JoAnna Lou
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Should Vets Promote ID Tags?
Vets and shelters have a positive influence on tag usage

My dogs have microchips and identification tags, but I often take their collars off when they're in the house. I had one of my dogs' collars get caught on a piece of furniture, so I do it as a safety precaution. However, this could be a problem if one of my dogs escaped from my house.

The Journal of the American Veterinary Association reports that fewer than half of lost dogs were wearing tags at the time they went missing. Microchips are great because they're permanent, but an identification tag lets people know instantly how to get your dog back home.

Eighty percent of pet lovers believe it's important that dogs and cats wear identification, but only 33 percent put tags on their pets all the time. Many of those pets don't wear ID tags at all. A study published this month found that veterinarians and animal shelters can have a positive influence on this number.

Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development for the ASPCA, and her team tracked 109 people and their pets who had been fitted with collars and tags during a vet visit or at the animal shelter. Before the study, only 14 percent of the animals studied had been wearing an ID tag, but two months later, 84 percent were still wearing the tags.

Given the success of Dr. Weiss's study, do you think that veterinarians should be responsible for making sure pets have identification? My dogs have microchips and identification tags, but they also have a rabies tag from the veterinarian that lists when they got their vaccine and the veterinarian’s contact information.

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by Hi, I'm Sadie Shih Tzu/flickr.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by BlackFyre Tervuren | September 30 2011 |

I had a hunting dog years ago, get hung up on the yard fence and strangle to death so I don't leave collars on dogs full time. When I'm traveling each dog has a collar with my cell phone number and I because I show dogs and sometimes have other people's dogs I have spare collars with tags that have my cell phone number.

But at home, no collars. I do microchip and understand that not everyone checks a chip or has a reader that reads the kind of chip it is since we are not standardized in the US, but for me not having lost a dog from home ever and having had a dog die with a collar on at home, I will take the chance.

I think you need to weigh all your risks carefully. For me, I feel I'm at a stronger risk of a lost dog on the road vs at my home since at home I have double fenced dog yards etc.

Submitted by Anne | September 30 2011 |

We used to keep collars (with tags) on our dogs 24/7. However, as our dogs became more trustworthy when we weren't home and we didn't have to crate them, we believed it was more dangerous to leave them with their collars on as our doberman loves to play with our small lab-mix dog. It was too easy for the dobie to grab the collar during one of their wrestling plays- she's got a height advantage. It was unthinkable about what might happen if she grabbed it the wrong way and we weren't home... So we started to remove the collars when we were leaving the house. Then I realized that I actually got a better night's sleep without the jingling of the dog tags everytime one of them moved (yes, they sleep in the bed with me). Our solution is to keep the martingale collars attached to the leashes, which are on a hook right by the front door - easily grabbed in an evacuation/emergency situation. If we are traveling, or going anywhere off our property with our dogs, the collars are on 24/7 (per the rabies tag law locally) and they are microchipped.

Submitted by Kelly Elvin | September 30 2011 |

We use the Keep Safe breakaway collar from Premier. The collar pops open if there is pressure from another dog pulling on the collar etc., but we can bypass the breakaway mechanism when connecting the leash.

Submitted by Dog trainer | October 2 2011 |

In 2011 alone, three different clients of mine reported incidences with collars and tags. All were situations that could have been deadly had the owner not been home at the time.

Also this year I tracked down and caught a loose Siberian husky. She had a collar but no tags. Although it took me over an hour to catch her, she was returned to her owner within 30 min. Thanks to her microchip. ( I took her to the local vets office and had her scanned). I learned that her tags had gotten caught on the fence she jumped...her owner found the tags but thankfully the S hook had broke or she would have also found a dead dog hanging!

Personally I have not worn collars/tags on my dogs since 1991. The one time I had a missing dog, it was my vigilance and effort that got him back....not a tag on a collar. (the reports I recd were that no one could get near him so a tag wouldn't have made a difference)

Accidents do happen with and without collars and tags. If we spread the word about tattoos and microchips, and make it easy for people to help lost dogs with chips (it's not easy right now IMO) tags aren't necessary. Tags may speed up the return process by a short amount of time...but the dog will still find it's way back to the owner if the finder is willing to do so.

I feel as a trainer I can help someone prevent a lost dog. I can help someone find a lost dog. But I can't do anything to help if their dog is dead or injured due to it's collar or tags getting caught on an object or another dogs jaw or leg.

Submitted by Kayla | October 2 2011 |

I think it's really, really important to have ID tags on at all times. Of the times I've found lost dogs, only one had a tag. I was able to call and the owner came and got them within 15 minutes (it was two black labs, only one had a tag with a phone number but they stuck together). That saves a lot of headache for both the nice person who helps, and for the owner. All of my guys wear a tag with their name and my address and phone number, their dog license, and their microchip tags. They are micro-chipped, but a lot of non-pet owners would not know about a microchip and wouldn't know to bring them to a vet/shelter to get it read. Still, the more ways I can utilize to get them back to me any faster, the better. As for the problem of getting caught on things, make sure they have a quick-release collar on. And frankly, all of mine have collars with tags on all of the time, and they've never gotten caught. Not to say that it doesn't happen, but I think the benefits outweigh the risk.

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