April 2 kicks off “Tag Day,” a day set aside by animal welfare groups to help promote the identification of pets. According to the National Council on Pet Population Study, about one million stray dogs and half a million stray cats are turned into shelters across the nation each year.

Unfortunately, only 15 percent of those dogs and a measly 2 percent of those cats are ever reunited with their owners. Why is this number so low? One of the reasons could be that owners fail to properly identify their pets. Today, I’m hoping that Pet Chat readers will choose one, or more, of the following forms of identification to prevent their pets from becoming a statistic.

ID tag. An identification tag should have your pet’s name, your name, your address, and cell phone number. Make sure all the information stays current. Experts recommend putting “reward” on the back of your pet’s tag to help encourage the finder to return your pet to you. The ID tag should be attached to a proper fitting collar; I often see dogs slip out of collars because they’re so loose. On the other hand, make sure to have a “quick release” or expandable collar for your cat. These collars allow the cat to slip free if it becomes caught on a fence, tree, chair, etc. The collar will obviously come off your cat, but these types of collars prevent your cat from hanging himself. Remember, just because your cat is in an indoor-only cat, doesn’t mean it can’t slip out the door accidentally. It may take several days, but your cat can become accustomed to wearing a collar.

Tattoo. A tattoo is typically given when a pet is under anesthetic during spay or neuter surgery. It involves marking a permanent code on your pet’s skin, usually near the groin area. If a shelter notices a tattoo, they will call a database and use the code to receive the owner’s address and phone number. The only problem with tattoos is that a pet’s hair may grow over the area that is marked and it may not be noticed by an animal shelter.

License. In Santa Barbara County, the law requires that all dogs over the age of four months receive a rabies vaccination by a licensed veterinarian. A dog license must then be purchased within 30 days of receiving the rabies vaccine. Aside from being the law, the other benefit to licensing is that the County will hold animals wearing a license for a longer period of time while trying to reunite the pet with his owner. Another benefit is that your dog’s license is also proof of a current rabies vaccination. If your pet is ever involved in a bite, the licensing may allow him to be quarantined at home instead of at a shelter or veterinary clinic. Licensing fees also help support vital services such as spay and neuter programs and special medical needs for the animals that come into the county shelters. You can order a license through the County’s website. For more information visit: http://www.countyofsb.org/phd/animal.aspx?

Microchip. Microchipping involves the injection of a tiny chip (about the size of a grain of rice) just under your pet’s skin between the shoulder blades. For those who are skeptical of microchips, here is a little information that may put your mind at ease. The microchip is housed in a type of glass made to be compatible with living tissue, so it won’t affect your pet adversely.

The process of inserting a microchip is similar to when your pet receives a shot and no anesthesia is necessary for implantation. Once in place, the microchip can be detected immediately by shelter staff with a handheld device that uses radio waves to read the chip. This device scans the microchip, and then displays a unique alphanumeric code that will be entered into a database with your information. Most animal shelters check every stray pet that comes through their doors to see if they have a microchip. If a microchip is found, the shelter contacts the database to find your information. Microchips are said to last 20 years, so there is no need to remove or replace it in the duration of a pet’s lifetime.

Although microchipping seems to be catching on, according to the Coalition for Reuniting Pets and Families, less than 5 percent of all pets are microchipped. Although microchips are a lifesaver, don’t rely on it as your pet’s only means of identification. While your local shelter may have a microchip scanner, your neighbor most likely doesn’t, so a collar with an identification tag is a great addition to the microchip.

Local animal shelters that microchip:

• Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) microchips all of their adoptable cats at the shelter at no cost to the adopter. This registration is valid for the life of the cat. It is the responsibility of the adopter to keep their contact information updated.

• DAWG microchips all their dogs before they are adopted at no additional cost. Currently, as part of their Pitbull spay/neuter program, they offer free spaying and neutering to Pitbulls and Pitbull mixes, as well as vaccines and microchip at the time of the surgery. They can only do this if they are spaying or neutering the dog, so they don’t offer chips or vaccines to Pitbulls who are already spayed or neutered.

• K9 Pals offers free microchips for every adopted dog.

• Santa Barbara County Animal Services offers microchipping for dogs and cats for only $40. This includes registration fee. No appointment is necessary.

• Santa Barbara Humane Society microchips all their cats and dogs before they are adopted. The microchip is included in the price of the adoption.

According to the American Humane Association, almost four million pets are euthanized every year because their owners aren’t found in time. If a shelter cannot determine a pet’s owner, the pet may be euthanized in as few as three days. Make sure your pets are properly identified so they can be returned home without becoming a statistic!

Adoptable Pet of the Week


Tanner is an almost 3 year old, 60 lb sweetie who is one of the best family dogs around. He likes people, dogs, and young kids. In the exercise yards, he loves to play “chase the dog who has the ball” with his kennel mate, Katy. He’ s just missing a loving family. Come visit Tanner at K-9 PALS, 5473 Overpass Road or learn more at www.k-9pals.org.


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