Saving Lives

ASPCA Research: Retention of Pet ID Tags

The ASPCA's ID ME research looks at the use of ID tags on dogs and cats and how willing and able people are to return lost animals to their owners. The project investigates these questions:

  • How do pet owners use ID tags and how do they rank their importance?
  • Do owners retain personalized ID tags that have been placed on their pets?
  • Did any tagged animals in the study become lost, and did the tags help return them home?
  • Does tagging large numbers of dogs and cats in a community affect stray intake for local animal control?

What's Happening?

Phase 1, Summer 2010: The ASPCA chose Oklahoma City, OK, an ASPCA Partnership community, for the first phase of the research.

  • The study collected baseline survey information from pet owners who brought their pets to either a spay/neuter clinic or one of four participating veterinary clinics. These pet owners received an ID ME brochure. Staff at the clinic also placed an ID tag personalized with the owner's name and contact information directly on the animal, providing a collar if needed.
  • The study also included a population that had just adopted a dog or cat from either OKC Animal Welfare Division (animal control) or Central Oklahoma Humane Society. These adopters did not take the baseline survey (because their pets were new), but they did receive a collar and personalized ID tag.
  • We then contacted both groups of owners with a phone call about six weeks later.

Phase 2, Spring 2011: A large-scale intervention, funded by PetSmart Charities, to collar and tag owned cats that come to spay/neuter clinics in five communities: Oklahoma City, OK; Buncombe County, NC; Charleston, SC; Austin, TX; and Springfield, IL. As in phase 1, we will conduct follow up to see whether the cats are still tagged and whether any were lost and found.

We are also working to tag 15% of the owned dogs in Buncombe County and measure impact on intake at the animal control level. We will also conduct follow up surveys with the dog owners.

Who's Involved?

Oklahoma City: the Oklahoma City Animal Welfare Division, the Central Oklahoma Humane Society, and OK Humane Place spay/neuter clinic; Humane Research Council, conducted the phone interviews.

Buncombe County: Humane Alliance for the cat project and Humane Alliance, Asheville Humane Society, Brother Wolf Canine Rescue, Animal Compassion Network and 6 veterinary clinics are participating in the dog tagging project.

Charleston: Charleston Animal Society, Pet Helpers

Austin: Animal Trustees of Austin, Emancipet

Springfield, IL: Animal Protective League

Research Results

The results from phase 1 in Oklahoma City:

  • In the baseline survey, 80% of pet owners said that a pet ID tag was "extremely important" or "very important." Yet only 33% of surveyed pet owners reported that their current pet wears an ID tag all the time.
  • In the follow-up survey (after providing personalized ID tags), 73% reported that their pet continues to wear the ID tag. That is, once the tag was on, most owners were keeping it on their pet.
  • Of the newly adopted pets, 89% had the ID tag on at the six week follow-up call.
  • In the six week period since the initial tagging, 10 pets were recovered because of their personalized ID tag.

What's the Bottom Line?

The phase 1 results suggest that the general public understands the importance of ID tagging and simply needs easy access to a personalized tag and a collar. The results also show that when the tags are on the pet, they mostly remain on the animal.

  • By providing personalized tags, and placing them on each adopted or reclaimed animal, shelters can immediately improve the likelihood that those animals, if lost, will be reunited with their owners.
  • ID tags personalized with the owners' contact information make it possible for the general public who find tagged strays to return the animals to their owners without involving a shelter or animal control agency. Phase 2 results may show whether widespread tagging can significantly reduce stray intake.