The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian"tatu" which means "to mark something". It is arguably claimed that tattooing has existed since 12,000 years BC. The purpose of tattooing has varies from culture to culture and its place on the time line. Romans and the Japanese used tattooing to mark slaves. During WWII the Nazis used tattooing to identify Jewish prisoners at concentration camps. They were assigned a characteristic five-digit IBM Hollerith number. The five-digit Hollerith number was part of a custom punch card system devised by IBM to track prisoners in Nazi concentration camps. This was a very permanent way to identify prisoners because the only way to remove a tattoo was to cut it away, still they would carry a telltale scar. So naturally tattooing became a very popular way to identify someone or something.

Dog identification is a practice instituted by AKC (American Kennel Club) and the NDR (National Dog Registry). The AKC states in Chapter 9 section A of Regulations for Record Keeping and Identification of Dogs:
Thus, if more than one dog is shipped to some new owner or if a number of similar dogs are kept in a kennel or pet shop, a system must be used, such as marking, tagging, tattooing, or microchippping each dog, which will preclude any possible error in identities, and a record of the identifying information must be kept.
They give a choice of a collar tag kept on the dog at all times, a microchip (with scanner on the premises), a tattoo, or an ID tag. Until recent improvements in technology tattooing was the surest way of identifying your pet. Collars could easily be removed and microchips were still ideas from sci-fi films. Most pets are/were tattooed inside the ear or more commonly on the belly or inner thigh. The belly and inner thigh is usually the most common place to find a tattoo or to place one on a pure breed. Due to the violent nature of animals, ears are commonly mangled in battle and ear tattoos can be lost completely or scarred to a point of being unreadable.

When the puppy is around 6-8 weeks old, veterinarians suggest this to be the best time to tattoo your pet. Many breeders will do this at the same time they have tails docked, should it be a popular look for your breed. This is a painless practice that less than an hour and doesn’t effect your dog in anyway. The tattooing process is typically as follows:

  1. Your pet is placed on its side while you secure its head and front paws. The tattooer's assistant will hold your pet's rear paws
  2. The area for the tattoo is shaved and disinfected with alcohol. A light layer of Vaseline is applied to the area so the tattoo marker will move smoothly over the surface of the skin
  3. The tattoo number is applied.
  4. The area is cleansed with Phisoderm or another disinfecting soap. The soap also removes excess ink from the skin. Any numbers that are not clear are retouched at this time.
  5. A final layer of Vaseline is applied over the finished tattoo.

A very fine scab (barely visible) will form over the tattoo numbers. It will fall off in 24-48 hours. It is not unusual for some redness to appear around the newly-formed tattoo numbers. This tattoo will be put into a database and is usually up and running across the nation in 24-48 hours. The dog now processes it’s own nine-digit sequence, and it’s number will never be used by another person. The Social Security Administration is prohibited by law from divulging any information to anyone about anyone, for any reason.

Thanks to SEF for helping correct an error on the AKC policy and to Halspal for catching typos and grammatical errors.

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