comprehensive marketing and promotion strategy, and we provide updated software that accurately tracks data and allows pet owners to update their information online in real time.

To learn more about how DocuPet can provide a comprehensive pet licensing program while increasing your revenue click here.  

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