Is it OK to Tattoo Your Dog?

By Dr. Patty Khuly |

Recently, a man who describes himself as an artist and a dog lover took his tattooing trade a tad too far for most animal lovers' taste when he tattooed an intricate design on his young dog's belly.

"Cruel and unusual" was the general consensus from those who were infuriated by the act. On his tattoo parlor's Facebook page, dog defenders cited the pain of the tattooing process and the pointlessness of an elaborate illustration that does little more than serve one man's ego.

In response to the outrage over his dog's ink, the proud owner of this crop-eared bully dog asked, "What's the big deal?" He claims he adores his dogs, paid a lot for them, and is therefore entitled to mark them however he pleases. To further his point, he highlights the fact that he's done so "artistically."

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Tattoos as Identification

Tattooing serves a purpose, he explained. "What do they do when they brand animals and tattoo horses on their ear and brand their cow? You're not abusing them," Ernesto Rodriguez told a television reporter at WXII 12 in North Carolina. "You're just protecting them so they don't get lost."

He's not wrong on this last point. In fact, plenty of dogs all over the U.S. are tattooed for identification purposes - usually in the ear or on the belly. So, too, do we ink plenty of spayed dogs and cats so they're recognized as such.

But tattooing isn't universally well-regarded as an effective ID method. Not only is locating the correct registry on a found dog somewhat problematic, tats fade and blur over time… a lot. Neither does the spay ink enjoy wide support - especially seeing as you often have to knock out a patient to get a good look at the tiny, much-faded line. (And now that safer, less painful, more effective methods exist, what's the point, anyway?)

See Also: Lost 3-Year Old Girl Rescued Thanks to a Dog and His Microchip

A Painful and Unnecessary Procedure

But even if these "indelible" methods were as widely accepted as tattoos on cattle, they wouldn't compare to the ink job in question.


Because tattooing hurts! I should know. I've got two on my back, each about the size of this dog's six-inch-long design. Yet her owner defends the design's humane origins by claiming it was created immediately after her ear crop, while she remained fully anesthetized and under a veterinarian's care.

Personally, I'd argue that since the tattooing was medically unnecessary (as was the ear crop, for that matter), the whole thing was a bad idea. Why do this to a dog to satisfy one big-headed yahoo's warped cultural norms and bad taste? As a veterinarian, I'd never agree to participate in such narcissistic shenanigans. I'm offended by this and think it deserves far more "exploration" than a few rants on Facebook and a smattering of tacky local TV news spots.

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