Animal identification

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Transponder chip in the X-ray of a cat
Transponder and applicator
Reading the transponder on a dog

The animal identification used to distinguish animals from others. In principle, there are different objectives of labeling. One goal is the identification of the animal, i.e. a differentiation of the individual animal from others (individual identification). Other goals are to be able to distinguish animals of one owner from others or to recognize animals of a breeder or a breed.

Labeling methods

There are various methods of labeling. These differ in terms of practicality for different animals and in terms of the reliability and durability of the marking. The question of the distance from which detection must be possible and whether aids are used also plays a role in your selection.

Various methods have become established for animal identification. This includes:

  • Ringing (birds)
  • Painting (sheep)
  • Brand marks (horses, cattle)
  • Transponder , also called microchip (all animals)
  • Ear tags (cattle, sheep, goats)
  • Dog tags that are attached to the dog's collar
  • Tattoo (previously a common method for dogs and cats, currently being replaced by implanted transponders).

Purpose of labeling

A label is used, for example

Identification by tattoo

Ten year old tattoo in a dog's ear, the number (G2953) is no longer legible.

This method was common before the introduction of the ISO standard for transponder labeling, but it had some disadvantages:

  • The process is very painful for the animal. Therefore, anesthesia is necessary for animal welfare reasons.
  • Due to the variety of numbering systems, an assignment is not always possible despite the number found. Some tattoos consist of a Symbol of the performing veterinarian (z. B. "G" for G Ross) plus a consecutive number, a different system, for example, the letter "G" for a Breeders' Association (z. B. G ompany of Bull Terrier friends e . V.) followed by a number.
  • The numbers are not unique, as there are no binding regulations on the assignment of the characters.
  • Tattoos are not forgery-proof.
  • Criminals could cut off the animal's tattooed ear.
  • The tattoo can fade quickly and is no longer legible.
  • Tattoos are difficult to decipher in pigmented (dark colored) areas of skin.
  • Some small animals cannot be tattooed due to their size.

Identification by ear tags

Farm animals are usually marked with plastic ear tags. The EU has drawn up detailed requirements for this. For cattle, EU regulation 1760/2000 applies, for sheep and goats regulation 21/2004, for pigs directive 2008/71 and 92/102. Chips that are contained in special ear tags have recently become mandatory for sheep.

Ear tags from the Sami reindeer herders

Reindeer ear tag scheme

Reindeer herders in "Lapland" (correct: Sápmi ) traditionally mark their reindeer with notches in the ears of the animals. Different combinations of small, larger and round notches are cut on the upper and lower edge of the ear. Both ears have different combinations of notches. The notch patterns are officially registered. This form of identification only allows assignment to the owner of the animal. The advantage, however, is clearly that apart from a knife, no other tool has to be used. Recently, however, ear tags similar to those in the EU have been used increasingly.

Identification by means of implanted transponders

The chip

The RFID microchip, also known as a transponder or tag, is an electronic means for the automated recognition of animals. The transponder can have different sizes; The usual dimensions are 11.1 to 13.9 mm in length and 2.05 to 2.2 mm in diameter. Particularly small transponders (8.5 × 1.35 mm), e.g. for Koi , are available. A tissue-compatible glass or plastic cover contains an antenna coil and the passive chip with the permanently stored 15-digit identification number. Each identification number is unique worldwide, if an animal has a chip, it can thus be clearly identified (→ section country codes and manufacturer codes ).

The chip is passive, i.e. H. only when reading it is it stimulated by the reader to transfer its data.

Implantation is quick and easy, and no anesthesia is required. The chip is largely forgery-proof and tamper-proof. The chip usually remains functional for the entire life of the animal, can be read as often as required and usually does not “wander” through the animal's body.

Depending on the manufacturer, chips are usually supplied with several self-adhesive barcode labels for identifying documents (vaccination pass, breeding papers).

Country codes and manufacturer codes

The identification number always consists of a 15-digit code.

First of all, it must be said that all animal transponders according to ISO standard 11784 - whether country or manufacturer code - are valid animal identification products and are equally suitable as such. The country code may only be used if a national registration office has been set up to manage all numbers with country codes, which ensures that the transponder numbers with the country code are not duplicated across animal species. This is not the case for Germany. In Germany only the coding of farm animals is clearly regulated and checked. The first three digits can contain a country code, then the numbers from 001 to 899 according to ISO standard ISO 3166 are used to code the country. In addition to the ISO country code, the manufacturer code is not always included in the identification number (positions 5 to 7) (depending on national legislation). If an approval process with a "competent authority" has been carried out, the manufacturer or the sales organization is assigned a national code that must be used in the corresponding position in the transponder number. The uniqueness of the ISO 11784 number can only be guaranteed with the OTP (One Time Programmable) silicon used today if the UID (Unique IDentifier = serial number) is read out during programming and stored together with the programmed ISO 11784 number in the manufacturer's internal database becomes. To secure the code of the produced transponder is the job of every serious manufacturer.

In the case of chips without a country code, the first three digits contain the manufacturer's code, recognizable by numbers from 900 onwards. Manufacturers from 934 onwards are equipped with their own manufacturer code, the transponders with the starting number 900 are so-called "shared codes", i. H. several manufacturers have the same manufacturer code and differ in the first 3 digits in the twelve-digit animal number. This so-called ICAR allocation code shows who is the manufacturer behind the transponders. The country of origin of an animal with such a transponder cannot be recognized.

Examples for the first 3 digits of the transponder number if country codes according to ISO 11784 are used:

040 Austria
056 Belgium
203 Czech Republic
276 Germany
826 England
250 France
528 Netherlands
380 Italy
620 Portugal
756 Switzerland
724 Spain
818 Egypt

A list of all country codes used can be found under ISO 3166-1 coding list .


276 0 972 00023868 - 276 German animal, fourth digit is usually 0, 972 manufacturer Planet ID GmbH (Germany), serial number.
276 0 981 01 089 283 - 276 German animal, fourth digit is usually 0, 981 manufacturer Datamars (Switzerland), serial number.
040 0 981 00111917 - 040 Austrian animal, fourth digit is usually 0, 981 manufacturer Datamars (Switzerland), serial number.
968 000004531234 - 968 Chip from the manufacturer AEG with the serial number 000004531234. No country can be read.

The examples listed are not relevant for all transponders, the process is far more complex and cannot be explained in detail here.


There are several methods of applying a transponder. Either the transponder is administered with a sterile disposable syringe or a special injection device is used that can be used several times, in which the sterile cannula is fixed to the transponder using a Luer lock connection . This significantly minimizes the amount of waste. According to the new ISO standard ISO 15639-1 (standardization of the injection sites, part 1 pets and hobby animals), which is currently being developed, one to four fingers (depending on the breed and size of the animal) are placed from the ear towards the shoulder blade injected subcutaneously on the left side of the neck of the animal. The direction of injection should be carried out dorsoventrally (from the back towards the abdomen, i.e. at a 90 ° angle to the external jugular vein ). If the cannula is properly ground and surface treated, the process is relatively painless. This injection cannot be compared with a routine vaccination, because the cannula has a significantly larger diameter and therefore a transponder should only be placed by professionally trained persons such as veterinarians.


The transponder is passive, the reader sends out electromagnetic waves at a frequency of 134.2 kHz, an induction field is built up in which the capacitor in the transponder absorbs the energy and then sends the information stored on the chip back to the reader. The binary code encoded in the chip is interpreted in the reader and the information (15 digits, 3 + 12) is shown on the display according to the ISO standard. A reader according to the ISO standard always shows 3 digits for manufacturer or country code, then a space (never any special characters, periods or similar) and then the following 12 digits.

There are different types of readers. Stationary reading devices are less important for pets and hobby animals, they are primarily about handheld readers. Small, handy and inexpensive readers read a transponder of size 12 × 2.12 mm with optimal alignment of the transponder to the antenna at a distance of 4–8 cm. This can change significantly if the orientation of the transponder to the antenna is different or if there is electromagnetic interference (too close to a PC monitor or television, etc.) The second type of handheld reader is no longer small, handy and inexpensive, but reads the same size transponder a distance of around 20 cm and usually has additional useful functions. The reader is activated and then slowly moved from the ear on the left side of the animal's body (circular movements around the injection site are best). When reading the control it should be noted that there are countries (UK, NZ, AUS) in which the injection site is in the neck between the shoulder blades.

Readers should be available at all animal shelters, veterinarians, the police, public order offices and most dog associations.

Unification of the transponder systems through standardization

All different transponder systems that were not compatible with each other (Indixel, Destron, Trovan, Avid) were standardized by the ISO standards 11784 and 11785 . A uniform 15-digit number code structure was defined for the chip. At the same time, the uniform technical specifications were determined. In addition, there are a number of other ISO standards required for the manufacture and approval of transponders that must be taken into account.

Animal registration

Registration and labeling

Without a database that links the tagged animals to an owner and makes it clear whether an animal is intended for human consumption, tagging is of little value. The European Commission has presented a proposal for the voluntary introduction of electronic identification of cattle on 30 August 2011th John Dalli , Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, expects better and faster tracing of infected animals and / or infected food. The aim is to respond more quickly to possible risks to the food chain. Although the regulation is voluntary, the proposal offers the Member States the possibility of introducing a binding regulation at national level. In some EU member states, the register network concept is used, according to which several registers are networked with one another in a single database system.


The registration of identification data in a database is not provided for in the EU Pet Ordinance, as this is all about the unambiguous assignment of the animal to the EU pet ID card. Some German federal states prescribe a central registration for dogs in the dog laws , this applies, for example, to all dogs born after March 1st, 2009 in Saxony-Anhalt or to dogs of certain breeds according to the dog law for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia . In Lower Saxony , from July 1, 2013, it is also mandatory to enter your own dog in a central register. In Austria, too, there is an obligation to identify and register dogs. This is regulated in the Animal Welfare Act Art. 2 § 24a.

The voluntary registration makes sense, because it allows an assignment of the animal, z. B. in case of loss, can be made to the owner. There are several registry providers whose terms vary widely. The main differences are in the financing model (fee-based offers or donation-financed models), in the openness of access and registration options, and in the availability and networking of the databases.

Important providers of databases in Germany are Tasso and the German Pet Register (DHR), whose databases are unfortunately not networked, so that in the best case scenario, both should be registered. Important database providers for Switzerland are Anis and for Austria Animaldata and Petcard. A Europe-wide, cross-border search is possible via europetnet or petmaxx, where databases are queried and displayed worldwide.

Individual evidence

  1. Martina Herzog: Veterinarians are campaigning for Europe-wide pet registration . In: Westdeutsche Zeitung (wz-newsline) . June 18, 2010.
  2. Press release European Commission: Labeling for cattle guarantees more food safety
  3. ^ The concept of register network , accessed on October 30, 2018 in
  4. ^ The new dog law - ( Memento from March 19, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 105 kB)
  5. § 6 Lower Saxony Law on Keeping Dogs (NHundG) (PDF; 53 kB)
  6. The new Lower Saxony Dog Law (NHundG)
  7. Animal Welfare Act Art. 2 § 24a