If you’ve ever had a pet go missing from your house, you know that time is critical – whether it’s danger from other animals or the possibility of them getting hit by a car, you want to find them quickly.
Here’s a really cool tool - the FurAlert app, available for iOS and Android smartphones, gets the word out quickly to other FurAlert users when a pet goes missing. The app serves two purposes – it lets pet owners alert all of the other users (within a specific geographic area) if a pet goes missing. Second, it lets someone who has found the animal notify the pet’s owner directly, through a phone call, text or email.
The concept is so amazingly simple that you have to wonder, “Wow, why hasn’t this been done before?” In the pre-smartphone world, pet owners would walk around the neighborhood or put up flyers to notify others about the missing animal. Facebook and other social media outlets have helped a little (such as posting on a town-specific group), but that also has less immediacy than a smartphone alert.
Like many ideas for apps or websites these days, the idea for FurAlert came from founder Cory Donovan’s own experience with an animal going missing – in his case, two Dobermans that left through an open gate.
“With every minute that passed, I thought, ‘they could be running into a street right now!’,” Donovan says on the FurAlert website. “It was nauseating. And frustrating. Both dogs had microchips and tags with my phone number, but I hadn’t received any calls.”
The story does have a happy ending – Donovan found one of the dogs a bit later, but it took more than a day to retrieve the second dog (someone had found the dog, who had lost its collar, so it went to an animal control officer in a different town). At that point, Donovan thought there should be a better way for owners to alert others to a missing pet, and the idea for FurAlert began to take shape. The iOS version came out late last year (right before the holidays), and the Android version was released in January.
The biggest challenge for Donovan is getting enough people to download the app to provide effective geographic coverage. While the app does have users in 49 out of 50 states, the end user can adjust the settings to only receive an alert if the animal is missing within a specific distance – between 1 and 10 miles. That’s a big difference from the Amber Alert system, which broadcasts alerts across a larger area.
Still, Donovan is getting the word out as best he can – through animal shelters, veterinarians and other pet support groups – even one neighborhood at a time can help, he says. The site even includes a printable PDF that people can post on community bulletin boards.
Even if you don’t have pets, it’s worth downloading the app so you can be a part of the community of users that can help if a pet goes missing. The app is free, and you only have to provide information if you’re registering a pet for the alert system.