By Gina Knepp, National Shelter Engagement Director at Michelson Found Animals
Animal Control Officers (ACOs) are on the front line and can greatly impact shelter populations, or lack thereof, by making a concerted effort to help a pet get back home versus impoundment. This is especially critical during the COVID-19 crisis when shelter staff are reduced, and many animals in our communities are newly adopted or in temporary foster care. The good news is there are several free (or low cost) social tools ACOs can leverage to make their difficult, important work just a bit easier.
1 – FACEBOOK
Many agencies have their own lost and found Facebook pages, a great resource to post a photo of a found pet quickly. ACOs should be encouraged to do so and have familiarity and access to the most frequently used pages in their communities. Most communities are on stay at home orders during COVID19, thus there are a greater number of people on these platforms currently.
2 – NEXTDOOR
Utilizing the assistance of neighbors should not be discounted. If possible, enlist the assistance of a neighbor to post the animal on Nextdoor, another incredibly powerful neighborhood platform that has proven quite successful in reuniting lost pets. Many animal care agencies are using Nextdoor with much success, making sure that field officers are aware of these resources is vitally important. To sign up for a Nextdoor account in your neighborhood, click HERE.
3 – FINDING ROVER
Finding Rover is another great resource to post a found pet, something ACOs can readily do on a cell phone. The Finding Rover app should be downloaded on all ACO phones for ease of use. Information can be found HERE. Finding Rover is facial recognition technology that allows pet owners to register their pets and report them as lost, should that occur. Conversely, it serves to help those that found a pet with the goal of reunification. ACOs should be familiar with this platform and able to also explain its use to pet owners in the community. The more pets registered, the higher the likelihood for successful reunification.
During the COVID19 crisis, providing a pet owner with the return of a missing pet might be the most joyful part of a workday. Keeping pets and their families together should be a priority for all field personnel, particularly now, more than ever.