Keeping Scruffy Safe and Loved – Identification and Containment

We all have a Scruffy, or two, or six. But how do we make sure he or she is safe, and increase the odds that we will get our pal back if the worst were to come about? Pet ID, of course!

There are three primary types of pet ID widely available today:

  • Pet tags
  • Tattoos
  • Microchips

Since each has its pros and cons, the best method is to go for the gusto and get all three! That way, no matter whose hands Scruffy falls into, those hands will most likely be capable of getting him or her back to you safe and sound.


Pet tags
, our oldest and dearest friend, display your name, address, and phone number, and are worn on the pet’s collar. While the cheapest (anywhere from $5-$10), and most recognizable to the rescuer, they also can easily be scraped or faded, and the collars can slip off or be taken off by anyone or anything intent on doing Scruffy harm.

Next we have option two, the pet tattoo. The cost is usually between $10-$20 for the tattoo, and a one time registration fee of $38, which covers entering your pet’s contact information into a national database. So, for a total of around $50, Scruffy can be doubly protected. Advantages of tattoos are:

  • They require no special machinery to read.
  • A vet is not required to do the procedure (though it’s highly recommended).
  • They are well known enough that most potential rescuers will notice the tattoo (or look for one) and call local shelters to find out how to proceed from here.

Unfortunately, they can also be altered by the same person who takes the collar off, or may become hidden beneath hair growth and go unnoticed.
The last option, the Microchip, is widely used in England and Canada, and more recently by the U.S. A chip, about the size of a grain of rice, is inserted via injection between the shoulder blades of the dog. This takes only a moment, and most animals don’t even notice. The cost ranges from $25-$40 for the implant, and there is usually a small fee to register in the national database. The microchip is building up a great repertoire of advantages, including:

  • It won’t get lost like a collar or hidden like a tattoo.
  • It can give much more information about the dog such as medical problems, preferred food, emergency contact, and breeder information.
  • The shelter staff love chips; they are fast, accurate, and hands off.

However, the chip won’t be able to be read by any old rescuer, and many shelters still don’t have readers or don’t use them consistently because it hasn’t caught on in many areas yet. But the time is coming! And, when used in combination with the other two methods, the odds of Scruffy coming home to you increase dramatically!

Yard Containment

So, now that Scruffy is Microchipped, tattooed, and wears pet tags, how do we keep him in the yard? We have a choice between the real and invisible; the invisible, the chain link and the wooden privacy fence.

I did a lot of underground research regarding underground fences, for my curiosity as well as your information. And believe me, this is one red-hot topic! The most positive response came from satisfied owners of the Invisible Fence brand (www.invisiblefence.com) invisible fence. I spoke with several, including my own vet, who said it works well for them. I don’t know if the product is truly superior or if it’s the three days of hands-on training that the agents do with you and your dog that makes it so viable. However, I also heard quite a few disturbing stories of how this type of fence just didn’t work out, and it often seemed to vary with the temperament of the dog. Another downside is that the fence may keep Scruffy from running out, but it doesn’t keep strangers from running in and carting her off! Nor does it keep other animals out of your yard.

If you decide to go with a physical fence, the chain link seems to be about 2/3 the cost of a wooden privacy fence. The advantage of a visible fence is that it can do a great job of keeping Scruffy safe from outside factors, and allow him some free-range motion. On the downside, fences are not always inescapable, and won’t always keep out someone intent on doing harm. Also, some communities have rules about fencing, and if that’s the case, perhaps neither a chain link nor a privacy fence is acceptable.

One source gave me a great idea that they’d come up with: they have a split rail fence with chicken wire across the back, which isn’t visible until you get closer. Thanks for the tip!

I also ran into advocates who support no fence at all. “What’s so wrong with a leash and a walk?” Not much, as long as you are vigilant about his or her safety! Both you and Scruffy will garner some much-needed exercise, time to unwind the clutter from the day, and the fresh air will bond you with your most loyal friend. Many of those who live in the city do this and of course benefit greatly too.

The reasons to NOT chain your dog outside are numerous, and Scruffy should be tied out for just a short while, if no other method is available to you or you are out there with him or her. Dogs who live most of their lives chained outside are little more than prisoners, and no self-respecting pet caretaker would treat Scruffy this way. I’m sure you wouldn’t! Bring her into the house with you, treat him as a member of your family, and your rewards will far outweigh any effort you put into her training.

We all know how much we love Scruffy – and his eight brothers that we couldn’t resist bringing home as well. Finding a way to keep him as safe as possible, whether it’s all three ID methods, one fencing method, or a combo that works for you (and NOT chaining him outside to live) is the best you can do to ensure yourself a bright future ahead with your best pal.

by Tammy Grimes
Tammy Grimes is a contributing editor with ]DogsDeserveBetter.com. Dogs Deserve Better is a nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing the chained dog, and bringing our ‘best friend’ into the home and family.