Warning: Don’t Offer a Reward on Your Pet’s ID Tag

It might increase your pet’s chances of being returned, but it could also draw the unwanted attention of thieves.

Think about sending gifts other than cash to your dog’s rescuer, such as a gift card or a nice note. Photo: mariposavet

My dogs have always had ID tags that carry the same basic information: the pet’s name and our phone numbers. I used to put an address on the tags, but about 5 years ago, I simply put “REWARD” below my phone number.

Then my husband suggested that maybe I shouldn’t.

While I assumed that the promise of a reward could motivate people to help us if our dogs ran away, my husband saw it as an opportunity for pet thieves to extort us.

Reward as an Incentive

One of the most common reasons rewards are offered is as an incentive. Money talks — sometimes the big, fat money symbols on “missing pet” posters draw more attention and broaden the search range for your lost pet.

We’d all like to see missing animals returned to their homes by good citizens who ask for no reward, but if doling out a chunk of cash increases the chances of Lucky coming home safe, certainly it’s worth the money, right?

An unfortunate reality of having pets — particularly popular breeds — is that they may get stolen. Not all pets are taken from their homes. Sometimes a stray dog is found by someone who would rather keep him than try to find his rightful home.

Though it’s perhaps pessimistic to assume the worst of those who comes across your lost Lucky, a cash reward may deter someone from just keeping your pet.

Microchipping can help protect your pet from getting lost or stolen. Photo: pschadler

Offering a Gift Out of Appreciation

Not everyone needs a reward as an incentive to return a lost pet.

I don’t. And I bet you don’t, either.

My dogs’ tags no longer list “REWARD” under my phone number — but you better believe that I will reward any person who returns my missing dog (should either of them ever run off), whether or not my hound’s hero is expecting one or not.

I wouldn’t necessarily offer money as a reward, but I’d love to give something to express my sincere appreciation. And sometimes it’s a little weird to shove a fist of bills at a complete stranger.

Other appropriate rewards/gifts for dog-saving do-gooders are:

  • Gift cards
  • Thank-you notes
  • Baked goods (old-fashioned but still thoughtful, no?)
  • Gift baskets

Assuming you don’t have a fancy gift basket all ready to go when Lucky is returned, perhaps politely ask for the rescuer’s address. That way you have time to come up with a thoughtful way to express your gratitude.

Lucky’s hero might be your local shelter, in which case making a donation is a wonderful gesture.

Falling Prey to Thieves

My dog, Babe, is a pit bull (or mix). Having a pit bull–type dog means I’m overly aware of the danger that these dogs face.

Pit bulls draw bad attention from the wrong people. I’ve always been afraid of her being stolen and used for:

  • Baiting
  • Fighting
  • Breeding

Babe is super friendly and has been spayed since we got her, but even if she failed at breeding or fighting, she could still be used as bait for other fighting dogs.

She is the primary reason I started listing “REWARD” on my dogs’ tags. If she ended up in the wrong hands, I wanted to make sure her financial value as my dog was greater than her worth as anything else, like bait.

But offering a reward for a dog who hasn’t even run away is almost an invitation for thieves to steal that dog and claim the reward. It encourages criminals to target your pets and extort you for higher rewards.

Check out how microchipping your pet can help save you a lot of heartache:

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When to Offer the Reward

When it comes to lost pets, preemptively opening your wallet might be a invitation to thieves looking for an easy cash grab. The promise of a reward, however, could increase your chances of getting Lucky back home, and it’s a generous way to show your appreciation.

That being said, a reward isn’t always necessary to getting your lost pet home. Your first step: Outfitting Lucky with a collar and tags, Also, consider having him microchipped.

If all else fails, creating posters and advertising a cash incentive after he’s missing is a good way to spread the information and get him back home.