The suggestion that the German Shepherd Dog League of Great Britain find a system of ear tattooing similar to that practised on the continent was put to the meeting at the annual AGM in 1986.The motion was passed unanimously, with the task of designing and setting up the scheme delegated to Rory Frost. Months of investigation of existing foreign systems followed, time which enabled the inherent faults of many of these systems to be avoide d and the first phase of the scheme to be developed. In collaboration with professional programmer and dog man Brian Miller the first computer program was produced late 1986. Since then of course several modifications and updates in the program have been introduced, Brian the original programmer always making his services available

The first puppies and the first training session for tattooists took place on 13 Dec 1986, and for two years the system remained for GSD puppies only. Requests from other breeds and from the owners of adult dogs for access to the service resulted in the scheme being expanded to cover all dogs of any age and any breed or type including mongrel and cross breed dogs, and the system was renamed the National Dog Tattoo Register (NDTR).

The scheme grew steadily, but in 1991 The League found that the development of the scheme was, because of other breeds, no longer within its remit, and began looking for a way of handing the scheme over. On 1 Jan 1992 the system came under new management, still administered as a non-profit making service, it has grown and now consists of two offices, two full time employees and two out of office workers connected via modem to the head office at Colchester. Today over 100,000 dogs have been tattooed, and the tattoo team of 200 tattooists spread over the whole of the British Isles including S.Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands brings the tattooing within reasonable reach of most dog owners and breeders.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do tattoos fade over a period of time?
No. This old chestnut is bandied about by those who know nothing about the process and/or who, for reasons of their own, fear an efficient method of identifying dogs relating them to their owners.
Ear tattooing, the method used by the NDTR, is the most widely used canine identification method in the world. It is a long established and well tested system. In Europe ear tattooing has been established for thirty years, over 20 million dogs are currently ear tattooed. Ask yourself, the question "Would the system still exist let alone be in such wide use, if it failed the purpose for which it was intended?"
Those of you with middle aged brothers, fathers, or other male relatives that were tattooed as teenagers, will be aware that the tattoos are still plain to see twenty or thirty years after they were done, well beyond the life span of a dog.In Britain, pedigree rabbits, sheep, goats and racing greyhounds (where identification is essential to prevent fraud in a 1.5BILLION a year business), have relied upon ear tattoo identification for decades.
Large numbers of British breeders, the real experts in dogs, use the NDTR ear tattoo system voluntarily and breeders do not waste money on services that do not work. A properly applied tattoo lasts the lifetime of the dog.

2. Is Tattooing a painful process?
The process is uncomfortable. If I said the process was completely pain free I would therefore be a charlatan and/or a liar. I hope I am neither. The discomfort of tattooing equates with ear piercing and is much less unpleasant than some veterinary processes.
Ear tattooing is achieved by briefly clamping the instrument carrying the number onto the dogs ear. This takes about three seconds. The next stage is the application of the dye which is rubbed into the tiny pricks in the skin.Ear piercing, indeed all body piercing is done to satisfy fashion and vanity. An ear tattoo may save your dog's life. Over a thousand lost or stolen dogs have via the ear tattoo been returned to their owners. Many of these would otherwise have lost their lives by being put down as unidentified strays.

3 Can Tattoos be tampered with?
Anyone one can tamper with virtually anything, indeed gas/electricity meters are prime targets for those who think they can get away with it. The NDTR recognised this possibility from the beginning and has built an anti-tamper mechanism into the system, but let us look at two of the most mooted methods of tampering.
a. The ear can be cut off.
b. The tattoo number can be altered.
Apart from the fact that it would take a particularly evil character to cut a dogs ear off, it would, because the number is deep in the ear, be unlikely to remove all of the number, and the part remaining would on most occasions be sufficient, using the NDTR computer system, to trace the culprit. The reason for cutting off the ear would be if the dog had been stolen, and dogs are stolen either for resale or because the thief wants the dog.
I put it to you that there is a very limited market for one eared dogs. Would you buy a dog with one ear?
If someone has stolen the dog for themselves, they have stolen the dog because they like it, they are therefore unlikely to mar the dog by removing an ear. Certainly we have never had a report of ear removal in this country and in my frequent communications with European systems this possibility has never been mentioned. Thieves are far more likely to steal a non-tattooed dog that cannot be identified. This is confirmed by the number of times that stolen tattooed dogs have been recovered following publication that the stolen animal carried a tattoo mark.
Bear in mind that the owner of a stolen dog is under a perpetual threat of discovery. They cannot take the dog to the vet nor can they put it in boarding kennels. We have indeed recovered dogs months after they were stolen via these two sources. Attempts to alter the tattoo number are doomed to fail for a number of reasons.
a. The tattoo dye changes colour from green to a turquoise/blue as it ages, thus subsequent alterations would show as a different shade.
b. It has been suggested that individual numbers or letters could be changed, a "B" to an "8" or a "3" to an "8".
The format of the tattoo number does not allow numbers in a location normally occupied by a letter, thus if an 8 were changed to B or vice versa the change symbol would be in the wrong location and thus be an obvious forgery.The number 3 used in the tattoo number is a flat topped three and cannot be changed to an 8.
It has been suggested that the tattoo could be easily removed. The removing tattoos is a very expensive and tricky operation and involves the use of laser equipment. The people who do this work are professionals and would be unlikely to do the task without good reason and unlikely to risk a professional reputation to assist the seedy activities of a dog thief.

4. Are tattoos widely recognised as a viable means of identification.
As mentioned earlier, tattooing is the most widely used system in the world. In many countries, Europe for instance, are government recognised. Indeed the governments of a number of the countries demand that imported dogs are tattooed prior to importation. The NDTR has tattooed several hundred dogs for export to all of these countries.
On the level of the recognition of ear tattooing in Britain, judge for yourself. Battersea Dogs Home, the RSPCA, the NCDL, and many other canine welfare organisations use the system. Dog wardens, local authorities and the police also use the system regularly. Any finder of a tattooed dog is able to ring the NDTR direct and on most occasions the owner is informed or where to find their dog within minutes.
Interpol, the Office of Fair Trading, and Customs and Excise have also used the scheme. The system has been used by the law courts to identify dogs when ownership has been disputed, and in one case the court ordered dogs to be ear tattooed.The metropolitan Police and a number of other police forces use the NDTR system to identify their police dogs.
We have on a number of occasions recovered dogs that were lost abroad ( Holland, Cyprus, New Zealand), and on frequent occasions have been used as an information source to identify the source of foreign tattoo numbers, in addition seven other countries use ear tattoo schemes modelled on our system.