A campaign to remind owners of their responsibilities has been running for over a year, and police have visited more than 1500 homes, counting 2789 dogs.
However, just a small proportion of the animals were correctly tagged, and police will embark on a registration crackdown this year.
“The police have a lot of power when it comes to dogs,” said a spokesman. “And we will not be listening to any more excuses from owners who have not registered their animals.”
Almost 200 dogs were put down last year and police have the power to destroy unlicensed animals on the spot.
The issue of destroying dogs has proved a controversial one on Rarotonga, with animal welfare groups, tourist operators and many residents unhappy about the policy of shooting animals.
However, police are adamant that action must be taken and say the results of the survey show how bad the problem has become.
They are also concerned that many pet owners appear unaware of the rules, do not realise licences need be renewed each year or understand that if a dog’s tag is lost it must be replaced.
The annual fee for a dog licence is $50 for a male and $60 for a female. Replacement tags cost $10, and police say that contrary to popular opinion a collar is meaningless unless there is a valid tag on it.
When dogs are first registered, proof that they have been spayed or neutered is required. The annual licence runs for a year after the date of registration.
The crackdown on dog ownership will be a police priority in 2018, alongside other initiatives to improve road safety and reduce domestic violence.