Most pet owners know the fear and frustration of losing a pet. Coming home to a gate left ajar or watching a pet scramble out an open door can set off a chain of events that leave owners racing around the neighborhood in search of their lost companion. Starting last week, the City of Austin is helping assuage those fears with a new initiative aimed at getting pets home as quickly as possible.
On July 3, the Austin Animal Center launched The Stray Map locater, a tool that lets owners search for their missing cat or dog using an interactive Google map. Dog got loose during the fireworks? Cat chased a bird down the street? Log on to the website and zoom in to find the locations of missing pets in your neighborhood. A pin tells users the general area the animal was found in, along with photos, a physical description and the date. The Stray Map also gives the animal's current shelter location, allowing owners to retrieve the missing pet as quickly as possible.
But the new tool does raise some questions. With photos readily available, how is the City of Austin ensuring that the correct pet gets to the proper home? Like with any stray, the person retrieving the animal must prove he or she is the owner. Veterinary records, immunization paperwork and even family photos are all things folks should bring in to claim their pet.
Though the database is currently set up just for strays that have made their way into city shelters, a spokesperson says that phase two of the project may allow citizens who find the animal to connect directly with the owner, ultimately saving time and resources — while easing fretful minds.
If your pup or kitty isn't showing up on the map, don't fret. Austin Animal Center updates its Twitter feed every half hour with a list of newly admitted strays. For even more safeguards, residents of Travis County can get a free microchip and ID tag for their pets by heading to the Austin Animal Services on weekdays between 11 am - 7 pm.