Do you – or should you – tattoo?

DOG TATTOOThe Brooklyn tattoo artist who reportedly tattooed his dog must now wish he hadn’t exposed his proud deed on Instagram. Mistah Metro – aka Orangutan Joe, aka Alex – is supposed to have tattooed the “zonked out” Zion after the patient had undergone a splenectomy. Mr Mistah Metro has prompted a public backlash and raised the strange question of whether it is acceptable to decorate animals in this way. To flesh out this tattooing question, let’s imagine two veterinarians who have different takes on what is and what isn’t acceptable treatment.

FIRST VET: The public reaction to the tattooed dog may well have been unnecessarily vitriolic and indeed excessive at times. However, it is true that the adornment of animals with tattoos is unethical, and this action sets a bad precedent that others may want to follow. Sure, it is not wrong to tattoo an animal for certain reasons, such as for identification and neutering. But in these cases there are real interests being served, including the interests of the animals themselves. Even here there may be limits – for example, the permanent ink mark should perhaps be discrete, as it is in the case of neuter tattoos. But the Brooklyn dog’s tattoo was both prominent and unnecessary.

As far as we know in the Brooklyn case the patient may not have been fully anesthetised at the time of the tattooing. Now it is clearly unacceptable to submit a sentient animal to a potentially painful procedure without adequate control of pain and discomfort. Those of us in the veterinary profession know well that a dog may be sedated yet still capable of feeling pain and fear. But it would also be wrong to give an animal a general anaesthetic, or significantly extend the length of one, knowing the risks (however small) that a GA carries, simply in order to decoratively tattoo that animal. Continue reading Do you – or should you – tattoo?