San Diego County Animal Services says it is the first pet-sheltering agency in the United States to use facial recognition to help reunite owners with their dogs.
Animal Services is joining forces with Finding Rover, whose app is helpful after events like the recent wildfires and evacuations.
The app 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.
“Every time a dog is lost, he faces dangers,” said county board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob. “He could eat something poisonous, be hit by a car, get stolen and more. This app is free, easy to use and could save your pet’s life.”
The founder of Finding Rover used his own money and worked with University of Utah researchers for two years to create the facial recognition technology.
“A dog is a beloved family member and if it goes missing it can be devastating to everyone involved,” said Finding Rover CEO John Polimeno. “This app is special because the technology allows dog owners an immediate way to search for the pet and hopefully be reunited with their four-legged family member in a very short period of time.”
Finding Rover gives Animal Services yet another tool for finding lost dogs in addition to ID tags, licenses and microchips.
“These devastating fires are a great example where Finding Rover can save lives and reunite you and your dog,” said County Animal Services Director Dawn Danielson.
“Dogs escape from their yards fleeing the fire and may not be wearing their tags or people can’t get close enough to have them scanned for a microchip but anyone can take a snap shot and if there is a match — bingo! The dog is almost home!”
Animal Services operates in the unincorporated area and the six contract cities of San Diego, Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, Santee and Solana Beach. Within that jurisdiction, more than 12,000 dogs are lost each year and cared for at the county shelters.
About 4,000 of them are claimed by their owners, a 35 percent rate. In comparison, the industry standard is about 13 percent. With the new app, Animal Services expects more dogs to be reunited with their owners sending the rate even higher. Animal Control Officers will use it out in the field and if there’s a match, take the dog directly home and avoid a trip to the shelter which reduces stress to the dog and owner, avoids shelter overcrowding and saves the taxpayer money.
Animal Services database of lost and adoptable dogs has already been linked with Finding Rover’s registry of some 60,000 dogs. Animal Services updates its information on Finding Rover several times daily so it remains current.
So how do you use it? First download the app on to your smart phone. Use an old photo or take a new snapshot of your dog, put in your information and your pet is registered in case it gets lost.
If you happen to find a lost Rover, you snap its photo and look for matches. It works whether you’ve lost a dog or found one. The more people who register their pets, the more likely they will be found and sent back home where they belong.
The app also allows you to make a lost or found poster, look for adoptable dogs and share the latest dog news.
Why isn’t there a Finding Kitty? Don’t worry, it’s in the works and could be up and running by August.