Collar ID

Q. Which do you think is better: An ID tag, a tattoo or a microchip?

A. The use of tattoos as permanent identification for pets has for the most part been made obsolete by microchip technology. A microchip and an ID tag, however, work best together, and I recommend that every pet have both. That’s because you don’t know which one will be most useful to whoever finds your pet.

Consider these two scenarios.

Lost Pet Number 1: A Dog

You put your dog out first thing in the morning while you hop in the shower. You don’t realize, however, that a rotting post gave way overnight, opening up a section of your fence. Your dog happily trots down the street and is more than a mile away before you realize he’s not in the yard. He follows a neighbor home from her morning walk. She has seen you walk your dog but doesn’t know your name or exactly where you live. She certainly doesn’t own a microchip scanner, and since she isn’t a pet owner, she isn’t even aware that she can take your dog to most shelters and many veterinary offices to be scanned.

Fortunately, your dog has an ID tag on his collar with your current contact information on it. Your neighbor calls your cell while you’re frantically driving around the neighborhood, and you pick up your dog so quickly you aren’t even late for work.

By the way, while I always recommend your pet have a license as well, it’s not as good as an ID tag for getting a pet home, nor is the rabies tag your veterinarian’s office may give out. That’s because both reunite you with your pet through a third party — your local animal control or your veterinarian — neither of which may be open when someone finds your lost pet.

Lost Pet Number 2: A Cat

Your cat never roams far, but what you don’t know is that he visits the porch of a kind person who sets out food for a couple of feral cats. The neighbor in between doesn’t like all the cats who use his vegetable beds for bathrooms, so he rents a couple of live-animal traps from animal control. When he traps a cat, he takes the animal to the shelter, where he or she is presumed feral, held for as long as the law allows, and then killed.

Your cat ends up in the trap, and the neighbor heads for animal control. He noticed a collar, but he’s so angry about the feral cats that he doesn’t care. Before he takes your cat into the shelter, he pulls off the collar and ID. Serves you right, he figures, for not keeping your cat at home. Fortunately, your animal control agency scans all incoming animals, and scans them again before they’re killed. The microchip reader provides a positive match, and you get your cat back.

I can think of many other reasons to cover your bases with an ID tag and a microchip. If your pet is stolen, for example, the first thing the thief will do is remove the collar and tag. A microchip becomes pretty close to your only chance of getting your pet back. There have also been pets who have been reunited with heartbroken owners months — or even years — after they went missing, long after they have slipped their collars, because of the information on their microchips.

The most important thing to remember about any form of pet ID is to keep your contact information current. If you move or change your phone number, update your microchip information immediately. Don’t wait, because a move is a high-risk time when your pet is more likely to slip out and go missing. And get a new ID tag as well: Many pet-supply stores have machines that make them while you wait, in five minutes or less! No excuses!