It's not mandatory to apply for service dog tags in California but doing so should make it easier for you to access public buildings and rent a property that prohibits regular pets. You can apply by filing a California Assistance Dog Identification Tag form with the local animal control department.
Service dogs have important rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other legislation. It is against the law for public places to refuse you entry because you have an assistance dog with you, or to charge you extra for admission. In California, it's not mandatory to get an identification tag for your service dog. It's usually worth the effort, though, as a tag shows that your dog is a trained service animal and is fully protected under state law.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
To apply for a California assistance dog identification tag, simply file an application with the county animal control department.
The Laws for Service Dogs in California
Every California resident has the right to bring her service dog to places where the general public are invited, such as shops, restaurants and public transportation. You can be asked whether the animal is a service dog and what tasks it is trained to perform, but you don't otherwise have to "prove" that your companion is a service dog. Currently, there's no requirement for service dog tags in the state of California. You can tag your dog voluntarily, however, and it's often wise to do so since tagging can help you to access places with no questions asked.
How to Apply for a California Assistance Dog Tag
Call or visit the county animal control department and request a copy of the California Assistance Dog Identification Tag form – dig around and you may find this form online. The first page of the form asks for some basic identification information for both you and your dog, such as the dog's name, breed, color, license number and microchip number. You'll also list the dog's designation as either a guide dog for the partially sighted, a signal dog for the hearing impaired, or a service dog which performs tasks for people with disabilities. If the dog is a service dog or a signal dog, you'll need to fill out the second page of the application.
Requirements for a California Service Dog
On the second page of the application, you'll be asked to list all the functions the dog helps you with such as fetching dropped items, responding to a seizure or panic attack and pulling a wheelchair. There is no specific requirement as to what type of functions your dog must be able to perform, but a dog that is just a pet cannot be tagged as a service animal. Include the name and contact details of the dog's trainer; animal control officials may call the trainer to verify that the dog is trained in the various functions you've listed. Bring your signed application to the animal control department to receive your tag.
Penalty for Misuse
California dog ID tag law protects service dogs that are specifically trained to help individuals with disabilities. No other dog may qualify as a service animal even if that dog assists you in some way. You're breaking the law if you apply for an assistance dog tag when you're not entitled to one. The offense is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000, six months in county jail, or both. The application form contains a clear warning about making false applications, so there's no excuse for misrepresenting yourself.