Pets Are People Too

To address the area of animal rights, specifically those concerning stray cats and dogs, I plan to design a smart phone app. I believe that this is the best technology that can be used for my particular social justice topic, because so many people use smartphones nowadays. There are a lot of components that I want to include while designing this mobile technology, and because smart phones already have so many functions like the camera, GPS, and Internet access, I will be able to use these to my advantage to create the best app possible.

This app is going to help decrease the number of stray cats and dogs there are in any given community in many ways. The first is by helping those animals that are already lost find their back to their owners, or to a shelter to receive whatever medical attention they may need. There are going to be several different ways within the app to make that process easier. One being software that can detect a microchip when scanned over the animal’s body through the smartphone’s camera. A lot of pet owners get a microchip placed on their animal during their first few veterinary visits. The chip is placed just beneath the skin and contains a tiny circuit that reads chip ID for that pet when scanned. The ID is linked to all the information about the pet and it’s owner. This includes the pet’s medical history (vaccinations/whether it’s spayed or neutered), as well as the name, address, and phone number of the owner. This makes it extremely easy for lost animals to be reunited with their owner. According to Beverley Hammond in her article “Microchip databases- the facts”, phone lines for the microchip databases are open 24/7, meaning that no matter what date or time it is, lost pets can be reunited with their owners (Hammond 2013, p,335). However, stray animals won’t be scanned for a microchip unless they’re brought into a shelter or veterinarian. Most people who come across cats or dogs without owners don’t have the will or time to take them to either of those places. The app I plan to design will make it so that trip isn’t necessary. When users come across an animal that appears to be stray, they can open the “microchip detector” function of the app and simply move their phone around right above the animal’s fur. If they are chipped, the sensor will detect it, and bring up all the information about that pet and their owner. This will allow whoever found the pet to call their owner and arrange for the two to be reunited, completely saving an unneeded trip to the shelter.

The function I just described will help some animals, however there are still many strays that don’t have microchips. In addition to having a microchip detector, my app will use GPS technology to help users locate the shelter that is closest to them. When someone crosses paths with a stray, the can simply press the “find shelter” button and the app will determine their exact location, as well as giving them directions to the nearest shelter, veterinary clinic, or animal hospital. The app will also tell users the phone number for the facility that they choose, allowing them to call ahead of time to say that they’re coming with a stray cat or dog. This could be particularly useful if the animal was in bad condition and needed immediate medical attention.

The final aspect of the app is going to be a type of social network. Many pets are abandoned and forced to be stray because their owners don’t want them anymore. Although some owners do take their pets to the shelter, it’s been proven that animals that are domesticated and later abandoned endure more stress in shelters than animals that are born stray (Dybdall 2007). I want to create a craigs-list type of network on the app, where people who want to give up or can no longer care for their animals directly communicate with people who are looking to get a cat or dog. Owners can post an “ad” for their pet, with a picture and detailed description. Prospective owners can then look though these postings for possible pets, as well as filter them by location to animals that are in range of them. People will be able to message each other directly within the app, regarding any questions or to make plans to pick up the animal. With this tool, people don’t have to take their pets to a shelter when they don’t want them anymore. They can hand them off to someone who they know will take good care of them.

The intended users for this app would ideally be everyone, but unfortunately not everyone cares as much about animals as they should. The people would most likely use it are animal lovers, pet owners and those that live in a city. The issue of stray animals is most predominately an issue in urban areas, but those living in other areas could use it as well. While I am still deciding on the exact layout and interface of the app, I have a set idea of what exactly I want it to entail. My app will have three main functions that help stray cats and dogs find a home. These are a microchip scanner, GPS services to shelters and animal hospitals, and a social network between current and prospective pet owners. It is my hope that this app can help give cats and dogs the loving home they deserve.

Works cited

Hammond, B. (2013). Microchip databases – the facts. Veterinary Nursing Journal, 28(10), 333-335.

Dybdall, K., Strasser, R., & Katz, T. (2007). Behavioral Differences Between Owner Surrender And Stray Domestic Cats After Entering An Animal Shelter.Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 104, 85-94.

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