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Friday, January 7, 2011

Tattoo or Not Tattoo

"De plane, boss!  De plane!"

Sorry, I couldn't resist.  And my younger readers probably have no clue what the heck that means.

Yesterday I talked about microchips.  In the discussion about identifying pets, tattooing usually comes up.  In fact, many people are strong advocates of tattoos over microchips.  Tattoos cannot fail, and short of cosmetic surgery to remove the skin, they can't be lost.  However, I think they are less than ideal methods of identification, and I don't recommend them.  Here are some reasons.

1.  In my experience few veterinarians have tattoo equipment.  The tattoos normally used for livestock are the ones most commonly seen in veterinary offices, and even then usually only with large animal vets.  So finding someone who can tattoo a pet may be a bit tricky.
2.  Tattoos can be altered or covered over by anyone with tattoo equipment.  This may even be done by non-vets with human tattoo equipment.
3. Placing a microchip is very quick, taking a couple of seconds.  Giving a tattoo is a lengthier procedure, and may require heavy sedation.
4.  My biggest objection to tattoos is that there is no standard.  Some will put their dog's AKC registration number.  However, many or most non-vets probably won't know what the numbers are.  And what about mixed-breed dogs?  They don't have an AKC identification number.  Tattoo your phone number?  There's a good chance that you will not have that number for the rest of your pet's life, and then what do you do?  Use your Social Security number (in the US)?  First, that's a huge risk for identity theft.  Second, there's no way to get in touch with you through that number.  Tattoo a pattern or a string of random numbers?  Sure, you could tell that a pet is yours pretty quickly, but when someone finds your pet how are they supposed to get in contact with you?  All-in-all, tattoos provide a pretty poor way to find the lost pet's owner, in my opinion.

If you're one of the ones who are big supporters of tattooing as a method of identifying your pet, I'm sorry if I've ruffled your feathers.  But based on the reasons above I can't recommend it to my clients.

Tomorrow I'll close out this latest discussion on pet identification by discussing whether or not there is a risk of tumors associated with microchips.