Pet ID tags: Your pet’s wallet

Posted on February 2, 2011 under Pet Adoption, Pet Insurance

A dog with pet insurance wears an ID tag.
By: Lisa Deanne Gilman
The Rescue Train, for Pets Best Insurance

The scariest news a pet owner can hear is that their dog or cat is lost. Whether the gardener left the gate open, a child didn’t close the door all the way or your pet escaped from a friend’s house while you were vacationing, the news of a missing family member sends a shock to your system.

Some lost pets do make it back home and having an ID tag on your dog or cat is the best way to increase your chances of that happening. And unless you have a pet kangaroo, your furry family member does not have a pocket to carry ID, so his collar becomes his wallet.

Being the director of an animal rescue, I hear sad stories of missing pets and all of the excuses of why they weren’t wearing a tag all the time. Some of the most common are:

Excuse: “I’ve had animals all my life and none have ever gotten out”.
My response: I’m sorry you learned the hard way that, unfortunately, unexpected things do happen.

Excuse: “I don’t like the noise the tag makes”.
My Response: Nowadays there are noiseless plastic tags, tag pouches, an engraved plate that adheres to the collar rather than dangle, and even personalized collars with your contact number stitched right onto the fabric.

Excuse: I had just given my pet a bath that day.
My Response: Put the collar right back on after the bath. Don’t wait!

Excuse: My dog has a microchip.
My Response: Microchips are an excellent way to keep track of your pet; however, the animal needs to be taken to a shelter or vet’s office where there is a scanner. Some people who find an animal don’t think to have it scanned for a chip. Make it easy for any Good Samaritan who might stop to help your animal by having an ID tag with all your current information, and have your pet chipped, too, in case a collar should fall off.

The reality is that an ID tag should be on 24/7 for the life of the pet. Without one they are at risk. Identification tags are the cheapest and easiest ways to bring your pet back home safely. When people tell me they don’t like to have a dog or cat’s collar on in their home I ask why? What if there were an emergency like a fire or earthquake? In the animal kingdom, when scary things happen, flight is often an animal’s first response. And if your dog or cat does get lost during an emergency situation, an ID tag greatly increases the chances of getting the animal home to you quickly.

When our rescue group goes to the shelter to pull an animal we make sure we put a collar and tag on the animal before stepping outside the building. We highly recommend that if you adopt a new pet, you do the same, as coming to a new home is a particularly vulnerable time for an animal. New people and situations can be stressful for a pet. You don’t yet have a relationship with a dog or a cat who is new to the family. They don’t know to come when you call them. If they get out of your yard they are not familiar with their territory. Don’t wait to get a tag – have it before the animal comes home.

We recommend the lightweight plastic tags that you can print on both sides. They are quiet, come in bright eye-catching colors, and don’t get scratched or worn like some of the metal tags. We also suggest putting your pet’s name, address and at least two phone numbers on the tag. Also the word “REWARD” might give anyone who finds your pet more of an incentive to return them to you. “Scan me for a chip” lets people know that your animal is also microchipped and there might be additional contact information. And remember, if you move or change your phone number, don’t forget to update your pet’s tag. It doesn’t do much good if the contact information is not current.

If your pet ends up at a city shelter, there are impound fees you must pay to get your pet out, and time spent in a shelter can be an extremely frightening for any lost animal. An ID tag is your best chance at preventing you or your pet from having to go through that. When I walk the kennels of our city and county shelters, I can’t help but wonder how many of these animals might have an owner who loves them but wasn’t able to find their missing pet.

What’s in your dog’s wallet?

Note: Lisa Deanne Gilman is The Executive Director of The Rescue Train, a Los Angeles based, 501(c)3, nonprofit, no kill dog and cat rescue dedicated to eliminating animal suffering and euthanasia through hands on rescue work, education and awareness.