Maintaining Identity Information for your Pets
One Saturday Nicole, the animal caretaker at the Douglas County shelter, came in with a sweet, calm, well groomed yorkie. She was hoping we would recognize him. Unfortunately we did not (later we found out he was visiting for the weekend). He was found in a neighborhood in town with a nice collar. No tags on the collar, no microchip. It was obvious that he was a pet dog because he was clean, groomed and had that collar on.
My staff called clients we knew in the neighborhood where he was found and luckily one thought of a possible home. No, that was not the home, but that call led my staff to 3 other calls which did lead to the owner. The owner was visiting from out of town, and the dog had somehow slipped out of the yard where they were. Owner and pup were reunited in our office and all was basically well. Nicole did educate the owner about the need for wearing the rabies tag. The tag is not only proof of vaccination but also is an identity tag for the pet. She also gave the owner a form to order a regular identity tag for her dog so if he ever got lose again, it would be quicker and easier for him to get back to her. All of this took about 45 minutes, with a fair amount of uncertainty if we could locate an owner.
Now this scenario may have played out a lot differently. What if Nichole did not have the time to stop in to see if we recognized him? She would have checked him into the shelter where he would be safe and well cared for. Part of the check in process would include scanning for a microchip but she would not have found any. She would have had to wait until Monday to call local veterinarians, double check if there were missing dog reports at our police station, and maybe get a picture posted on the local boards and pet finder website. It might have been possible someone looking for him would have called the shelter and they would need to somehow wait until the message was received and somehow coordinate with Nicole to claim him.
One thing would have made finding this pet's owner infinitely easier and that is an up to date id tag on the collar. A collar is not only a place to hook a leash. It is a place to put important information - your name, your address and contact number. If you do not want so much of your information on a tag, have just your phone numbers. Cell phone numbers are the best since a voice mail can be left if you are not available. If you are out of town you can still get the call. If you do not like tags, use a sharpie and write your number on the collar. I cannot find the words to express the frustration of knowing a pet is owned but no way to knowing to whom. The most important thing is to keep your information updated. If you have not put a new tag on your pet's collar in a few years, put a new one on now with current cell phone and other contact numbers. Having your veterinarian's number on the tag is also a good idea. If you are not available, your veterinarian may be able to keep your pet until you are reached.
Microchipping your pet is great. The most important thing is to keep the registry of that up to date also. Often people get the chip then do not register, or move and do not update the information. You can call your veterinarian for the number of the company to update the information if you have lost that.
Sometimes a new collar is purchased and put on without transferring tags. We mean to do it, but it may get overlooked. Other pets may chew at collars so there is a worry that a tag may be eaten. Sometimes tags break, or the hook breaks so the tag is lost. All of these situations are certainly understandable and no one is intending to leave there pet unidentified. What would that moment be like for you in realizing that your pet has slipped out of a yard, or home without accurate id? Try to think of that to have a good id solution for your pet.
Most pet stores, groomers and veterinary clinics have pet id tag forms. Some even have ways to make a tag on the spot. Whatever works so your pet has some form of identity is the best solution.
- written by Dr. Sally Foote