Recently I made four visits to three different vet clinics within a week. The visits raised my blood pressure considerably, and not out of concern for my dog. I was more concerned for the other dogs I saw there, and all for the want of the simplest equipment imaginable: collars and ID tags. I’d estimate that only about half the dogs were wearing collars – and only one dog in 10 was wearing identification.
Perhaps I wouldn’t find this so outrageous if I haven’t had the experience (many times over) of finding dogs who are clearly lost, and who are not wearing ID tags. In the almost four years since I moved to a small town in a rural county in Northern California, I’ve picked up six different dogs whom I found wandering along country roads. Five were wearing collars; none had tags, and so I transported each dog to the county animal shelter. I can only hope that their owners found them there. I also found one dog in town who was wearing ID tags. I called the number on that tag and the dog was picked up by his owner within five minutes of my call.
The ID-free dogs I saw at the vet offices especially bothered me. The very fact that they were receiving veterinary attention meant that they were owned and cared for – and yet those owners had not provided the bare minimum in protecting these dogs from a trip to the animal shelter (at best) if they happen to get loose and get lost. There are many far worse (and far more likely) scenarios that can befall a lost and anonymous dog. Some folks might just decide to keep the dog; in my county, it’s just as likely that a dog lacking ID would be suspected of being a threat to livestock and shot.
Maybe you’re one of those people who don’t keep a collar and tags on your dog because you think your dog will never, ever have an opportunity to escape. What about the solicitor who leaves your gate open? What if, through no fault of your own, you were in a car accident and your dog was thrown out of your car and ran away in a panic? What if a fire broke out in your house while you were away, and the firemen had to break the door down to fight the fire, and your dog ran away in the confusion? Don’t scoff; this happened to one of my sister’s friends; dryer lint caught fire, the house started burning, the neighbors called 911, firemen responded, and the family dog got out of the house – and was hit by a car and killed – all in the half-hour during which the dog’s owner was buying groceries.
A few months ago I saw a large dog, clearly dead, lying on the shoulder of the highway that bisects my town. She was wearing a collar, and I had some faint hope that ID tags were affixed to the collar; at least I could call the owners and let them know that their dog had been killed. As sad as this news would be, I know I’d want someone to do that for me, if I lost my dog. It wasn’t a surprise to find that the collar lacked tags. Someone, somewhere, is still wondering what happened to their dog.