Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pet Identity: Tags and Micro-Chips

By Anna Lee

Human beings have personal identification documents, such as our driver’s license, that we carry around with us. We can prove who we are by showing our identification. Our pets also need some type of identification on them at all times. Since they don’t carry a wallet around with them, what do you do? At the very least you get them identification tags, and possibly take a step further by getting a micro-chip.

Statistics from the American Human Society show that only 17% of lost dogs and 2% of lost cats find their way back to their owners if they are turned into a shelter. Therefore, it is up to you to make sure that your dog or cat is properly identified with a collar, tags and a micro-chip. You want to give your dog or cat the best odds of being returned to you.

You can buy tags and have them engraved at many locations including pet stores, through catalogues and even through your vet’s office. I have seen tag making machines in the common areas of large malls. Abby has had many tags in her lifetime. She started her life as a puppy in New Jersey, so she had her first tag with her name and our address and phone number. We moved to Tennessee and then began a series of new tags with each move.

The information you choose to put on the tag is up to you. On Abby’s last three tags we only had her name and our phone number, which is sufficient information. Her rabies tag, which is also on her collar, has our vet’s name, address and phone number. You can put your address, your cell phone or home phone, your e-mail address; you decide what information you want on the tag. If your dog has a special medical condition you can get a tag made with that information. An example would be if you have a hearing impaired dog. The tag could read: Dixie is hard of hearing but knows hand signals.

If you move or change your phone number, remember to get a new tag. You need to inspect the identification tags as they do wear, become thin and break off, which just happened to one of Abby’s tags recently. Make sure you check the collar and tags at least monthly.

Another form of pet identification is a micro-chip. This is not very expensive and it will give you peace of mind. A micro-chip is the size of a grain of rice, and it contains a number that is assigned to your pet and your pet only. The chip is inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades. It takes a few seconds for a vet to insert a micro-chip. It does not hurt at all and most dogs and cats don’t even feel it.

The number on the microchip is entered into a database such as Central Animal Registry or PETtrac. If your dog or cat gets lost and some kind soul turns them into a shelter or humane society, a worker can run a scanner over the area where micro-chips are implanted and get a reading of the number. The number is then entered into a computer and your name, address and phone number will show on the screen.

A micro-chip is not expensive, and it is worth the peace of mind. We travel back and forth between Tennessee and New Jersey and take other vacations during the year. I like knowing that if Abby gets lost I have a good chance of her being found and returned to me. When we moved last year I contacted the micro-chip company associated with Abby’s chip and gave them my updated information. The information was changed at no additional cost.

We had it done in 2002 and we paid approximately $25 to the vet, plus a one time $20 fee to the micro-chip company. Prices vary by veterinarian but the range is somewhere between $25 - $40 to have the chip implanted and around $20 to have the information entered into the database.

Micro-chips don’t hurt your pet, and can be read at most vet offices. The micro-chip cannot wear out and it is 100 percent safe for your pet. There are no disadvantages to this type of identification.

Make sure your dog or cat is protected with a collar and tags at the very least. If you have a few extra dollars, invest in a micro-chip for added protection. Your pet is depending on you for protection.

Read more articles by Anna Lee


  1. This is important information. I see signs posted with photos all the time: Lost dog, family pet. If they had used a chip, maybe they would be more likely to get their best friend back more quickly. It sure can't hurt, especially for such a small fee. I guess people think their pet will never get lost.

  2. Very good info. No chips yet but we have the tags. :>))


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