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Why doesn't Apple want you to track your dog with an AirTag?

AirTag held in hand
(Image credit: Joseph Keller / iMore)

Apple's item tracking accessory, the AirTag, has been out for a while now and it made quite a splash when it launched, and even more so with all the controversy behind all the people using it for malicious intent. When Apple released the AirTag, it was designed to be a simple little accessory that is meant to help you track your easy-to-lose items, such as keys, wallets, purses and bags, umbrellas, remotes, and more. If you have an AirTag on these items and lose it, then you can utilize the massive Find My network, which is made up of almost a billion Apple devices, in order to help locate the item. The Find My network is much larger than competitors like Tile.

However, Apple has said numerous times that AirTag was meant for only tracking items, not people or even pets. For people, Apple encourages you to use the best Apple Watch for that because of the Family Setup feature (but make sure it's a GPS+Cellular model, because it doesn't work on GPS-only watches). But for pets, well, they can't exactly use an Apple Watch, you know?

While Apple actually has anti-stalking measures in place to prevent an AirTag from being used to track people, the same can't be said for pets. Apple's Kaiann Drance, VP of worldwide iPhone product marketing, said, "If people do that, they just have to make sure that their moving pet gets into range of a device in the ‌Find My‌ network" so its location can be tracked."

So while Apple discourages using an AirTag to track your dog or cat, it isn't impossible. Just get one of those great AirTag accessories and hang it on your pet's collar. After all, it seems like a logical use case for an AirTag.

But why would Apple not encourage it?

Apple probably doesn't want to be held liable in case anything happens to Fido

It may be pretty obvious, but I believe that Apple discourages using AirTags on pets because they do not want to be held liable if anything unfortunate happens. By saying that an AirTag should not be used for this scenario specifically, Apple is no longer liable for anything that may happen while you use an AirTag to track pets.

For example, if you put an AirTag on your dog and they accidentally escape from your yard, anything can happen from that point on. As sad as it is, many pets may get hit by a passing car that did not even see the pet crossing the street. In this case, someone may get mad that they couldn't find their dog with the AirTag before it got hit and may try to blame and sue Apple by claiming that the AirTag did not work. Or perhaps your dog or cat somehow got the AirTag loop attachment off (maybe a cheap accessory) and got out — there would be no way to track them with an AirTag since it actually isn't on them, and one realizes this too late.

I live in California, where people seem to sue over everything, so I can totally picture these scenarios. But with Apple saying that they do not encourage using AirTags on pets, they bear no responsibility for anything that may happen as a result.

In short, while you can put an AirTag on your dog or cat (third-party manufacturers do make such AirTag accessories for pets), Apple does not encourage it to cover its own butt in case of legal action.

You could theoretically still do it, to the dismay of Apple

AirTag on keyring

Airtag Review Hero (Image credit: Joseph Keller / iMore)

Again, Apple has distinctly said that they don't encourage it, but if you do, just hope that your pet gets into range of an Apple device in the Find My network so that its location can be tracked down. With almost a billion devices in the Find My network, that honestly shouldn't be very hard to do. After all, it's much easier to find someone with an iPhone, iPad, or even a Mac (no additional downloads required) than it is to find someone else with a Tile or other competing item tracking product.

Plus, when someone does find your dog or cat, they can (hopefully) see the AirTag on the collar (along with a regular pet tag, of course), and tap it with their own iPhone or even an NFC-enabled Android device to contact you if it's put into Lost Mode. And even if your pet is skittish around other people, just wandering past another Apple device can let you see where they were at, making it a little easier to track them down. It's definitely been a nice extra layer to the other necessities, like a standard microchip and dog or cat tags, in case they accidentally get out.

Still, just know that if you put an AirTag on your pet, you're pretty much doing so at your own risk. And honestly, I would recommend looking into a high-quality AirTag loop or keyring accessory that will hold up to constant movement and even fiddling that your pet may do to things hanging on its collar.

Are you AirTagging your pets?

Again, Apple doesn't encourage using an AirTag for tracking your pet just to cover its own butt, really, just in case anything happens. After all, plenty of folks out there these days just don't want to take accountability when something happens and like to pin the blame on the company that made the product involved. In this case, it would be Apple. It's really just Apple covering its own bases — honestly, any other smart business would as well.

Of course, just because Apple said you shouldn't do it doesn't mean that people won't try. After all, you can find third-party AirTag accessories out there that are designed intentionally to be used as or with your current dog or cat collar. Just know that if something happens to dear old Fido, Apple won't be the one responsible.

Updated August 2022: Minor text changes.

Christine Chan
Senior Editor

Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently the iMore lead on all things iPhone, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.