Canine Tattoo i.d.

Tattoos have been around for a long time, and prior to the 1980s was the preferred way to permanently identify your pets. Many kennels clubs like the Canadian Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, Schutzhund Club, racing dogs and all service dogs (guide dogs, military and police dogs) were required to be tattooed. This insured that each animal had a visible and permanent mark to legally and unmistakably identify each animal. Veterinarians and breeders typically tattooed pets for the owners. With the invention of the microchip and scanners in the late 1970s zoos and field biologists began using microchips to identify exotic animals and soon the microchip companies opened up a whole new and lucrative market to the pet owner. In the beginning there were only 2 makers (AVID & Trovan) with no universal scanner. That meant if your pet was lost, whoever found it had to have the correct scanner or your pets microchip could not be read. Now there are 15 different makers and no universal scanner will read all chips. Not all chips are compatible with international travel.

The following is an excerpt from this EU Regulation No. 998/2003:

Article 4
1. During an eight-year transitional period starting from the entry into force of this Regulation, animals of the species listed in parts A and B of Annex I shall be regarded as identified where they bear:

(a) either a clearly readable tattoo; or

(b) an electronic identification system (transponder).

In the case referred to in point (b) of the preceding subparagraph, where the transponder does not comply with ISO Standard 11784 or Annex A to ISO Standard 11785, the owner or the natural person responsible for the pet animal on behalf of the owner must provide the means necessary for reading the transponder at the time of any inspection.

I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t carry around my own microchip scanner when I travel with my dogs.

Also some types of cancers have been linked to microchips.  If you would like to examine the evidence yourself, you can go to to find the links to each original study and a comprehensive 52 page report titled “Microchip-Induced Tumors in Laboratory Rodents and Dogs: A Review of the Literature 1990-2006” by Katherine Albrecht, Ed. D.

“Electronic microchip technology as a means of animal identification may affect animal moribundity and mortality (i.e. illness and death rates), due to the large size and rapid growth of microchip induced tumors as well as the occurrence of metastases.”  - Elcock, et al., 2001

So why tattoo? I believe it is safer and healthier than microchipping.

The tattoo procedure takes a few minutes, is virtually pain free and no anesthesia is necessary.

Tattoos are VISIBLE and no special equipment is needed to “read” it.

Tattoos do not “migrate” away from where they are applied.

Tattoos are accepted internationally as identification for your dog.

Tattoos applied in a correct and sanitary fashion, have no recognized health risks.

I use a portable “pen style” tattoo machine.  I write the id characters, letters & numbers (not dots) and the tattoo only needs to be 1/32 of an inch into a pet’s skin to remain for the lifetime of the animal.

I am an authorized agent for the National Dog Registry.  The National Dog Registry was founded in 1966.  It is based right here in the U.S.A.  NDR has a toll free 24 hour telephone “hotline” to report lost or found pets.   All NDR registrations are for the LIFETIME of the dog.  The cost to register is $45 for the first dog and $20 for each additional dog.   Cost to apply the tattoo is $25 for a single dog.  Multiple dogs tattooed at the same time and place for the same owner will get the tattooing fee discounted to $20 per dog.   The fees to change your info are minimal and they DO NOT charge a “subscription” fee to maintain your pet on their database.

For more information visit the NDR website at or email

What is the procedure?  In general, an area on the inside of the rear leg (thigh) or belly is best as it's a common place to look and is more subtle than an ear tattoo. The owner helps hold the animal still, your tattooist will show you how.  The procedure for a tattoo is pretty simple: the area for the tattoo is clipped and disinfected with alcohol; a light layer of petroleum jelly is applied to the area so the tattoo marker will move smoothly over the surface of the skin, and the number is applied. The area is then cleansed with disinfecting soap which removes excess ink from the skin. Any numbers that are not clear are retouched at this time. A final layer of petroleum jelly is applied over the finished tattoo to aid scabbing over. A very fine scab (barely visible) will form over the tattoo and will fall off after a day or two. It's best to keep the area around a tattoo scissored or clipped so it can be easily seen if the dog is lost.


"Thank you Ms Tawny for the exceptional tattooing that you did on Hazine (Anatolian Shepard) and Sir II (Boxer mix). It surprised me that the small dog was more of a hand full but you handled it all well and your professionalism really showed thru. I am glad to know a professional offering this service to our beloved animals. Thank you again."


Do not tattoo a dog without registering the number with either the National Dog Registry or the AKC. An unregistered number is useless as it cannot get your dog back to you. Any number can be registered with the National Dog Registry and all tattooed animals are eligible for enrollment in the AKC's Companion Animal Recovery system regardless of species, age, size or number used.

These organizations and registries operate identification registries or services. Some of these are specific (i.e. only for tattoos or microchips), but many are not. Make sure that every company that registers a tattoo can search in their database using the tattoo number. If they cannot search your pet using the tattoo DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY!

National Dog Registry - Tel: 1-800-637-3647 (800-NDRDOGS) or will track any tattoo number.  Tattoo numbers are searchable in this database.

AKC Reunite - Tel: 1-800-252-789

PETtrac - Keeps track of AVID chip. Tel: 1-800-338-1397

Identipet - Tel: 1-800-243-9147 or

National Animal ID Center - Tel: 800-647-6761

National Stock Dog Registry - Tel:  1-800-538-7677

Pet Protection Plus – Tel:  1-800-238-73874

United Schutzhund Clubs of America - Tel: 314-200-3193

US Kennel Club Inc.  – Tel: 1-800-352-8752