by: Jennifer Oldfield (updated April 19, 2017)
In our first ID Me! post I presented the two types of permanent identification that are available for your pets. In part Two I will go through the non-permanent forms of identification that are currently available on the market.
Essentially the non-permanent forms of identification have to do with tags and collars. There are several different types of these available to choose from.
To begin with the Rabies tag and city licence tag that you receive both provide some form of identification for your pet. The Rabies tag has your veterinary clinic’s name and number on it. When a person calls the clinic and provides both the year on the tag and the ID number, the clinic can find the associated pet and owner information *(see note below) . The other option a person has is to bring the pet directly to the veterinary clinic listed on the tag and leave it there while the owner is being located. Most clinics will hold on to the animal until near the end of the day, but if they are unable to get in touch with the owner they are generally passed on to the Humane Society with the pet/owner’s details. The city license database is maintained by the Humane Society and City Hall, so contacting either of these places will allow the owner to be contacted to find their pet via this tag’s information.
The second identification that most people are aware of are tags engraved with your information which is then put on your pet’s collar. There are also places where you can get your number stitched directly on to their collar. The down side to this identification is if your number changes, you need to replace your pet’s collar or get a new tag made up.
Another more technologically advanced type of tag or collar are the ones that have a QR reader feature available on them. On the tag there is a QR scan code available along with the specific website for your pet for those without scanners. If the person who found your pet has a scanner app on their phone (these can be downloaded for free from your app store), the QR code can simply be scanned using the app; if not, they can enter the website information to be taken to the same page for your pet’s details. Some companies will also add name(s) and a phone number on the tag for an additional fee.
Some QR code tags also have a limited amount of GPS information that comes with them: essentially when your pet’s tag is scanned or the profile viewed on the website, you receive a notification indicating where and when this happened. Most companies with these tags and collars available keep and update your information for free. Additional features can be added for a monthly or annual premium.
The Rabies tags you receive here in our clinic also have this special QR code feature to
them. Details are registered and maintained through the S.O.S. Lost Pets website. Although there is no GPS tracking through the scanning of the code, there is still contact information available to someone who finds your pet which can be found through scanning the QR code or by going to the website and adding the information. If for some reason you haven’t created your profile for the tag or haven’t kept your information up-to-date, the front of the tag has our clinic name and number on it. We are then able to look for you via the special number under the QR code.
The final technology in collar identification are GPS trackable units or Radio Transmitter units. Radio Transmitter units are most commonly used for hunting dogs and have a limited range on the distance from the receiver to the collar (approximately the same range of a walkie-talkie). You can track more than one collar with one receiver and the battery life on the collars is often weeks. Unfortunately most urban people are in need of something that gives them a great amount of range when their pet ends up missing.
There are several different brands of GPS collars available, all with varying abilities and costs. Some collars only track a small area and some need to have a paid monthly plan to be able to track it. The collars also have the ability to alert you once your pet has moved outside of a pre-created zone (the size of which is limited by the collar). What seems to be the biggest drawback on these collars is the battery life: only 1-5 days (the range depending on the particular collar). There are now several on the market that are good for small dog and cats, which is a definite upside from when we first posted this blog 3 years ago. Besides the battery life another downside can be the cost. Although they have come down from our original post (when they were $200 on average) they are still at least $100 and up. Plus many have a monthly fee as well. The big pros, of course, are the alert of your pet passing the set perimeter and the ability to know what direction they have headed even if you’re not able find them while the battery is working.
Cons to both tags and collars: they can come off your pet and, in the case of some collars, be a chocking hazard if the collar gets caught up on something and the pet isn’t able to get free or slip the collar.
Ultimately my thought is: the more ID the better. My dogs are microchipped, they have breeder’s tattoos in their ears and they have QR coded collars – which we use when we travel. My cats are indoor only cats, but accidents can happen, and in the event they get out they are tattooed and microchipped. Both wear special breakaway collars** that have their microchip ID tag on them, however in the event they get caught up, the collar will break open if enough pressure is applied.
I feel the biggest part of having useful ID on your pet is to ensure your contact information is current. Be sure your veterinarian has your current address and numbers, update information with the microchip company or breed registry (i.e. CKC or AKC), if your ID is registered with your local Humane Society, be certain they are updated and if you get a QR code collar or tag, keep that information current as well.
Figure out what will work best for you and do your research if you are thinking of a GPS collar. Take into consideration whether or not you travel and to what types of locations, whether or not you have a pet that tends to try and escape or runs when off leash. Even if you are someone whose pet never, or almost never, leaves home or the yard, keep in mind that accidents can happen. Have at least one form of ID for your pet to help ensure their return to you.
To our benefit social media is a hot area of activity, and there are Lost & Found pages available where anyone can post to the page. Getting the information out quickly that your pet is lost is also another way to help get them back sooner and using social media gets an amazingly large number of eyes watching for your missing companion.
* Since we are a medical hospital your records are private and, without your signed consent, we can not release your information (even with signed consent, information is only released when you are aware of it); therefore, the finder’s contact information will be noted and passed on to the owner via the clinic.
**As an added note I personally feel that all cats (indoors or out) should only wear breakaway collars. There are ones available that have a pressure adjustment on them, if you are like me, and have a cat who uses its back leg to break the collar off. Since increasing the amount of pressure required, my cat can no longer remove her collar. The reason for the special collar is that cats climb trees and jump fences and have a much greater risk of their collar catching and becoming a hanging or choking hazard. A breakaway collar prevents either of those things from happening.
As an added note, if you spot a missing pet and they aren’t willing to come to you, do NOT chase them, rather contact the owner if the information is known or contact Animal Control, who have more experience and equipment to catch a stray animal.
If you wish to try and aid the recovery of a tentative or frightened pet – sit down, with your body turned sideways to the pet, put a treat in an open hand out-streched and on the ground. Don’t look in the direction of the pet and wait patiently and calmly. Do NOT attempt to grab them on their first thought of coming near. Gain their trust by not reaching for them and simply letting them eat the treat and move away again. Put another treat in your hand and wait some more. When the animal feels they can trust you they will linger longer. In a calm, quiet, soothing voice praise them and talk to them. All the while, never really looking directly at them. Gaining their trust will allow you to eventually be able to touch them and then hopefully keep a hold of them.