Kitsap County tattoo artist generates controversy by ‘inking’ his dog as a ‘theft deterrent’

BREMERTON, Wash. — Kitsap Humane says it is investigating after receiving multiple complaints that a local tattoo artist had tattooed his dog.

Q13 News reporter Jamie Tompkins spoke with the tattoo artist on Facebook. Q13 News isn’t naming him because he hasn’t been charged with a crime.

But he confirmed he tattooed his dog. He says he did it as a “theft deterrent” because his other dog was stolen.

The local tattoo artist said he did his research and pointed to a YouTube video of another dog being tattooed. He said he knows tattoos are painful for humans, but he believes dogs have different, less sensitive nerve endings.

"I would certainly disagree that they are not as sensitive or can't be as sensitive," said Dr. Jeff Dahl, who has practiced veterinary medicine in Mukilteo for nearly 30 years. "There's some places on a dog that can be much more sensitive, or equally as sensitive, as on people.

"I think there's some degree of cruelty again just because they can't consent and just because it's unnecessary. There's no reason to advocate doing it," Dahl said.

The vet says it's common for veterinary professionals to tattoo a dog or cat at a shelter, after the animal is spayed, to mark the incision and verify the procedure, but the animal is under anesthesia at the time.

Jacob Fleury, of Bremerton, said the tattoo artist in Kitsap County "posted about it on Facebook, he said it (his dog) was sedated. With what? You're not a doctor."

Dahl said there are "a lot of risks in doing that. I  think it certainly would be an uncomfortable situation, there's potential for infection and other forms of trauma, and I would just have to advise against it."

Owners tattooing their pets may be a controversial topic, and it's not isolated to our region. In 2013 in North Carolina, a tattoo artist drew a lot of criticism after admitting he tattooed the bellies of his two dogs so they could be easily identified if they were lost.

The state of New York bans owners from inking their pets, after a Brooklyn tattoo artist had a picture of a heart and his name tattooed on his pit bull. But veterinarians in New York can put tattoo IDs on animals with proper training.

Dahl said there's a better way -- with a microchip embedded under the skin.

"It involves a quick injection under the skin over the back of the shoulders, same place that people used to see their pets get vaccinations, a little bit bigger needle, but it is very quick and it's a less sensitive area on the dog or cat," Dahl said.

Kitsap Humane says it is investigating to see if a crime has been committed. Animal cruelty is described as severe pain and suffering, and Kitsap Humane says it is working to see if pet tattooing falls into that category.