One cold, rainy night in January, a black Pekingese showed up at the Granada Theatre soaking wet and shivering. The staff took him in, dried him off, fed him and put a sign on the ticket booth about this obviously lost little fellow (unless he came to see “Forrest Gump”).

Since he had no tags, there was no way to contact the owner. This scenario is repeated hundreds of times because for whatever reason, pets get lost.

Now how to find them.

A reader wrote and asked me to do a column on microchip implanting and tattooing because losing pets is such a common occurrence.

Tattooing is routinely done by owners of purebreds or show dogs and cats. Clinics are usually available at shows for this simple procedure.

According to Candy Bollinger, a vet tech at Royal Highlands Animal Clinic, a tattoo gun is used to “write” either the owner’s drivers license or social security number on the flank of the pet’s belly or inside thigh. She says tattooing is often done when a pet is currently in the clinic for another type of procedure, spay/neuter for example, however sedation is not always required.

She prefers using a driver’s license number which is easily shown as proof of identification. Candy also says that labs that use animals for testing will not use a dog or cat that has a tattoo.

The drawback is, there is no central clearinghouse for tattoo registries. However, I recall one success story regarding a tattoo registry while at the SPCA.

A female husky found in Dallas had a tattoo on her inside thigh. The SPCA contacted the purebred registry in New York which led us to the owner in Houston. Southwest Airlines flew me and “Lady” to reunite her with her 5-year-old owner. Lady had been missing for three years.

Tattoos range from $5 to $25, depending on the use of anesthesia and if your vet does not currently do this procedure. Call the Dallas County Veterinarian Medical Association for a free referral, 669-9237.

The microchip implant is a high-tech identification method. The procedure is quick and painless as a vaccination. With a prepackaged syringe, a vet inserts a transponder just below the pet’s skin. The microchip is completely biologically compatible. When an animal is picked up as a stray, a shelter employee reads the cat or dog with a scanner that reveals the chip number. The shelter worker then calls the chip manufacturer’s national information center to obtain the owner information.

According to veterinarians, microchipping is safe and has been used in large animals for years.

The SPCA plans to begin microchipping animals this year and will have a scanner to use with found pets.

Once again, the drawback is no central clearinghouse – each manufacturer will have its own system of scanning and reading.

Regardless, with more than six million dogs and four million cats picked up each year as strays in America, only 14 percent of the dogs and 4 percent of the cats are ever returned. Any type of permanent identification is worth the peace of mind pet owners can have.


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