Some dog and cat owners sometimes wonder why their animal needs to wear a pet license tag (also called a pet I.D.) all the time. This is especially true of the owners of strictly indoor cats, or of dogs restricted to secure, fenced-in backyard enclosures. The answer can be summed up in three words: safety, safety, and safety.
The fact is, with incentive enough (e.g., a squirrel on the run), most pets are smart and determined enough to thwart the most secure enclosure. A fence can be leapt over or dug under, or your careless teenager can leave the front door ajar—and then, before you know it, your pet is outside and in the wind.
Once you notice your dog or cat is missing, you may have some idea where they may go. If they don’t turn up there, you may then face endless hours driving around, shouting their name out your car window. Once you fail to find them, and they don’t return on their own, your best hope is for a nearby resident or your local animal control officer to return them to you. But that’s only going to happen if your name and address is clearly printed on the dog license tag. Even if it’s just a license number imprinted on the tag, the number can be matched to your address.
Unsurprising Results of a Pet Tag Study
In 2011 the ASPCA conducted a study on the use of ID tags by pet owners. According to Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development for the ASPCA:
While statistics vary from community to community and state to state, stray animals could account for 40 to 60 percent of the total animal intake in animal shelters that take in strays. Combined with the fact that the return-to-owner (RTO) rate in most communities hovers between 10 and 30 percent for dogs and less than 5 percent for cats, we know that these lost pets are not finding their way home. But personalized ID tags that contain contact information for the dog or cat owner can help assure lost animals are quickly reunited with their owners.
If those statistics don’t scare you, try these ones on for size: Michelson Found Animals says that one out of every three pets will get lost at some point during their lifetime. Moreover, something like 90% of the lost dogs without proper I.D. tags are never reunited with their owners, and that number is closer to 95% for cats. Without proper I.D., your missing dog or cat may end up adopted by another family or, even worse, face euthanization.
Pet License Tags Are the Law
Although dog licensing isn’t federally mandated, most states and municipalities require dogs to be licensed. In fact, in some locations, city officials can ask to see the dog license when you are out for a stroll in the neighborhood, even when the dog is on a leash. Although no such law applies to feline pets in most states, prudence dictates erring on the side of caution. According to the Humane Society, cats are “the pets most likely to die prematurely from diseases, poisons, attacks by other animals, abuse by humans, or speeding vehicles.” For that reason, both the Humane Society and the ASPCA strongly recommend that cats wear collars and cat ID tags, just like their canine counterparts.
Pet License Tags and Rabies Tags: What’s the Connection?
In many states, dog licenses cannot be issued without proof of rabies vaccination. Thus, pet licensing helps prevent the spread of rabies. The tag on your pet’s collar puts at ease the groomers, owners of your dog’s buddies, and all those who care for and play with your pet. It shows that you are a responsible and caring pet owner.
Although the licensing laws for cats are quite different from those for dogs, one thing that is the same is the requirement for rabies shots. Rabies vaccination for both dogs and cats is required by law in most U.S. states and Canadian provinces. So even if your cat is strictly an indoor cat, with no chance of it escaping outdoors to go on an extended trek, it is prudent to make sure your feline also has a proper, readable cat ID tag attached to its collar, in case it gets lost.