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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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A 1907 dog license.
A 1961 dog license.

DOG LICENSE. One of the first ordinances passed under the CITY CHARTER involved stray dogs. On July 19, 1841 the city council approved a measure that all "all may hay keep or harbor any dog" must pay a two dollar tax and place on the animal a "metallic collar" engraved with the owner's name. Failure to comply resulted in a fine of ten dollars." The city marshal was directed to kill all dogs running at large." (1)

Enforcement of the ordinance appears to have been lax. The City Marshall in June 1864 announced that there were too many dogs in the community for its size. He expected orders from the council to begin extermination of dogs that did not have a revenue stamp.(2)

In July 1878 the entire number of dogs licensed had reached 329 males and 9 females realizing a fund of $703. Since dogs were not considered property and were not listed as assets, it was being questioned whether a license was legal. (3) Stray dogs were exterminated. In July, 1878 it was reported that "dog-catcher Davis" had exterminated 330. (4)

In 1894 the announcement was made that dogs not licensed would be held in the pound until the next morning when, if not claimed, they would be used by the police for pistol practice. (5)

In 2017 letters were sent to dog owners who had not purchased new licenses. These letters alerted them to a potential fine of $750 if new licenses were not purchased or city officials notified that the dog no longer existed. (6)



1. Petersen, W. J. "Dubuque as a Charter City," Telegraph Herald, November 28, 1940, p. 8

2. "K9," Dubuque Democratic Herald, June 2, 1864, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=A36e8EsbUSoC&dat=18640602&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

3. "Dogs Licensed," The Daily Herald, July 10, 1878, p. 4

4. "Caught on the Fly," The Daily Herald, July 24, 1878, p. 4

5. "Municipal Molecules," Dubuque Daily Herald, June 13, 1894, p. 4

6. Joseph Jacobsmeier