Dr. Emily Weiss discusses how ID tagging now can save time and resources later—and offers some tips to ensure collars and tags get on all animals.
It is so exciting to see all the great ID tagging programming that is building around the country. Our research found that 89% of new adopters that left the shelter with a collar and personalized ID tag already ON their pet kept it on. Eighty-nine percent!
I really feel strongly that all shelters should place collars and tags on the pets they touch—be it through Return to Owner (RTO), adoptions, spay/neuter or wellness clinics. The simple act of placing that personalized tag on the pets can impact your intake and improve safety for pets in your community.
As you may know from reading this blog, I am goal-driven—and feel strongly about measurement and impact, as many of you do as well. The goal we had with researching and then implementing ID tagging programming was to decrease intake. It was important to us that an ID tagging program decrease the need for shelter resources—and provide pets and pet parents the fastest and most direct route to get home. That means that the information on the ID tag is the information NOT of the shelter, but of the pet parent. Why require a finder to bring a pet to you if, with the info on the ID tag, they can get the pet straight back home?
Think of the changes in capacity you could achieve with a decrease in intake of lost pets! I have heard from agencies wanting to start an ID tagging programming with a goal of increasing RTO. RTO from your shelter is not likely to increase significantly with a tagging program—because all the Good Samaritans who would bring the found dog or cat to the shelter can instead call the owner’s cell phone on that ID tag and get that dog or cat back home directly, without ever coming to your shelter. The only time RTO would likely increase with a tagging program is with an aggressive Animal Control Officer patrol program, in which they are returning more dogs and cats home directly in the field as they pick up stray animals on the street. However, with tight budgets, and our lost pet data indicating that most pets are getting home without entering the shelter, I think the resources should first go toward aggressive ID tagging programming and education of dog and (especially) cat owners, regarding where and how they should search for their lost pet.
I have heard from a few of you that you simply do not have time to engrave a personalized ID tag for each dog and cat and then put the collar and tag on that pet. I know we are often tight for time, but the time it takes to engrave the tag and place it on the pet is much less than the time needed to process that pet back in as a "stray." Here are some hints to help ensure collars and tags get on all animals:
- Put collars on all dogs and cats when they enter your shelter or when they become available for adoption. We recommend simple buckle collars for cats and dogs. This way, the dogs and cats become comfortable with the collar and it can be fitted correctly without haste.
- Make simple index cards for clients to write their cell phone and alternate number so that you can easily and accurately transcribe this information on the tag engraver.
- Tags can be made when the adopter is reviewing or signing their adoption contract. Once you have the hang of it, it should take only a minute or two to complete a tag.
- Volunteers at the adoption desk can make tags while the staff works on contracts.
- Investigate the quickest stay-put option to fasten the tag. O rings can be great, but take a bit of practice to put on quickly. Remember—the pet must leave with a tag on! Our research found that people already understand how important a tag is, but only 33% of them actually tagged their pet! When asked why, they were likely to respond that they had not gotten around to it yet. Don’t assume that because you hand it to the adopter, it will get onto the pet!
Are you IDing the dogs and cats who enter your agency? Please share your thoughts.
Emily Weiss, PhD, CAAB
ASPCA Vice President, Research & Development
Dr. Emily Weiss’ work at the ASPCA involves developing programs and processes that focus on impact on animal welfare. In her previous work as a behaviorist, she developed training programs to improve husbandry and decrease stress for many zoo animals. She has also developed assessment tools for shelter animals, including the SAFER assessment and Meet Your Match Canine-ality, Puppy-ality and Feline-ality. Dr. Weiss is co-editor of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, and has published and lectured extensively in the field of applied animal behavior.
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