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It's simple and painless -- and best for indoor dogs that often go collarless. Your vet injects a tiny computer chip (the size of a grain of rice) under the animal's skin between the shoulder blades. Along with your contact info, the chip's number is added to a database accessible to animal hospitals, shelters, and humane societies. Since the chip can't get lost or damaged, it lasts for a pet's lifetime. Ask your vet for info or go to homeagainid.com.
Pros: An affordable, permanent way to identify your pet.
Cons: The procedure must be performed by a vet. Plus, the animal, once found, has to be picked up by a vet or shelter with an ID scanner.
Cost: $25 to $40
Radio transmitter collars are great for energetic and outdoor dogs that love to roam. They come in several sizes with a corresponding receiver. Point the receiver in any direction; it will beep if your pet is nearby. (Think of the childhood game Marco, Polo.) Most devices can send and receive signals within 1 to 4 miles, depending on terrain and physical obstacles. Try Pettrax or Innotek collars, available at your local pet store.
Pros: Noninvasive; most radios include an accuracy guarantee and extended warranty.
Cons: Pet must be wearing the collar to be located.
Cost: from $130
Log on to globalpetfinder.com to build virtual fences where your pet can wander. Your customized boundaries are automatically downloaded to the tracking device, so if your pet goes outside the designated area, you will be alerted via cell phone, PDA, or computer. You can also dial the word "found" from your phone to get your animal's current location.
Pros: GPS allows for 24/7 monitoring and can alert you if your pet is in dangerously hot or cold temperatures.
Cons: Not all Internet service providers offer coverage (call yours to check). Requires a 2-way wireless device like a cell phone, PDA, or Internet, as well as a 1-year minimum subscription.
Cost: $290 gets you Global PetFinder service, a snap guard that attaches the device to your pet's collar, batteries, and a charger. There's also a one-time activation fee of $34.99; monthly plans from $18.
Cats are much less likely than dogs to be tagged -- and only 3 percent of wayward felines are reunited with their owners, according to the Humane Society. To keep yours safe:
Best ways to prevent pets from hightailing it out of here:
Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the April 1 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.