For those who have the pleasure of being greeted by man’s best friend every time they walk through their front door, the time to license dogs – without incurring late fees – is rapidly running out.

The annual amnesty period, hosted by Santa Barbara County Animal Services, ends May 1. Under the program, which began April 1, dog owners wishing to purchase or renew a license will be able to do so free of any late fees, according to a press release. Dog licensing, which is legally required in the county, helps ensure that all canines are vaccinated for rabies.

Following the amnesty period, Animal Control officers will be going door-to-door throughout the county to promote licensing of dogs.

For information on how to license a pet, owners are encouraged to contact their local county animal shelter. The Santa Barbara shelter is located at 5473 Overpass Rd. in Goleta and can be reached via telephone by dialing (805) 681-5285.

To license a dog, owners must show proof of a current rabies vaccination as well as sterilization, if applicable, and pay a licensing fee.

Santa Barbara County Animal Services director Jan Glick said in a press release that dog licensing is the best way to assure a pet makes it home if it is ever lost.

“Dog licenses serve many important purposes, and they are often your pet’s ticket home,” Glick said. “When Animal Services officers pick up a pet wearing tags, the first thing they try to do is return the pet home.”

In addition to helping keep pets safe at home, dog licensing is key to rabies control, according to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Dept. On March 18, the first human case of rabies in Santa Barbara County since 1927 was reported, though the virus was believed to be contracted in Mexico. The young man died from his exposure to the virus, which has been largely eradicated in the United States.

Licensing, as well as rabies vaccinations, is required for all dogs four months or older. This applies county wide, including all cities and all unincorporated areas.

Revenues from dog licensing support the Animal Services rabies control program as well as the three county animal shelters.