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There are several steps you can take to increase the chances of your dog being returned to you if lost, or to decrease the chances of your dog being stolen. Here are three different methods.
1. Pet Tags
By far the most important piece of information on your pet’s tag is your telephone number, including the area code. Everything else is optional.
Some people don’t like to put their dog’s name on the collar, as that can make it easier for a thief to coax your dog along with their name. The choice is up to you. Attach the tag to your dog’s collar securely. Do not use the “S” hooks — many tags are lost that way. Use the keyring type of attachment, or, better yet, have the tag riveted onto the collar.
Of course, one problem with tags is that they are easily removed simply by taking off the collar.
There are a few services with which you can register a pet tag, and you get an ID number and an 800 number for the person who finds your dog to call. Depending on the service, they will guarantee pickup of your pet, necessary veterinary attention and hold the dog until they can contact you.
Get your dog tattooed. Tattoos cannot be removed or lost. This will help identify your dog and get it returned to you (most animal shelters will not destroy a tattooed dog). It helps deter theft and ensures that your pet will not wind up in a laboratory somewhere. Your veterinarian can give you pointers on someone who can tattoo your pet.
Tattooing is an excellent way to protect your pets. In fact, there are animal science laboratories and vet clinics around the country that sponsor low-cost tattoo clinics and tattoo “fairs.”
Get the tattoo put on the inside of your dog’s thigh. This is much harder to remove than one placed in your pet’s ear. As long as your dog is older than 5 weeks old, they can be tattooed. The younger, the better — puppies are more easily controlled than adult dogs are.
You need to get the tattoo number registered, or it isn’t very useful in locating you. If you use a national registry, use a number that will not change. (Social Security numbers are good.) There is a one-time fee for registering the number, and you can then register other pets with the same number.
Anesthesia is not required to do a tattoo, though it can help. You might consider having your dog spayed and tattooed at the same time, for example.
Note that tattooing (or microchipping) is a prerequisite for registering a purebred dog in some countries, such as Canada.
Unfortunately, tattoos can fade over time. Also, especially in double-coated or long-haired breeds, it may be hard to find the tattoo when the hair grows back. You can keep the area shaven, of course, but your dog might be lost long enough for the hair to grow back.
An alternative is the injected microchip. The microchip contains a numbering system that is readable with a scanner.
Each company has its own database you can register with. Each microchip has a code that is assigned to you (or your kennel) and your pets. Information that is kept on file includes extra emergency numbers should your pet be impounded or taken to an animal hospital because of injury or illness. Your vet’s name and number are also included, along with any important medical info about your animal. This is important for animals with life-threatening medical conditions. Keep this information up to date!
Not all shelters check for the chip, but many are now doing so in the United States. Because tattoos can fade over time, this is an alternative to consider. It takes only a couple of minutes to insert the chip and fill out the form. After that, all you have to do is pay yearly dues.
You generally want to be sure that the person doing it has medical training, for sterility and health reasons. The chip must be placed between the shoulder blades and not migrate (effectively disappearing). Note that rare occurrence of chip migration does not hurt the dog, but it can make it difficult to read the chip. It’s suggested that you have the chip read periodically to make sure it’s still in place.
The chip itself is about the size and shape of a grain of rice. The needle is hollow and, on the end of a syringe that contains the chip, about 3mm wide. Once in, the chip is inserted with the plunger from the syringe, and it is done in about 20 seconds.
About Pet Thefts
Animal thefts do happen — this is a fear of pet parents everywhere.
First of all, if your dog is missing or stolen, you have a responsibility to report this crime to the police. They may not always be able to do anything about it, but if they get several reports, they can justify putting some time on it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are bothering the police.
Call the shelters and the local vets and tell them of your loss; they can be on the lookout for your dog. Most veterinarians will take a description of your dog and contact others in the area to keep an eye out for them.
Put up flyers in the immediate area. If your dog has been tattooed or microchipped, the dog may show up shortly.