Buying a Pet ID tag is like buying insurance - you do so with the devout wish that you're never going to need it. The "possible cost" of not having a pet ID tag is more expensive than the "actual cost" of buying the pet tag itself.
The type of pet identification tag that you buy is important, so take 5 minutes or so to think it through. Impulsively choosing a collar tag because it's cheap or cute often proves to be unwise, long-term.
Consider the following before purchasing any pet id tag:
1. What is the level of risk to your pet?
Lost pets are certainly common - we've all seen "Lost Dog!" signs tacked around town, or dead pets lying by the side of the road. If your pet is a master at escaping the fence, or a breed of dog that cannot resist following a scent, or a young pet that's full of energy, or a new pet that isn't properly trained, the risk of a lost pet is high.
But losing your pet isn't the only risk.
Some pets are stolen. A pet thief may snatch Fifi or Fido in hopes of getting a reward for its return, or to use in dog fights (even small or gentle dogs are susceptible - they can be used as "bait"), or for use in cult rituals.
And what is the risk to your pet if something happens to you, its owner?
If you're a senior adult with a pet, particularly if you live alone or are in ill health, there's a good chance that at some point someone else will need to care for your furry friend, perhaps with little notice. And anyone can be struck by tragedy or disaster which leaves you unable to care for your companion.
In this instance, will your pet's new or temporary caregiver know that Rover hates cats, or that Fluffy needs medication, or even whether or not Max is housetrained? A pet ID tag that contains more than your name and phone number would be extremely helpful.
2. What level of risk are you comfortable with?
Some pets are simply more important to their owners, and the risk of losing that particular animal warrants a specific, more expensive type of pet ID tag. Risk is proportionate to value.
Note that there is more than one way to assess the value of your pet. It may be monetary (a rare purebred dog) or functional (a guide dog or herding dog).
But for most pet owners, the emotional attachment they have to a particular pet determines its value. For many people, cats or dogs are family members, dearly loved and impossible to replace.
3. Based on your answers to the two previous questions, what do you need in a pet ID tag?
Pet ID tags come in varying shapes, sizes and materials and hold varying amounts of information. Some contain logos or artwork, too. Most pet ID tags are designed to be hung from a collar.
At a bare minimum, a pet ID tag should contain the name, address and phone number of the pet owner in a durable, legible format. Plastic tags are lightweight but easily chewed. Stainless steel tags are durable and don't rust or fade. These traditional types of tags can purchased from any veterinarian or pet store. They're inexpensive but the amount of information they hold is limited to the size of the tag.
Fortunately, you have many more options in pet tags these days, such as microchipping, tattooing, digital display tags, pet registry web sites and voice recorded pet id tags.
One of the newest entries in the pet identification market is the high-tech USB drive that hangs from your pet's collar (or is attached to their cage) and which holds 64MB of data (including complete medical and diet information). The tiny USB drive is encased in a sturdy plastic case and can be plugged into any computer, where it is easily updated and easy to print sections for sharing with your vet or pet sitter.
No matter what pet ID tag you choose, making sure your pet wears some type of pet identification tag brings peace of mind that far outweighs its costs.
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