Fact Check

Yes, LA County Granted a Young Girl's Request for a Unicorn License

"Dear LA County," the request began. "I would like your approval if I can have a unicorn in my backyard if I can find one."

Published Dec. 17, 2022

 (Getty Images/Stock photo)
Image courtesy of Getty Images/Stock photo
The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control approved a young girl's request to keep a unicorn in her backyard.

As fact-checkers, we're obliged to stipulate that unicorns are mythical creatures that, like Santa Claus, don't really exist. But we'd like to further stipulate that in addition to empirical truths there are also truths of the heart.

In a gesture that has been compared to a famous 1897 newspaper editorial responding affirmatively to a letter from a child seeking reassurance that Santa Claus really exists, the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) announced in December 2022 that it had approved a young girl's request for permission to keep a unicorn in her backyard. 

In a Dec. 6 Instagram story and Facebook post, DACC published this handwritten letter it had received from a child named Madeline. "This brought us so much JOY so we thought we should share with everyone," the story began. 

Letter from Madeline asking LA County for approval to keep a unicorn in her backyard. (L.A. County Dept. of Animal Care and Control)

The letter read: 

Dear LA County 

I would like your approval if I can have a unicorn in my backyard if I can find one. Please send me a letter in response. 

-- Madeline 

This was the department's response, penned by Marcia Mayeda, director of animal care and control for the county of Los Angeles: 

L.A. County responds affirmatively to Madeline's request for approval to keep a unicorn in her backyard. (L.A. County Dept. of Animal Care and Control) 

The approval letter read:

Dear Miss [redacted]


Thank you very much for your letter requesting permission to have a unicorn in your backyard. I am pleased to tell you that the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control does license unicorns under the following conditions:

1. The unicorn must be cared for in compliance with all animal caretaking regulations set forth in Los Angeles County Code Title 10.
2. The unicorn is given regular access to sunlight, moonbeams, and rainbows.
3. The unicorn is fed one of its favorite treats -- watermelon -- at least once a week.
4. The unicorn's horn must be maintained to be in good health. This requires polishing at least once a month with a soft cloth.
5. Any sparkles or glitter used on the unicorn must be nontoxic and biodegradable to ensure the unicorn's good health.

It is always rewarding to hear from young people who thoughtfully consider the requirements of providing a loving home to animals. I commend your sense of responsible pet ownership to seek permission in advance to keep a unicorn in Los Angeles County.

Enclosed is a preapproved unicorn license for when you can find one. In the meantime, because they are indeed very rare to find, we hope you will enjoy this enclosed unicorn with our compliments and appreciation for reaching out to our department.

Warmest regards,

M. Mayeda

In case you're wondering what an L.A. County Unicorn License looks like, here it is: 

L.A. County unicorn license (L.A. County Dept. of Animal Care and Control)

In an interview with The Washington Post, Mayeda explained what inspired her to respond to Madeline's letter the way she did: 

Mayeda said that she and her colleagues regularly see the horrible things people do to animals — torture and neglect that sometimes proves fatal. They see the horrible things animals do to people — brutal maulings that are also occasionally deadly. And they often have to make tough decisions to euthanize animals when they're deemed too sick or too dangerous. 

"It can be very emotionally draining to deal with that sort of life-and-death stuff all the time," Mayeda said.

So Madeline's letter was a boon, one that's buoyed Mayeda and her colleagues for weeks, she said.

Mayeda said she had arranged with Madeline's mother for her to receive the letter on her birthday, along with an in-person visit to DACC's headquarters. 


"County of Los Angeles DACC on Instagram." Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/p/Cl2fINALCuc/. Accessed 12 Dec. 2022.

Los Angeles Animal Control Grants Girl's Request for Unicorn License - The Washington Post. 9 Dec. 2022, https://web.archive.org/web/20221209163529/https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/12/09/unicorn-license-girl-los-angeles/.

"Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" | Newseum. https://www.newseum.org/exhibits/online/yes-virginia-there-is-a-santa-claus/. Accessed 12 Dec. 2022.

David Emery is a West Coast-based writer and editor with 25 years of experience fact-checking rumors, hoaxes, and contemporary legends.

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