New Technology Brings Missing Pets Home

New Technology Brings Missing Pets Home

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by Taylor DuVall

Hulk, the English bulldog, was lost in a brand new city. While his human parents, Christel and Ty, spent the morning doing yard work in their new home, Hulk slipped out the gate in hopes of adventure. The frantic search began. They were worried Hulk wasn’t used to the Texas heat and might have trouble breathing.

Having not yet made friends there or met neighbors, Christel turned to the only social network she knew: Facebook. She recalls, “I placed a random post to thousands of virtual strangers. I posted on a Facebook Mom’s page to ask if the women in our city would keep an eye out for our pup.”

Dog owners like Christel and Ty are not alone in turning to technology to bring their missing pets home. Gone are the days when your only option was paper posters with a phone number and picture stapled to street posts. Modern technology is changing the game when it comes to finding missing pets.

One in three pets will be lost during their lifetime. Nearly half of lost dogs are found simply by searching the neighborhood. But what about that other half that go farther than the eye can see? Modern technology is helping find these lost pets in many ways.

One of the least expensive and easiest ways technology helps bring pets home is through social media. Facebook community groups, garage sale groups, or parent groups connect communities that would otherwise not know each other. It is as if the entire city becomes neighbors helping each other out.

In Hulk’s case, Facebook saved the day. After Christel posted her urgent plea for help, two strangers came to the rescue.

“One of the women on this site, a stranger, said she saw a post on another lost pet site from someone, a stranger to her, with a picture of my dog that they had found.”

Two people, strangers to Christel and Ty and even strangers to each other, connected only by technology, brought a beloved member of the family back home where he belonged. In less than six hours, Hulk was enjoying life again with his human family in their new home.

Social media is not the only technology  reunite families with their four-legged friends. Microchips have successfully saved lost pets for years. In general, lost dogs who find their way to an animal shelter only find their families 22% of the time. When they are microchipped, however, that percentage jumps all to 52%.

Typically costing under $50, microchips are about the size of a grain of rice with a sting similar to any regular vaccination when inserted. Using radio frequency transmission, the microchip will send your pet’s ID number to a system that records your phone number and home address, so it is vital that you keep your information current. Slightly more than 40% of microchipped animals do not have their parent’s contact information accurately recorded.  (If microchip updates seem too “out of sight, out of mind,” make your dog’s birthday the day you double check each year that all his or her microchip information is up to date.)

Both of these technologies – social media connections and microchips – revolve around your dog being found. But what if nobody has run across your pet yet? How do you find her?

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This is where Bluetooth and GPS technology is leading the pack, so to speak. Touted as a way to help you find your purse, keys, or phone, GPS tracking systems are now getting attention as a valuable tool for finding missing pets.

GPS trackers come with two parts: a tracking device and a receiver, which is normally an app you download on your smartphone. The app will show you the distance between you and the tracking device, whether it is attached to a bike, a wallet, or your pet’s collar. Some GPS trackers can even be set to immediately alert you whenever your item, or pet, is out of a designated area.

Crowd GPS networking is one of the newer alternatives when it comes to finding lost or missing pets, but it is quickly becoming one of the best. These devices rely on Bluetooth to connect your device to your app. With crowd GPS networks, once your pet steps out of your Bluetooth range, a tracking crowd network steps in.

Here’s how it works: you place a GPS device on your dog’s collar, but he steps out of your Bluetooth range. Whenever another person with the same app or program gets within range of your dog, you will be sent an anonymous notification of the dog’s location. The other person does not have to be looking for your dog or even be aware he is missing. The stranger only needs to walk within range so his Bluetooth can pick up your dog’s device.

One of the best-reviewed crowd GPS networking systems out there is TrackR. Its simple system includes a quarter-sized device that can be used for all sorts of easily lost items, but its waterproof case allows you to attach the device to your dog’s collar safely.

The more people using the crowd GPS service, the more opportunities for people possibly walking nearby a missing dog. How many people are needed in a city for crowd GPS to work effectively? Fewer than you might think. Los Angeles County, for example, has more than 10 million people, yet it is calculated that only approximately 12,541 people need to be using the crowd GPS app for it to be effective.

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When it comes to safeguarding your pet from getting lost, maybe the goal is not necessarily to try to determine which one technology you want to invest in. Perhaps it is best to understand the strengths and weaknesses various technologies offer. Utilizing multiple strategies is the key to bringing your furry friend back home if and when he gets out.

  • Connect with local Facebook groups in case you need to rely on your online community.

  • Microchip your pet and keep your current contact information updated.

  • Invest in GPS tracking devices as an extra layer of backup.

Taking advantage of these technologies will help you bring your lost pet back home to her family.

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