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Outrage at ban on tattoos

BRITISH WORKING Sheepdog owners are protesting at new regulations being enforced by their governing registration body that ear tattoos are no longer a valid form of canine identification and that microchips will be the only recognised form of ID.

The International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS) have issued a number of new rules, effective form from July 1st 2005 relating to the new DNA test that is available for Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) in relation to the identification, testing and registration of adult dogs and litters of puppies.

Optigen, the laboratory which carries out the DNA test, based in the USA, prefers that dogs should be permanently identified prior to the submission of the blood sample for testing and are happy accept either a microchip or tattoo.

However, for unspecified reasons, tattoos have been deemed unacceptable for British dogs. The new ISDS rules state 'the Society has made it a requirement that dog identification is by microchip only for all members resident in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Tattooing will be continued to be permitted for Overseas members as long as it is common practice in some countries (e.g. France) and permitted under the ECVO Opthalmic scheme.'

ISDS member Barbara Owen told OUR DOGS: "These rules have been issued without any reference to the membership and have simply appeared on the Society's website as a fait accompli. I am a life member of the Society and I have not received any formal notification of these rule changes."

Ms Owen, who owns six working Border Collies, which she also uses in agility added: "I am endeavouring to contact members of the Society who are not prepared to microchip their dogs and orchestrate a campaign to change this rule. The ISDS has accepted the registration of my puppies with their NDTR tattoos, even putting the tattoo numbers of each registration certificate.

"I do not understand why the Society has now decided that tattooing is not an acceptable form of permanent identification when it is accepted by other organisations and is now even acceptable for the Pet Passport."

OUR DOGS spoke to Norman Lawton, the Chief Executive of the ISDS on the matter. "These rules are really only interim rules which needed to be quickly enacted to take advantage of the new CEA test," said Mr Lawton. "Our Directors will ratify these rules in January next year, but will consider and make any amendments necessary based on representations from ISDS members, so they’re not written in tablets of stone."

However, Mr Lawton did accept that the rules clearly stated that tattoos were not acceptable and that this could cause inconvenience to those members who prefer not to microchip their dogs. "I have to say, the information our Directors received with reference to tattooing did seem to indicate that tattoos can fade and may not be easily read after a while," he said, "Although this information did relate largely to tattooing carried out on farm livestock. What you have to realise is that the vast majority of our members – and this includes our directors – have farming backgrounds and may not be as well-informed on matters such as this as would pet dog owners or exhibitors."

Mr Lawton added that he had not been in contact with the National Dog Tattoo Register, but would be perfectly happy to receive any information from them relating to the tattooing of dogs, so that this could be considered by the 130-strong group of Directors prior to the rule ratification in January 2006.

Barbara Owen added: "If people want to microchip their dogs, that’s fine, I don’t have a problem with that. I won’t, because I have been shown microchips that have migrated in a dog’s body. One dog’s microchip was located in its foreleg! Tattoos, if properly done, are perfectly acceptable methods of identification. I don’t see why anybody who quite reasonably uses tattoo identification should be denied this method, simply because the microchip lobby – and that means manufacturers - say that microchips are infallible. They aren’t."

l Any member of the ISDS who wishes to discuss the matter should contact Barbara Owen, on 01342-834774 or by e-mail on