Darien Animal Control will soon step up enforcement efforts to get owners to license their dogs after annual registrations lagged last year.

Animal Control Officer Chip Stahl said he plans to begin ticketing owners of unlicensed dogs at the start of 2016 after nearly 500 of the 2,370 dogs on record had expired tags as of December, six months after the June 30 deadline for renewal. Connecticut state law requires that all dogs six months or older must be licensed in their municipality.

Each August, Stahl sends a reminder card and if necessary a follow-up letter along with some phone calls to get dogs licensed. Animal control officers are required under state law to contact owners about expired licenses.

“This is kind of the final warning to get the dogs licensed,” Stahl said. “I know people are busy during the summer and I don’t just bust out writing tickets but it is important.”

While usually not a major concern, fines for failing to license your pet can add up with an initial $75 fine for an unlicensed dog and a $136 fine for failing to vaccinate against rabies.

Unlicensed dogs that are picked up roaming are impounded at a Norwalk kennel, requiring a $15 state-mandated redemption fee and $35 a day for boarding.

“Having a license is like a get out of jail free card because if I find a licensed dog I can get them back home where they belong and have an assurance their shots are up to date,” Stahl said.

Owners who fail to pay or appear in court when issued a fine for an unlicensed dog can also be arrested, Stahl said, but that rarely occurs. After a fine is issued, owners have 10 days to get their dogs registered, he said.

“It’s a time-consuming job to ensure all the dogs are licensed but it’s important to make sure all dogs are licensed,” Stahl said.

Dog license renewals can be made at the Town Clerk’s Office at Darien Town Hall, 2 Renshaw Road, during normal business hours. The fee is $8 a year for neutered dogs regardless of gender, and $19 for unspayed animals. Dog owners must submit a certificate or copy of a certificate, signed by a veterinarian, indicating the dog is vaccinated against rabies, the date of the vaccination and the duration of the immunity provided by the vaccine.