What would you do if you came home from work one day, and your dog was gone? Would you immediately round up your neighbors to help you search for your beloved pet? Would you jump into your car and drive around in hopes that Fido had not run too far yet? Imagine how you would feel if your search continued for months to no avail. To many families, the loss of a pet is devastating; the uncertainty of whether or not the dog will return only prolongs the heartbreak. Hurricane Katrina gave us a glimpse of exactly how important pet records and identification can be in reuniting pets with their families. It is the responsibility of every dog owner to take the necessary steps to protect their dogs from being stolen or lost.
Like children, puppies seem to get the most attention from the digital camera. As adorable as puppy pictures may be, we need to remember that a current picture of our dog (whether full grown or not) can be extremely helpful if the animal is lost. Make sure to have at least two photographs of your dog, taken within the last six months. Profile shots, or pictures that show any distinguishing or unique characteristics, are the most helpful. Keep the pictures in a file with the dog’s other records, like veterinarian visit receipts, registration, etc. If need be, you can use your stored pictures on fliers, or copy them to send to local animal shelters or veterinarians if your dog goes missing.
While current photographs of your dog are a solid start to identification, there is no better way to communicate with the finder of your pet than attaching your dog’s name, as well as your own, to the dog himself. Dog ID tags are very inexpensive to prevent your dog from being stolen or lost. They are easy to order, and provide relevant information that will allow anyone who finds your animal to contact you directly. It will be much easier for the finder of your dog to track you down if you clearly provide a current contact number or address. You will protect your dog from being thrown into the pound, and save yourself a lot of anxiety.
If your dog has a problem with wearing tags, or if you want permanent identification, consider a pet tattoo. Stamped into the dog’s ear, a pet tattoo usually costs thirty to forty dollars. There are currently two well-recognized registries: The National Dog Registry, and Tattoo-A-Pet. When you sign up, a number is given to your dog, and your contact information stored with that same number. When your pet goes missing, and someone sees the tattoo (most shelters and laboratories know to look for the tattoo), one call can reunite canine and owner! You can also be assured that your dog will not be pet-napped and sold to a research facility, as it is illegal for any research lab to use a dog with a tattoo. The tattoo registry will hold up in any court.
Another permanent, non-alterable means to identify your dog is to have a microchip implanted in the pet. Done by a veterinarian, the microchip is injected into the dog’s subcutaneous tissue, usually between the shoulder blades. Veterinarians compare the pain of injecting a microchip to that of a vaccination shot. No sedation is used. The microchip is the size of a grain of rice, and has a radio frequency identification number that can be read by a scanner. That number is registered to your dog, and as with a tattoo, your information is stored with that number. Shelters and veterinarians have scanners, and because microchipping is becoming more common, many people know to have a ‘found’ dog scanned. Changes in ownership can be updated in the database, and the microchip has a pet-lifetime warranty.
Whether by a simple ID tag, a microchip, a tattoo, or even a combination of methods, it is up to you to protect your dog from being stolen or lost. For a small amount of money, you can save yourself a lot of grief and heartache, and ensure that your wonderful pet is always safe.