Whole Dog Journal's Blog August 6, 2012

Tattoo You!

Posted at 11:54AM - Comments: (17)

Volunteering at my local shelter this past weekend, I was photographing a cute senior Chihuahua (in an effort to better represent him on the shelter website) when I noticed something on his tummy. At first I thought it was discolored for a health reason. But when another volunteer and I rolled him over for a closer look, I could see that he was tattooed. As we stretched him in such a way to reveal the whole tattoo, I was in the process of telling my fellow volunteer that this was once a common practice – that before identification microchips became common, dogs were sometimes tattooed with the owner’s driver’s license number or phone number.

But then we decoded the message. It looked like this:

S          O

THE     R

U          L

D       CA



Or, in other words,



Just in case you were wondering, the dog was neutered – NOT a stud. I’m guessing it’s the name of a bar or something, although I was not able to find a listing for a business by that name in Orland, California, which is about 50 miles from this shelter. The dog was surrendered by someone who said she inherited the dog from a friend who passed away. She had the dog for about a year before deciding she couldn’t keep him. She did not mention anything about the dog having a tattoo.

What the heck? Is our society so tattoo-crazy that our dogs are now fair game for skin art? I can see putting a dog through the discomfort of a tattoo for identification purposes, but no other reason.

(For what it’s worth, in this case, though, I can honestly say the tattoo may well have played a role in getting the dog adopted. The first couple I showed him to adopted him. They did ask to meet him before they knew there was a tattoo, but they clearly thought the tattoo was an interesting novelty, too.)

What do you think? Have you seen other tattooed dogs? We dock tails and drastically change the appearance of many breeds’ ears -- is it okay to practice other body modification “art” on our dogs?

Comments (17)

I don't think any body alterations are ok unless they are medically necessary. Personally I would never have ears cropped or tails docked and am glad that this practices are banned in the UK. I agree that tatoos for ID purposes is acceptable, but not for anything else.

Posted by: WTDT | August 14, 2012 3:01 PM    Report this comment

Years ago there were "matches" all over the place on the weekeneds. Matches were practice shows that clubs put on for people to go to in preparation for their dogs or owners to attend shows. I'm sure that clubs still have them but I don't think there are as many as there used to be. At these matches it was very common to have health clinics such as eye, heart or rabies clinics etc. Tattoo clinics were also very common. I can remember helping at one of these clinics by holding the dogs and the tattoos were placed on the inside of the dog's thigh. I do not recall that the procedure was painful for the dog and to be honest, I have heard theories lately about the microchips causing cancer so I almost think I'd rather have my dogs get a tattoo than the microchip. It would also eliminate the worry over whether the chip was readable, damaged or migrated.

Posted by: Jazire | August 12, 2012 7:55 PM    Report this comment

Prior to microchipping, I had two dogs who were tattooed. Both were done while they were awake and neither of them seemed uncomfortable or in pain (I was with them both when it was done). The process was quick and I don't think it was the same as a people tattoo anyway - although I've never had one done and don't know exactly what the needles look like. Both were young dogs at the time it was done - one Aussie and one lab/shepherd mix. It was the best method at the time for permanent ID and I would do it again. The technician did tell me that he had one request to tattoo "Bad to the Bone" on a chihuahua once instead of the SSN or license number!

Posted by: CAROLYN E S | August 10, 2012 3:09 PM    Report this comment

All of our dogs prior to microchips were tattooed for ID purposes however all were done while the dogs were sedated. I have never heard of a vet doing them while the dogs was awake. My the little dog belonged to a tattoo artist?

Posted by: Dana T | August 9, 2012 8:27 PM    Report this comment

My RIP German Shepherd had a tattoo in her ear for identification purposes - it was done when she was spayed. My current German Shepherd got a microchip but at a recent vet visit he was scanned and the vet couldn't find it (she assured me it was the comprehensive reader). She said they can get bent, so now what do I do? At least the tattoo can be read without a reader and cannot bend or move so as to make it unreadable.

Posted by: 376NYC | August 8, 2012 8:20 PM    Report this comment

Our rescue dog also has a green stripe tatoo along the length of her spay scar. It was intentionally done by the Humane Society in Santa Rosa, CA when she was spayed so that if she ever became a rescue dog again, it would be clear that she had already been altered... It has always looked more like a smear of green dye where her skin was closed than a crisp tatoo but she is 4 years old now and it hasn't faded a bit.

Posted by: amcnair | August 8, 2012 11:42 AM    Report this comment

We adopted a rescue ridgeback a month ago, and noticed a few days later that she had a curious aqua strip on her tummy, running directly above and in alignment and with her scar from spaying. It didn't wash off and seems to be a tattoo. I wonder if this is a practice at some vet clinics, or if her owners placed it there...does anyone know if tattoos are part of any vet practices?

Posted by: JennO | August 8, 2012 10:41 AM    Report this comment

Frankly, I would prefer a tattoo over microchipping since I am still suspicious of their safety.

Also, I would assume the dog was sedated for the tattoo. I doubt you could get a dog to sit still if it were awake!

Why not have them tatooed while they're under for spay/neuter? My relative's dogs in Costa Rica are tattooed.

I have retired racing greyhounds that have tatooed ears, but if I were to do this for ID purposes instead of microchipping, I would do it on their stomach since you can't dock that!

I am amused that the dog's penis is blacked out. What is up with that?! LOL!!

Posted by: TRISH S | August 7, 2012 1:59 PM    Report this comment

Oh my goodness! I can't believe there are dogs who've been tattooed while awake! Back in the day, both of my dogs were tattooed for ID purposes, but it was done while they were being neutered so they did not endure the pain and anguish of being restrained and having something painful done to them.

Posted by: Sherron H | August 7, 2012 1:43 PM    Report this comment

All of my retired racing greyhounds have ear tattoos they got while a part of the racing industry. ID is one thing, but humans inflicting pain on anything for the sake of vanity is quite something else.

Posted by: LYDIA L | August 7, 2012 1:36 PM    Report this comment

That poor little dog. Tattooed on his stomach. That must have hurt like crazy. I have 2 retired racing greyhounds. They have both ears tattooed as a matter of course. But if it were up to me, I would never put them through it.

Posted by: YIKMDLF | August 7, 2012 1:30 PM    Report this comment

I don't think dogs tails should be docked nor their ears cropped. I certainly don't think they should be tattooed for the sake of novelty.

Posted by: Melody's Mom | August 7, 2012 11:59 AM    Report this comment

I do have all of my dogs microchipped and would not choose to have them tattooed instead. I have read about the problems regarding the microchips but think it is worth the risk. We do take all of our dogs and foster dogs to our obx house and we have fenced yards at both of our houses but gates can get left open by visitors or workers and some dogs will run out of the fenced yards.

Posted by: Olivia | August 7, 2012 11:33 AM    Report this comment

I wish I had know the possible dangers of microchips before we chipped our two Borzoi. I know they have been great for locating lost pets but sites like Chip Me Not show the health risks.

Posted by: JOAN H | August 7, 2012 11:10 AM    Report this comment

I had my dog tattooed by the AKC volunteer clinic for adopted dogs. AFter seeing the terror she went thru when they had to muzzle her and hold her down to tattoo my SSN (somethaing they don't put on anymore), I would NEVER put my beloved companion thru anything like that again. Thank Goodness for microchips that all my rescues have now.

Posted by: pdayrda | August 7, 2012 11:10 AM    Report this comment

I had my dog tattooed for identification many years ago before microchips were available, but I think it is absolutely reprehensible to put them through that painful experience for anything other than that. The more I see and hear things like this, the more I love dogs more than people!

Posted by: Unknown | August 7, 2012 11:01 AM    Report this comment

I brought my miniature poodle girl Janee from Russia about 7 years ago. She was a 9 week old puppy then. She had a tattoo as her permanent ID. It is still more common practice there compared to microchip here.

Posted by: Olga | August 7, 2012 10:58 AM    Report this comment

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