Pet Theft Prevention Tips

The following may be copied and distributed as long as credit is given to the author: Michelle Baiocchi

Losing a pet can be a heart-wrenching experience for anyone who has an emotional attachment to an animal. Some losses can't be avoided - all pets have a finite lifespan, for example - but loss by theft or just plain "running away" can often be prevented if pet owners will take pro-active measures.


1. Pets should WEAR TAGS at all times. Rabies and license/registration tags are required by law in most municipalities. A tattoo/microchip warning tag (if appropriate) warns finders that your pet is permanently identified (tattoos may be hard to see on longhaired pets, and microchips can't be seen at all) and gives them a central registry phone number to call. ID tags are available if you don't mind finders knowing your name, address, and phone number.

2. TATTOO and/or MICROCHIP all pets for positive identification (it's best to do both). Tattoo your social security number, drivers license number (be sure to include your state) or your purebred pet's registration number (be sure to include registry initials: AKC, UKC, CFA, etc.) inside the thigh or on the belly (ears can be torn due to injury, or cut off).

3. REGISTER all tattoos or microchips with the appropriate registry. An unregistered tattoo or microchip is useless. The person who tattoos your pet or injects the microchip should give you information on how to register it.

4. CONFINE your pets. The safest place for them when you're not home is INDOORS. This includes cats, too!

5. PADLOCK GATES. If you must leave your dog outside in a fenced yard, at least make it difficult for others to get to him. Padlocks and chains should be placed high, so the ground can't be used as leverage for bolt cutters.

6. Dogs that are kept tied in unfenced yards should be located OUT OF VIEW of passersby.

7. NEVER let your dog off his chain or leash - even for a minute - if you won't be right there to watch him the whole time! In most places it's illegal, and it's an open invitation for trouble! Don't leave your dog tied in public places while you go in stores to shop!

8. SPAY or NEUTER all pets. This makes them less inclined to wander, and eliminates any resale value for breeding purposes.

9. If a stranger approaches you about buying or breeding to your pet, tell him the pet has been spayed or neutered, even if it hasn't. WRITE DOWN the person's name, address, and license plate number, and keep a close eye on your pet afterwards!

10. DO NOT put your pet's name on his ID tag or display it on his dog house. A pet is much more likely to go to (and with) a stranger who calls him by name.

11. DO NOT talk to strangers about the value, bloodlines, training or special abilities of your pet.

If your pet disappears, don't wait - call your local Animal Control Department and/or Humane Society right away! If you suspect theft, report it to your local law enforcement agency as well.


Train puppies and kittens when young to wear a collar and walk on a leash. Lost pets without tags - especially cats - often don't get reclaimed. Slip collars (aka choke chains) are for training or walking only; pets should wear flat or rolled buckle collars for everyday use, and tags should be attached to the buckle collar.

For the pet that is always losing its tags - forget the "S" hook or "O" ring that comes with the tag. Get a split ring off an old key chain and put all the tags on the split ring, then attach the split ring to the collar. Be sure to use a split ring small enough that the pet won't get a toe caught in it. Split rings can be purchased for pennies at any lock and key shop.

Does your dog have a wardrobe of different collars? If so, put all the tags on a split ring as describe above, and attach a small snap hook. Then it's a "snap" to change the tags from one collar to the next.

For active dogs whose tags are unreadable long before they expire, cover the tags with several coats of clear nail polish before putting them on the dog. The next tip may also be helpful.

Hate hearing your pet's tags jingle? Attach the rabies and license tags back-to-back with masking tape or super glue. The next tip will also work. If you have more than one pet, use colored key identifiers (sold at lock and key shops) to color-code each pet's tags. This will also keep tags from jingling.

If your pet loses its tags, get replacements right away! Remember, in order for the tags to protect your pet, your pet must be wearing the tags!

written by Michelle Baiocchi
courtesy of Austin/Travis County (TX) Animal Services

Lost and Stolen Pets Information

Page updated: February 7th 2014