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After purchasing a new dog one of the first things you should do is make sure it has proper identification, and ensure it is licensed if required by your municipality. As loyal as it is, your dog may one day find itself lost or injured and unable to return home on its own. As intelligent as your dog is, it will not be able to provide necessary information to an Animal Control Officer for it to be returned to you. Without proper identification, it may be lost forever.

A visit to your local animal shelter where many lost and abandoned pets are housed will give you an idea of how important it is to give your dog some form of ID. Unfortunately, many animals in shelters must be euthanized because they do not have identification, their owners cannot be found and shelters cannot take care of them forever.

Municipalities across Canada have increasingly recognized the importance of pet identification by creating bylaws that require registration of all dogs. Licensing is not only an important piece of identification, but the funds generated by licensing programs help support animal control programs and help keep your community safe for you and your pet. As an added incentive, many municipalities offer a rebate on licensing for pets that are microchipped and spayed or neutered.

CFHS strongly encourages all pet owners to identify their dogs in at least one of the following ways:

Tags: This is the simplest method of identifying your dog or cat. It requires having a tag made with the dog’s name and contact information including your name, address and phone number and making sure it is attached to the dog’s collar. Your dog should also wear his rabies tag, which has your veterinarian’s phone number. Although your dog will be easily identified this way, the tag can easily be lost or stolen.

Microchipping: This form of identification is increasing in popularity among dog and cat owners and is advocated by the CFHS as the best permanent method. Microchipping can be done by your vet, or at special clinics run by your animal shelter or municipality.

Photo:Ottawa Humane Society
Dr. Downes
microchipping cat

Microchipping involves inserting a small “chip” under the skin of your dog’s back with the use of a hypodermic needle. A microchip is a transmitter the size of a grain of rice. The procedure is relatively painless – similar to the experience your dog will have being vaccinated – and does not require an anesthetic. It usually costs less than $60 Canadian. Most humane societies, SPCAs and veterinarians will have a scanner that can read the information in the chip, which will tell them how to contact you.

The only disadvantage is that the microchip is invisible and can only be identified with a scanner, but you can avoid this problem by purchasing a tag indicating that your dog has a microchip. Some chip companies provide these tags free of charge.

Canada is fortunate to have a standardized microchipping system for pets. CFHS is a founding member of the National Companion Animal Coalition, which created a national standard for microchipping in the early 1990s. This standard was revised over the last few years to better reflect new technologies. The creation of a national chip standard has helped ensure there is a more unified and effective recovery system in Canada.

Please click here to see the current list of microchip products recognized by the National Companion Animal Coalition.

Tattoos: This involves your veterinarian, or a pet tattooist recommended by your veterinarian, putting a small tattoo on your dog, usually on the inner thigh or in the ear. It is most often done by breeders when the puppies are still quite young. Although it is a good permanent ID marker, the drawback is that tattoos can fade and stretch causing them to become illegible with time. The procedure can also be painful for your dog and sometimes requires an anesthetic.


Canada now also benefits from a single, web-based animal registry that accepts all types of ID: tattoos, nose prints, visual tags, licenses, passports, microchips, text descriptions, pictures and DNA to name a few. It’s not controlled by one ID vendor like a microchip supplier or a vaccine manufacturer.

By gathering all this information in one place, PetLynx can increase the success of finding lost animals, often without animals ever having to visit a shelter. To find out more, visit

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