3 Reasons Why Your Dog or Cat Should Wear a Collar

Cute Dog at the Halzband Exhibit during the 2018 Cedar Bark Festival
A photo I took during the 2018 Cedar Bark Fest. What a cutie!

People love their dogs and cats, but many may unknowingly put their pets at risk by not having them wear a collar. In this blog post, we’ll look at three reasons why a collar is so important for your pet, even if they are an indoor-only animal.

REASON #1 – Recovery of a Missing Pet

No one wants to experience the heartache of even thinking their beloved furry friend might be lost to them forever.

Lost Cat and Dog Posters
Photos (cropped) courtesy of Ewan Munro and Mike Schmid

Even if your dog or cat is an indoor animal, sometimes they can still wander outside without you knowing. It just takes one person leaving a door or gate open briefly during a moment of distraction. 

I personally have experienced that terrible sinking feeling when, once as a child, our family dog, Shep, somehow became lost. We were searching for him for hours. But as the sun began to descend over the horizon, I recall my hopes fading fast for his safe return. Fortunately, our story did have a happy ending. We found him miles away walking along an empty road. But not everyone is so fortunate.

Some studies have shown that only a small percentage of pets are ever found and, even when “found,” a lack of identification can make it nearly impossible to track down their guardians.

More encouraging was a five-year study conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) which showed that on average 85 percent of lost pets are recovered. Of dogs, 49 percent of recovered dogs are typically found by searching the neighborhood and another 15 percent are recovered because of having identification. Cats seemed to have a lower percentage of recovery compared to dogs and, curiously, only 6 percent of lost dogs and 2 percent of lost cats were ever found at shelters. 

The ASPCA study concluded that pet recovery seems much higher when pet guardians immediately start searching their neighborhoods (including putting up posters and reaching out on social media) as soon as they discover their pet is missing. (It helps to have a recent photo!)

It also seems that pets wearing a collar with a clearly visible identification tag will have better odds of being recovered. It could be as simple as a text message from a neighbor who lives just a couple streets over.

What about Microchipping?

Microchips are a more technologically advanced way to ensure your pet can be identified. It involves injecting your pet with a grain-sized microchip that utilizes passive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. The identifying "radio" signal can only be read up close with a specially designed microchip scanner. Microchips cannot be detached from a pet just by accident and so they can serve as a last line of defense for identification.

Pet Microchip Scanner
Photo courtesy of Sternrenette [CC BY-SA 3.0]

An ID number from the microchip is simply matched to information stored in a database. Sorry, there are no phone apps capable of reading pet microchips. Generally only shelters, vets, and Animal Control will have the required equipment. Neighbors can purchase such equipment, but most don't do so and yet it can often be your neighbors who will find your lost pet.

This issue is why the ASPCA as well as most microchip manufacturers, veterinarians, and pet associations recommend doubling up on identification with both a microchip and collar tag.

TIP: Make sure to securely attach your pet’s identification tag to the D-ring of its collar
D-Ring Illustration using Halzband Dog Collar
Photo courtesy of Halzband
A proper pet collar should feature a D-ring for the attachment of an identification tag. Most pet tags come with an S-hook or split ring that can be used to attach an ID tag to the D-ring. With an S-hook, make sure to pinch the gaps closed at both ends of the hook with a pair of pliers. This will help ensure the tag is not easily pulled free from the collar. With a split ring, it attaches to the tag and D-ring the same way keys go onto a key chain. Regardless of which approach you use to attach a pet tag, taking the time to do this right can go a long way to ensuring your pet can be easily identified and returned to you safely. You may want to check this on your pet right now!

REASON #2 – Using a Collar May Be Required to Comply with Local Laws

Most municipalities require the licensing of dogs and cats. Even if your pet never leaves your property or is an indoor-only animal, many areas still require licensing of pets that are 4 months of age or older. (You can potentially be fined for not doing so.)

Once registered, a license tag is usually provided to the owner for attachment to the pet’s collar. License tags often include contact information for you or your vet, imprinted or etched directly onto the tags.

Dog Wearing Identification Tag
Photo courtesy of Yoko [CC BY-SA 2.0]

In addition to licensing, most municipalities also have leash laws. Regardless of your personal stance on leashes, in most areas dogs are generally not permitted to roam freely, except in specially designated off-leash areas, such as this one in Central Texas. Even then, dogs in heat or with aggressive behavior may still be prohibited from being off-leash. The law may also specify a maximum leash length, such as no more than six feet.

Ultimately, you are liable for your pet’s behavior, especially if it results in someone else’s injury or property damage. Using a leash is one of the best ways you have to maintain control over your pet.

People Walking their Dogs on Leashes
Photo courtesy of Virginia State Parks

If you are not sure of the pet licensing and leash requirements in your area, you can easily find out from your local municipal or county officials.

With all of this in mind, pet collars are a quite simply a very convenient way to enable you to comply with the law. They make it easy to quickly attach a leash whenever needed and help ensure a license tag will be visible to anyone who may find your lost pet. 

Should your pet ever be picked up by Animal Control while wearing a collar with an identification tag, this can lengthen your pet's hold time at the shelter, and possibly reduce fees associated with reclaiming your pet.

REASON #3 – Great for Safely Going on Walks

Whether it’s preventing your dog from running off after a squirrel or cat, or from being hit by car, unpredictable situations are one of the key reasons for walking your dog on a leash. 

It isn’t that your dog is necessarily ill-behaved, but even well-trained dogs will sometimes react instinctively to unexpected situations. A dog might simply be a tad overly excited about investigating a young child, someone mowing their lawn, or a lovely flower garden. And who can resist going after a ball!

Dog Chasing a Ball
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Dog parks or your own backyard are much safer environments for dogs to run and play. Dog parks in particular are great opportunities for your dog to socialize with other dogs, and make friends. (Yes, I believe dogs can develop real friendships with other dogs.) But when in other types of public areas, such as walking along the sidewalk in your own neighborhood, it is generally safer for you, your dog and others if you walk your dog on a leash. And a good leash always needs a good collar or harness to attach to.

We love our pets and it's up to each of us as our pet's guardians to protect that bond. By taking simple and preventative steps, like using a microchip and collar with identification tag, and using a leash where required, we are helping to ensure this important member of our lives will be around with us for years to come.

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