The best chance of having your pet returned safe and sound is through their ID. One out of three pets get lost at some point in their life. Sadly 90% of pets without current ID are never returned to their families. There a few different types to chose from.
1. Dog Tag - They are usually plastic or metal with your pet's name and your contact information. I recommend using your cell phone number. Think about it. Most likely you are out searching for your pet, not sitting at home. The tag is really your first line of defense. Some people are more likely to help a lost / stray pet with a collar and tag. They feel, "He most belong to someone and the certainly want him back." They might also feel they will not get stuck with the pet or have to turn it into a shelter. Don't forget to update the information if your phone number or address changes.
2. Microchip - This is a permanent tiny chip inserted behind the pets shoulder blades. Scanned by a vet or shelter the owner's information can be retrieved. A great option to have along with the collar and tag. The collar can become lost. However, I hear over and over again from rescues how the information in the microchip is not accurate. Once you have your pet microchipped you have to call or go online to register their information and your current contact information. Included as much information about your pet that could be useful to help in their return. This includes a photo. Many of the microchip companies will send out alerts to their registered users (in the area where the pet was reported lost) and the local vets that carry their chips. Which also means that if your pet is lost - report him missing to your registered company. If you do find a pet without an ID tag take them to your local shelter or vet. They will scan for the chip and be able to retrieve the owner's information. One last suggest, if you have adopted a pet from a shelter or rescue group the pet normally will already have a microchip, make sure you contact that company and have the information changed over to you. I will admit that I am at fault for this and did not do it until years later after my new veterinarian reminded me. My Minnie Meows was still thought to be at the shelter with the name of Midnight. HomeAgain and AVID and the most common found through your veterinarian's office.
3. Tattoo - A tattoo is also a permanent form of identification. A simple code is tattooed on a pet's belly or inner thigh. It must be registered into a national database to be of any use. The major disadvantage of a tattoo is the person who finds a lost pet has to be aware of it or know which registry your dog is signed up with. If you want to have your dog tattooed, consult your vet or local humane society to find out more about the various registries and the tattoo they suggest. The National Dog Registry is the one of the largest for the tattoo ID.
4. DNA Swab - Done by your veterinarian, a mouth swab is take and a DNA test is run and the information is added to a national registry. The idea is if some one finds your pet they can have them tested and find the owner information in the database. This is definitely the most costly and time consuming method of ID. It certainly is not the most effective, hardly anyone will think to check the DNA to return your lost pet. Hopefully you remembered to keep your owner contact information current in the database. The World DNA Pet Registry and the American Kennel Club (only for purebreds) are a two of the more well known registries.
5. Nose Prints - Like human finger prints your pets all have a unique nose print. You can make a print of their nose and enter it into a virtual database for future comparison. Again, not the best option if you are wanting some one to contact you about your lost pet. Who is going to know this and how to contact the database. More than 60 years ago, the Canadian Kennel Club began accepting nose prints of dogs for identification purposes.
6. Current County / City License - Some cities and counties have a searchable database of the licenses number. If you find a lost pet with a curent license you could call or visit Animal Services to see if they could retrieve the owner's contact information. Don't rely on this option, because again collars can be lost while your pet is out on his own trying to find his way home.
The American Humane Associate estimates that over 10 million dogs and cats are lost and stolen in the USA every year. Take a few minutes this week to make sure your pet has some kind of ID or better yet a combination of a few. If they already have one, make sure it has your most current contact information.