Introduction to Dog Licensing and Dog Tags

Anubis was the leading funerary deity in Egypt
Anubis was the leading funerary deity in Egypt, it being his duty to guard cemeteries and preside over the business of embalming.


Dogs were domesticated early, probably around 12,000 years ago, so it is not surprising that some of the earliest recorded laws dealt with their relationship with man.

The Egyptians had laws that regulated the ownership and treatment of dogs from the early Pharaonic times.

In China the “Lion Dog” gained status as the official dog of the Imperial Palace. This at a time when dogs were a staple of the local peasants’ diet, but anyone caught harming an Imperial dog could be punished by death.

The greyhound as a hunting dog and companion

The greyhound as a hunting dog and companion was revered by both Ancient Egyptians and Greeks.

The ancient Persians had laws that could punish anyone killing a dog with 500 to 1000 lashes. Even feeding a dog bad food could result in 50 to 200 lashes, depending on the breed and social status of the dog.

The dog’s legal status began to slip substantially in the Middle Ages, when most legal thinkers were inclined to agree with English jurist Sir William Blackstone, who wrote that dogs had ” no intrinsic value” since they were “creatures kept for whim and pleasure”.

Fortunately, lawmakers of the early 19th century started taking a more enlightened view of canine rights by passing anti-cruelty legislation.

Bearbaiting and bullbaiting

Bear and bullbaiting and its variations were banned in England by the Puritans and permanently outlawed by an Act of Parliament in 1835.

In 1856, the New York legislature enacted what is widely regarded as the first meaningful anti-cruelty law, which called for the arrest of anyone caught promoting a dog fight. A decade later, the law was expanded to outlaw the malicious killing of a dog belonging to another person.

The force of law has also been brought to bear against dogs because of their owner’s misdeeds. In the Middle Ages, the dogs of criminals and heretics were often tried and punished along with their owners.

Notman CDV dog photograph c1890s

Notman CDV dog photograph c1890s shows dog wearing a collar and tag.

There are records of dogs being put on trial in England, France and Italy up until the middle of the nineteenth century. As recently as 1906, two men and a dog were put on trial for murder in Switzerland. All three were found guilty!

The first dog taxation or licensing laws came into being in Europe. Schweinfurt, Germany is on record with laws regarding the licensing and disposition of dogs in 1598. Amsterdam, Holland was collecting dog taxes and issuing dog tags in 1797, with the proceeds benefiting orphans and widows.

Most European countries are known to have issued dog tags and collected dog taxes in the 1800s.

Other articles will examine dog license tags in the US, and around the world. Helpful tips on collecting tags including a glossary of terms. Dogco.com sincerely thanks the author for so generously sharing his knowledge.
© Wm J Bone, D.V.M. 2005. First published in U.S. Dog License Tags and Related Exonumia reproduced here through the kindness and generosity of Bill Bone. All rights reserved.


Collectible dog license , tax, registration tags
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Posted by Edman on Sep 16 2010. Filed under Collars & Tags, Vintage Dogs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

3 Comments for “Introduction to Dog Licensing and Dog Tags”

  1. Wondering where I might sell a 1889 dog tax tag. Really cool. Please email me.

  2. Hey, Tammy. To be honest, eBay has a really strong bunch of sellers and buyers of license tags. The other suggestion I have is to get in touch with the International Society of Animal Licence Collectors here: http://kydogtag.weebly.com/isalc.html
    Cheers, and good luck.

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