Once upon a time, if your dog got lost without her collar, you had a big problem. You mostly had to cross your fingers and hope providence would reunite you. Heaven help you if it happened on vacation or during a major emergency like a hurricane.
You might haunt the lobbies of your local animal shelters and pass out “Missing Dog” flyers around the neighborhood. That was about all you could do. Often — too often — it wasn’t enough.
Every year, some 10 million dogs go missing in the U.S. Today, thanks to some fascinating innovations, your odds of finding a lost pet are infinitely better than they used to be. In the 21st century, there’s no reason your dog should stay lost for long.
Facial Recognition: It‘s Not Just for Finding People Anymore
Yes, it’s now possible to use facial recognition technology to find a lost dog. The developer of a new, free smartphone app called Finding Rover says he just wanted to help people avoid what his family went through.
“I saw a lost dog poster and it brought back all the memories of this black Labrador we had named Harley that we lost once,” John Polimeno told SFGate. “We found him four days later, but those were four days of hell for my wife and me and our two kids. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.” See a news report about this new technology here:
Users of the app simply take a photo of their dog and upload it to the app’s database. Later, if someone finds the dog and snaps a photo of it with the app, chances are excellent the two photos will match. If they do, the family’s contact information is right there to get the dog back where he belongs.
It also works in reverse. Found a lost dog? Snap a photo with the app and perhaps it will match one already in the system from an owner, a veterinarian’s office or an animal shelter.
The technology used is said to be 98 percent accurate in matching two photos of the same dog. Unlike humans, who have 128 different markers in play for facial recognition purposes, dog faces have eight distinctive markers. The eyes and noses, in particular, make it relatively easy to match two photos of the same canine. Eye sizes and their location relative to the snout are key factors.
The app has proven itself in real world use. A testing period during 2013 reunited over 200 dogs with their guardians. Animal shelters and veterinarians in California’s Contra Costa and San Diego counties, and in Miami and Austin, Texas, are now part of the Finding Rover network.
“We love it, and once it takes off big, it’s going to be the missing link for reuniting lost dogs with their owners,” Dawn Danielson, director of San Diego County’s animal services, told SFGate. “The whole goal here is to avoid any animals from ever having to come into our shelters — reunite them right away with their owners.”
This technology holds a lot of promise. Yes, a cat version is also in the works, kitty lovers. However, facial recognition isn’t the only game in town.
Microchipping: Never Be Lost For Long
“Most lost pets without identification are never reunited with their families,” according to Dena Fitzgerald, the American Humane Association’s program manager for publications and external communications.
Think about that statement for a minute. Millions of pets go missing each year and most never find their families again. That’s just unacceptable. Other than ensuring your pet always wears a collar and tag, what can you do to make sure your beloved furry friend doesn’t become part of this sad statistic?
Microchipping will go a long way. For about $50, a one-time cost, it’s a permanent solution that can ensure your pet is identifiable if he or she has no other form of identification when found.
A small chip is painlessly inserted between your pet’s shoulder blades using a small needle. The chip, about the size of a grain of rice, contains a unique registration number and registry phone number which a handheld scanner can pick up and read. Most shelters, veterinarians and some rescue organizations have such scanners.
Here’s the important part. When you get home, you must remember to go online to the chip’s registry website. Using the chip’s registration number, submit your contact information. That’s the only way the microchip will be able to match your dog to you.
The single point of failure for this method of identification is that you must remember to keep your contact information current in the chip’s database. If you move or change your phone number and you don’t update your information, the happy reunion is much less likely to happen.
While pounding the pavement, putting up flyers and using social media to find a lost pet still work, today you have many additional options to help you if your pet goes missing. Employ them to the fullest to find your pet or help someone else find theirs.
The wagging tail or happy purring at the end of it all will be your reward. What’s better than that?
Photo credit: Thinkstock