Losing an animal is every pet owner’s worst nightmare — but don’t stress! There are measures you can take to keep your furry friend safe, and ID’ing them is first on the list. Proper ID can make all the difference when it comes to finding a lost pet, so Us Weekly spoke with Best Friends Animal Society’s Temma Martin to break down everything you need to know about the process.
Note: In addition to reading this, make sure to check with your local animal shelter about ID rules, as they vary state to state! Example: Some states require rabies tags, others don’t.
Yep! A good ol’ fashioned name tag is the most basic first step to take when ID’ing your pet. Seems pretty obvious, but plenty of people opt out in favor of a chip (more on that in a moment!). While chip implants are great, it’s still vital that your dog or cat wear a tag. Think about it this way: If you saw a lost animal, would you be more likely to go and help if it had a name tag, or less likely?
“Seeing a stray pet with tags on makes somebody who finds a pet feel more comfortable about approaching it because they know it has an owner who cares,” Martin tells Us. “They’re more likely to try to get the pet home. It’s also the most convenient thing because it’s direct — you just call the owner and say, ‘I found your pet.’”
You can easily buy a tag for your dog or cat at PetSmart or Petco, and you should always include your name, your pet’s name, your address, and ideally two phone numbers. Just make sure to check periodically to see if the tag is still legible, because they do wear out!
Rabies tags aren’t just a helpful tool for knowing if a stray pet has been vaccinated. If a lost animal is found with just a rabies tag and nothing else, it’s possible for the person who finds it to figure out the name of the vet, and get one step closer to finding an owner.
“I’ve found pets who are only wearing the rabies tags,” explains Martin. “That said, it’s probably one of the hardest to trace because it’s hard to know which vet has the records.”
Nonetheless, a rabies tag is better than nothing.
Pet licensing rules vary state by state, but putting a license number tag on your pet’s collar is possibly the most important method of identification. The number can be used by animal shelters to find your information, and as long as that info is up-to-date, your lil’ bud should eventually make its way back to you.
“In many places, it can literally save your pet’s life,” Martin explains. “Some animal control agencies will say right on their website that if they pick up a pet that is badly injured and currently licensed, and they can’t get hold of the owner, they will take it for emergency vet care. Whereas if they pick up a badly injured pet that doesn’t have ID on and isn’t currently licensed they might have to make the decision to euthanize it to stop its suffering.”
OK, so chip identification is GREAT, but some pet owners mistakenly think that because their pet is chipped, it doesn’t need to wear a tag. This isn’t the case! Sure, an implanted ID means an animal shelter can scan for a chip and contact you, but if your lost pet doesn’t make it to a shelter and is found by someone unfamiliar with chip ID, that person has no way to locate you.
Another important thing to note about chips? The information associated with them is only as current as you make it. In other words, if you got your kitten chipped at a vet or shelter in California and then moved to NYC a few years later, that California address is still going to be associated with the chip unless you call to change it. (Note: The best thing you can do is register your pet with the microchip company itself!)
“A lot of times when they implant the chip they also give you a tag, and I have found a dog where the only tag it had on was the microchip number,” says Martin. “I was able to call the company, give them the number, and they contacted the owner. A chip is a fantastic backup because it’s permanent as long as the information is current.”
In an ideal world your pet would have all four of these identification markers on them at all times, so get thee to your local vet and have at it!
Us Weekly articles and content are for informational purposes only. Nothing contained in Us Weekly articles and/or content is or should be considered, or used as a substitute for, veterinary or professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you believe your pet may have a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.
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