Kansas City's municipal no-kill animal shelter has so many pets it's had to convert bathrooms, closets, locker rooms, the basement and the employee break room to find space for them, according to an AP report. In India the stray dog problem has been described as "alarming" and a number of proposals have surfaced to address the problem, from exporting them to other countries to sterilizing them.
As urban populations swell, so will already increasing pet populations. And cities can be rough places for animals that get loose. Fortunately, technologies are emerging that can help cities, their shelters, pet owners and prospective pet owners improve the odds that lost or loose animals aren't roaming the streets, improving livability for two-legged and four-legged city residents. Let's take a look at five of these technologies.
- Social media: The Twitter account “Cuties in Denver” is filled with pictures of dogs and cats in the Denver Animal Shelter ready for adoption. According to GovTech.com, Code for America is coordinating the project, which uses a Twitter bot synched to the shelter's website. Each of the tweets come with a short message and photo of the featured animal. The goal is to attract people to the shelter using social media -- and to find the animals great homes.
- Facial recognition software: An animal shelter in San Diego created what they say is the first-ever initiative in the U.S. to use facial recognition software to unite pets with their owners. The Times of San Diego reports San Diego County Animal Services joined with creators of the app Finding Rover which has proven useful to reunite pets and owners after disasters like the wildfires the region has experienced. "The app," says the Times, "uses snapshots to match the faces of lost dogs with those that have been found or admitted to one of the three county shelters, and it allows pet owners, shelters or anyone to look for the animals with a smartphone or computer. The technology shows possible matches within seconds."
- Interactive website: The Shelter Pet Project is an online agency that links dogs to people looking to adopt one. The website has cool interactive features that let people play with a dog, send it running in different directions, or just watch it stare lovingly at them. After a few minutes of playing, the website asks for an address to connect the website visitor with local shelters to find a dog like the one they played with.
- Licensing apps: Pawzii – a company founded by a group of passionate animal welfare advocates -- builds software to benefit animal shelters. Its first product was a pet-licensing app that shelters can use to better connect licensed pets with their owners, and to quickly license pets and send renewal notices. The Pawzii website notes that 90% of lost pets that have licenses are found within 48 hours.
- GPS app for pets: San Francisco-based Whistle launched a wearable GPS app to help owners easily track their pets. They say it's an inexpensive and effortless way for pet owners to have "peace of mind that they will never lose their best friend.” As nextweb.com explains, WhistleGPS is possible in the U.S. due to deployment of the SIGFOX wireless network providing cellular connectivity for the Internet of Things.
Amy Enbysk is a 20-something writer/blogger living in Portland, Oregon.