Losing my dog was one of the scariest things that ever happened to me. I didn't know what to do. Luckily, Animal Control picked him up a few hours after he went missing, and we were quickly reunited. Other pet parents are not so lucky. With millions of pets entering shelters across the U.S. every day, finding a lost dog is daunting. Finding Rover, a free pet-finding app for smartphones, plans to change this.
Finding Rover uses the same facial recognition software as the FBI. Instead of identifying criminals and missing persons, the software searches for pets. The technology is surprisingly simple. The program takes 128 facial measurements from an uploaded frontal photo of the pet. Each set of measurements is unique, allowing the pet app to check them against other photos in its database to find a lost dog.
So far, Finding Rover has reunited over 800 pets with their owners. The free pet-finding app works because it doesn't rely on a single technology like microchipping or collars. Every pet has a face. All pet owners have to do is upload a photo and their contact information. Meanwhile, the person wondering what to do with a stray dog just has to snap a picture of the stray and upload it to the pet app.
Calling all of the shelters in your area is an exhausting way to find a lost dog. It also doesn't always work. It can take days for a pet to turn up in a shelter. By that time, the helpful staff member who took your frantic call might have forgotten about you or simply misplaced your contact information. Not even microchipped pets are safe. Not every shelter or vet office has a microchip reader. Collars are even less reliable, and "Lost Dog" fliers are basically dinosaurs. In today's technology-driven world, we need an app for that.
According to the ASPCA, 3.9 million dogs enter shelters in the U.S. each year. Twice as many arrive as strays than owner surrenders. What happens to these lost dogs? The ASPCA has some disturbing statistics:
This means that your lost pet has a higher chance of being humanely euthanized than of returning to you. It also means that your lost pet is taking up much-needed space in already overcrowded shelters. Returning a lost dog to its owner increases truly homeless dogs' chances of finding their forever homes.
The pet-finding app has exciting potential for cats as well. Less than 5 percent of stray cats are returned to their owners, and feral cat populations are extraordinarily hard to monitor. Finding Rover and similar free pet-finding apps could reunite cats with their pet parents and also help organizations monitor and understand the feral cat problem in the U.S.
The next time your pup goes missing, don't waste paper and ink putting up fliers. Download Finding Rover and start searching for your pet with the swipe of a finger.
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