Rabies vaccination tag leads dogs home

Friday, March 31, 2017
The state’s new rabies data base helps people who find strays with collars and rabies tags locate the veterinarian who treated the dog. Then it’s a simple matter to get in touch with the stray dog’s owner.
Jay Langston

By Jay Langston


On a warm spring night about a year ago, two pit bulls suddenly appeared from the woods near my house and chased one of my cats onto the front porch.

I barely got the front door open in time for the cat to squirt inside and slam the door in the ferocious dogs’ faces. They growled and scratched on my large-pane glass front doors trying to get inside, while I grabbed a nearby .45 pistol in the event they broke through and got inside.

A call to 911 brought a Marshall County Sheriffs deputy calling, but nobody from Animal Control was available at that hour to deal with the dogs. I would have to deal with the strays myself the next day.

Early the following morning, I went outside and the dogs were still around. Pistol in hand and not knowing what to expect, I called the dogs to me. Without tails to wag, the two pit bulls wiggled their rear ends like hula dancers and they walked toward me. I offered them my empty hand, and they liked it like a lollipop. I reached for their collars and read the rabies tag numbers to my wife, who wrote them down.

Over the next two hours, I did Web searches and came up with the Tennessee Department of Health and called their number in Nashville. Bouncing around from one person to another, I finally got someone who could give me a list of Marshall County veterinarians to call in hopes of finding the dogs’ owner. Several phone calls later, I found the vet who vaccinated the dogs and learned their owners’ names. Luckily, I knew the dogs’ owners, and they lived about three miles from me, “as a crow flies.”

I loaded my truck bed with stray pit bulls and took them home. Happy ending... frustrating, but it ended better than I initially expected.

Now, finding a stray dog’s owner is a little bit easier. Tennessee Department of Health has created a web-based resource to use rabies vaccination tags to help reunite lost pets with their owners. Those who find stray pets wearing TDH rabies tags can now use this tool on the TDH website to search for and identify the veterinarians who vaccinated the animals, who can then help with information to find the owners.

“We’ve received excellent cooperation from veterinarians across the state who understand the emotional toll of losing a beloved pet and are eager to help return missing dogs and cats to their owners,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Those who find a pet can simply look up the TDH rabies tag number on our website to find the vet who administered the vaccination. That vet can, in turn, use the tag number to identify the owner and be part of the reunion process.”

The TDH website lists rabies tag numbers in sequential order to make it easier to find the appropriate veterinarian. The list is available at http://tn.gov/health/article/rabies-tags.

If a rabies tag was not issued by the Tennessee Department of Health, pet finders can call the telephone number on the tag to contact the agency that issued it. Some larger cities in Tennessee have their own licensing systems for rabies tags separate from TDH.

Dreyzehner said the effort to develop the website pet finder tool was spearheaded and coordinated by his executive assistant, Tammy Stanton, a TDH employee with 32 years of state service and a life-long passion for helping animals.

“This is another reason to have your animal properly vaccinated, protecting it not only from a deadly disease but helping it come back home to you if lost,” Stanton said. “We know even the most responsible pet owners can experience a pet becoming separated from them. If the pet has a rabies tag, there is now an additional effective way for good Samaritans and animal control employees to help with a happy reunion.”

In addition to rabies tags, many pets have microchips embedded beneath their skin which can provide another means for identification. If the pet has a microchip, many veterinarians, humane societies and animal shelters now have microchip readers that can be used to provide contact information for the owner.

2017 Marshall County rabies tags

Tag number range 537001 - 537999 - Veterinary Services Chapel Hill, phone 931-364-7799.

Tag number range 538000 - 539000 - Veterinary Services Chapel Hill, phone 931-364-7799.

Tag number range 539001 - 539500 - Wakefield Veterinary, phone 931-359-2328.

Tag number range 539501 - 539600 - Farmington Equine Service - Dr. Randall Baker, phone 931-422-8318.

Tag number range 539601 - 539999 - Marshall County Health Department, phone 931-580-1459.

2016 Marshall County rabies tags

Tag number range 540000 - 541000 - Marshall County Health Department, phone 931-580-1459.

Tag number range 530501 - 532,000 - Veterinary Services Chapel Hill, phone 931-364-7799.

Tag number range 532101 - 532500 - Wakefield Veterinary, phone 931-359-2328.

Tag number range 532001 - 532100 - Farmington Equine Service - Dr. Randall Baker, phone 931-422-8318.