Do Your Pet Licensing Policies Get in The Way of Performance?

Pet licenses (in theory) are a simple mechanism to track pets; a pet owner pays for a record of their information to be stored with local animal authorities and in return receives a tag with information pertaining to this record. Despite this, pet licenses are frequently made difficult to obtain due to extensive policies that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Understanding why you have a pet licensing program in the first place can help you to understand what your administrative policies surrounding this program ought to be.

When we surveyed Pet Licensing Program Administrators, we discovered that the two main reasons why communities have pet licensing programs are proper pet identification, as well as a source of revenue for local animal services.

When we consider these two straightforward goals, it ultimately requires a fairly simple pet licensing program. However, when we begin to mix too many facets into one process, such as complex pricing, complex timelines, and complex licensing criteria, they can deter potential licensees. In order to create simple but effective pet licensing policies, we have 3 major recommendations:

  1. Don’t Complicate Pricing. The perceived value of a license is often lost when trying to explain it through multi-tiered fees and ordinances. It’s important to make your pet licensing program as simple as possible so that you can spend less time explaining your fees, and more time communicating the value of the license itself. Additionally, pricing discounts and additional fees can create resentment and remove the perceived value of a license, further decreasing compliance. Having one standard $25 fee promotes transparency while meeting pet licensing goals.
  2. Keep Timelines Simple. Many pet licensing organizations use tactics such as multi-year licensing and set renewal dates in order to decrease administrative burden. However, not only do these timelines frustrate pet owners, they actually increase administrative burden while decreasing licensing performance.
    1. Multi-year pet licensing:
      1. decreases your ability to communicate frequently (at least on an annual basis) to your pet owner community
      2. contributes to inaccurate and out-of-date records with frequent changes in pertinent information that is typically recorded during the licensing process
      3. causes inconsistent and sporadic revenue streams
      4. reduces the familiarity with licensing, with longer gaps in-between the process
    2. 365 day licensing (a licence model that expires 365 days from the date of purchase, rather than to the traditional year-end date):
      1. allows for more consistent marketing of the licensing promotion – which makes campaigning license sales year-round more viable
      2. creates a more uniformly distributed influx of license sales and therefore revenue
      3. produces fewer customer service issues, complaints and over-time labour during renewal season
      4. reduces customer resentment as they are  realizing the full value of their license for 100% of the time it is effective
    3. Remove Complex Licensing Criteria. Lastly, communities often add complex licensing criteria in order to aid with separate animal welfare or community goals. Two common variations of these stipulations include differential pricing and late/early fees.
      1. Differential pricing aims to promote spaying and neutering in order to control local animal populations. Although we understand that policies want to support general positive practices of pet ownership, many pet owners will not sterilize their pets for a $5-$40 dollar pricing reduction.
      2. Late and early fees penalize pet owners who do license, while discounting the licensees that license early. Although this aids with pet identification as more licensees are incentivized to license early, if you miss the early period, you make the prospect of licensing late even more unattractive, reducing the number of licenses sold, again decreasing identification and revenue.

Food For Thought:

Imagine if a parking sign had 4 paragraphs explaining when to park, how to park, how much you need to pay, and additional criteria to see if you even can park, in order to park in this spot. Most likely, you would drive to the next spot that has a standard fee with set hours. Even worse, you wouldn’t pay at all, perhaps you take a risk by parking in a business’ parking lot or just park in the spot without paying instead. If you make it too complex, people will park on the other side of the road, or they won’t pay for parking at all.

Therefore, keep prices consistent with one standard fee, keep timelines simple and reduce licensing criteria and you will drive new sales while saving hours and hours of administrative burden. In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, busy people need simple solutions. Anything that inconveniences the buying process can ultimately lead to a lost sale. Licensing has simple goals and should have simple policies to support them.