Back in August, Cate Hubbard, co-proprietor of blanketID, sent me one of her company’s ID tags to test and review. Included in the $24.99 (Canadian) price that she didn’t charge me is a year’s membership — which is $11.99, with discounts if you renew for multiple years. I have not been paid for this review, and I did not promise (and Cate did not request) that it would be positive.
There are sixteen tags in blanketID’s current line-up, ranging from girly pink flowers to manly plaids (we chose “Peony Green” for Chloe). The packet that arrived included clear, easy-to-follow directions, which are also available on the company’s website if you misplace your paperwork. It was straightforward to create Chloe’s record and enter the requested information.
Here’s how the system works: Your pet’s tag is marked with a unique number and the phrase “Find my owner at blanketid.com.” If someone finds your pet, they go to the blanketID site, click on a big button that says “Found a Pet,” and enter the tag number and their contact info. A message is automatically sent to blanketID and to the pet’s owner. The finder is presented with a “poster” containing whatever information you’ve entered about your pet — including, ideally, any medical needs your dog has, so they can be handled appropriately while your dog is out of your care.
From the other end, that poster can be printed and posted by you as part of your retrieval efforts. I didn’t want to activate this part of the system, but Cate told me that when you log in and report your pet lost, blanketID sends your pet’s poster to local shelters, animal hospitals and SPCA offices within a 15 mile radius of where you last saw your pet, as well as local blanketID members (please note that this feature is only available in the US and Canada). The company will send you a message telling you which locations have been contacted, so you can follow up yourself. You do have the chance to update your pet’s info before that broadcast goes out.
The tag is small (1″ by 1/2″), light, attractive, and well-designed. Its surface, protected with metal trim and a thick clear-coat, has survived admirably on Chloe’s collar. It rests next to her rabies tag, which in the same period of time has lost all of its colored coating and is nearly illegible. I did flip the blanketID tag around after a month, so that the side with the information faces outward: When the tag rubs constantly against a base metal neighbor, a rim of black builds up around the hole, making it harder to read the beginning of the website address “blanketid.com.”
I love being able to change our contact information from the road. Setting off for a two-week vacation recently, I put a temporary tag on Chloe’s collar made from a metal-rimmed cardboard key tag (frankly, I’d forgotten Chloe was trying out the blanketID tag). The temporary tag worked well for about 2-3 days, and then fell apart. I was delighted to remember that I could use her existing tag and change our contact information.
To do so, you have to click on “Profile” in the upper right corner of the welcome page; if you click on “Pets” instead, you end up in the wrong place. It felt odd to edit my “Basic Information” and my “Additional Contact” — I would have preferred a prompt asking me if I wanted to temporarily change my contact information. Also, the only way to verify what a finder will see when they report your dog found is to report your dog found yourself. It doesn’t cause any trouble (you just get a cheerful e-mail message from blanketID saying your pet has been found), but it would be nice to have a way to double-check that you’ve given a finder the information they’ll need without activating part of blanketID’s retrieval system.
Other suggestions? I wish the list of breeds was longer. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are not particularly rare, but they’re not included in the blanketID breed list. I wish there was a “Last Seen At” section of the poster, so that you could emphasize that information (currently, you could put it in the “Other comments” section, but that section appears at the bottom of the poster). The ring attachment that comes with the tag is good-quality, but too small. The metal loop on Chloe’s collar is thick, so the blanketID ring barely fit, and things only got worse when we added her rabies tag and her city license tag to the mix. We’ve bought a slightly larger ring (1/2″ internal diameter) and that’s made all the difference.
I’d like to see blanketID add language buttons to their site, so that if your pet is found in Paris, for example, the finder can follow the site’s prompts in French. Some of the poster wording is a little clunky right now (the first entry on Chloe’s description, for example, is “Dog Cavalier King Charles Spaniel,” and the second piece of contact information reads “Alternate: Phone: , C: xxx-xxx-xxxx”). It would be nice if you could provide your pet’s height and weight in the Size section, instead of choosing whether she’s Small/Medium/Large/XL. Perhaps, too, the company’s e-mail alerts could be sent to veterinary practices in the target area as well as the shelters and hospitals they currently target, since people often bring found animals to a vet.
My biggest gripe, though, is the company’s argument that its tags are preferable to microchipping (for example, in their FAQ section, they ask “How is this better than other forms of ID, i.e. microchips and tattoos?” and answer “Microchips are invisible and require a special reader to identify the animal. Tattoos and Microchips are of no use to a member of the public who finds your pet and you must depend on them taking your animal to a suitable place to trace your address, which must be up to date. Unlike microchips and tattoos, your information at www.blanketID.com is easy to update and change”).
I cannot agree. I strongly believe that a microchip is a crucial part of the protection you give your pet, because it is permanent. Tags, and collars, fall off. BlanketID argues that in that situation, potential finders can follow the link in the company’s e-mail alert and see your pet’s poster — but that’s putting a lot of reliance on a small photo and a brief written description. Also, those alerts only go to shelters and similar organizations, not to individuals who might find your pet. Having recently spent a day with dog park buddies corralling a stray, I know that many people are unwilling to take a found dog to a shelter for fear it will be destroyed. A finder’s preference may well be to take the found pet to a local veterinarian instead, where a pet’s chip can be read. And heck, it’s no harder to update your pet’s microchip information than it is to update her blanketID profile.
I don’t think the company needs to make this flawed argument. I believe they can succeed with the more plausible argument that a tag is an important first line of defense — so often, a simple phone call or e-mail is all it takes to reunite pet and owner — and that their tags give users a convenient, well-designed way to keep their contact information current. Moreover, they offer users an extremely valuable service by alerting local shelters when a pet is reported lost, by storing a poster that can be printed and posted immediately, and by allowing owners to give finders crucial information about a pet’s health and care.
In addition to the features I’ve already praised, part of each purchase (and more than 15% of the company’s profits) is donated to help animals in need across North America, through The Blanket Fund. I like this product, I look forward to seeing it improve, and I plan to renew Chloe’s membership in August.