Dog Tags 101: What You Need to Know to Keep Your Pet Safe
If you’ve ever lost a pet, you know about the importance of ID tags. Having identification and contact information securely attached to your pet’s neck makes it much more likely that you’ll get your furry family member back if he decides to take off on a solo adventure.
Yet a study published in Preventative Veterinary Medicine revealed that only 33 percent of owners keep ID tags on their pets.
If you’re one of the 67 percent who sometimes, rarely or never puts tags on your pet, consider this: They considerably increase the return-to-owner (RTO) rate if your pet is lost.
“In most communities, the RTO rate hovers between 10 and 30 percent for dogs,” says Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “But personalized ID tags that contain contact information for the dog owner can help assure lost animals are quickly reunited with their families.”
It’s also important to remember that just because your dog is microchipped, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t also need an ID tag. “Vets and shelters can scan for chips, but collar tags are still the fastest way for someone to reach you in the event that they find your lost pet,” says Dr. Jules Benson, BVSc MRCVS, a veterinarian at the Doylestown Animal Medical Clinic and a member of the Board of Trustees for the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA).
What Info Should Appear on My Pet’s ID Tags?Your pet’s name, your phone number and the city where you reside are essential. “Putting a cell phone number on a tag is a smart way to ensure that you are reachable, no matter where you are,” says Dr. Benson.
You can include your address, but sometimes there isn’t enough room on a tag. Plus, some people may not feel comfortable having that much personal information in the hands of whoever finds their pet, says Cheryl Smith, a dog expert and the author of Grab Life by the Leash.
If your dog is microchipped, which experts recommend, you should attach a second tag to your pet’s collar that lists the microchip company’s name and phone number.
Finally, it’s a good idea to also have your pet wear his proof of rabies vaccination to let whoever finds him know that he’s up-to-date on his shots. Some states, like Massachusetts, require by law that your pet wear his proof of rabies vaccination at all times. The number on the rabies tag is also another way to identify your pet — and find you — in the event that your buddy is lost.
How Often Should I Change My Pet’s Tags?Each time that your pet is revaccinated, make sure that you affix the new tag to his collar. It’s also important to update tags whenever you move or change your phone number.
You should also check your pet’s tags every couple of months for legibility. “Most ID tags are not engraved very deeply, and the information does tend to wear off,” says Smith. “Make sure they’re still easily readable, and replace them if they’ve become worn or scratched.”
Smith also recommends keeping one or two spare sets of tags around the house.
“Dogs lose tags more often than you think,” she says. “One of my dogs lost not one, not two, but three complete sets of tags — ID, chip registry and rabies — in the span of a couple years.”
What Should I Look For When Buying ID Tags?Just like breeds of dogs, there are a variety of choices when it comes to pet tags. Bottom line: Choose one that fits your lifestyle best.
Globetrotting Pets If you travel with your pet often, you may want to consider portable tags, which are waterproof metal tubes or barrels that screw open and shut. You can write your hotel or destination contact information on a piece of paper to insert into the unit, and then change it whenever you head out of town.
Rambunctious Pets If you hate the sound of jangling tags, a dog tag silencer may be a good idea — especially for homes with sleeping babies. The soft pouches fit snugly around your pet’s IDs, muffling the sound of clanging metal when he runs through the house to greet you.
All Pets If you know that you aren’t moving anytime soon, you may want to consider a tag that comes with a lifetime guarantee. These sturdy tags are typically made of stainless steel, and companies will replace them for free if they become illegible. Don’t want to deal with hanging tags, which tend to wear and fall off? Consider a secure collar tag, which is less likely to get caught on things.
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