Readers of this column know I have harped on issues of the “big three” methods of pet identification. With proper identification, I have had two lost pets returned to me. It works. The big three up until now have been stamped or engraved metal collar tags, microchips inserted under the skin and tattoos. All have their failings, so redundancy is the key to reuniting a lost pet with an owner.
Medicine, both human and animal, is for the most part still floundering when it comes to digitizing medical records of people and pets. I say mostly because there are some extraordinary examples to the contrary, especially in veterinary medicine and some progressive corporate practices.
In human medicine, I am still forced to carry three sheets of significant medical and surgical history and a list of current medications with me to submit with nearly every visit. Either that or one has to show up an hour early to fill out nonstandardized paperwork. It is really an irritation that medicine seems to ignore that the paperwork process can’t be resolved more quickly than writing it by hand each time.
So, what if your dog could have all of its medical history and ownership contact information encoded on a tag around its neck? Well, the technology is here.
Tuesday in Las Vegas, International Alliance Technologies, mypetsemergencyid.com, described its marquee product, a QR code pet identification tag that will become available Monday. The tag is connected to an information database that is free to utilize upon activation.
The database includes protected personal information, such as the owner’s address and phone number, medical records, veterinarian contact information and more, while also granting access to 24/7 customer service.
For those unaware, a QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is one of those squares that sort of resemble the black and white design of a crossword puzzle before it is completed. It is a type of two-dimensional barcode invented in 1994 by a Japanese automotive company.
To access the stored data through the 24/7 customer service all one has to do is point a smart phone at the QR code and it immediately connects to the service.
Depending on the size of barcode, the price varies but all models of the tag are less than $10. Best of all, there is no monthly or annual charge after the purchase. In today’s world of “everything is a subscription now,” this is a breath of fresh air.
Of course, a dog can slip its collar. The tag can fall off or be damaged. Or the tag may even be obscured by mud or oily residue and dust. So, this is not foolproof. Again, redundancy is the key; use more than one form of identification with your pet.
My brother runs big hunting dogs that range a couple dozen miles a day during field trials. His dogs are microchipped, carry collar identification and they are equipped with a GPS tracking monitor system tied to both a GPS device and his cellphone. Fortunately, he has never lost a dog.
I have been to field trials though where dogs will compete for three days, then it is back in the truck and on to the next competition in the campaign. If a dog gets lost there, it can be real trouble for the trainers who may be campaigning a dozen or more dogs for that many different owners.
They have been known to have to drive off and leave a wayward dog if they cannot be found in time.
Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email firstname.lastname@example.org.