dog running away

Finding Fido (and Fluffy, too)!

A survey was done a few years ago by the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) relating to lost pets. In the random survey, 15% of the surveyed pet owners had lost a cat or dog in the past 5 years; and out of those lost pets, 49% of the dogs had been found and 30% of the cats had been found by owners searching their nearby neighborhoods.

Many “missing pet” parents hung up posters, visited local vets and shelters, and enlisted neighbors in their search to find their missing friend. It is a frightening experience for pet parents, desperately and somewhat aimlessly searching for a beloved lost pet.

Wouldn’t it be much more helpful if an owner was alerted at the exact moment when Fido or Fluffy strayed too far? And along with that early alert system, wouldn’t it be great if an owner had a tracking device that actually led them to find their little furry escape artist?

While many people do think to put identification tags on their pets, and many also microchip their pets in case they are lost, both of those are very passive safety methods. Someone has to find your pet and act, either contacting you or bringing your pet to a vet to be scanned, prior to your getting your pet back. In the meantime, you might not even know Fido or Fluffy has escaped!

So what’s a pet owner to do?

Today there are many products being offered that address this exact problem. Sometimes called pet GPS trackers, pet monitors or even pet “wearables” (in keeping with the human “fitness wearable” frenzy), there are many devices available.

In general there are 2 types of tracking devices dependent on the underlying technology:

  • Radio frequency trackers
  • GPS trackers

Radio frequency: Radio is not dependent on internet or cell phone provider infrastructure so is often thought of as older technology, but it works. And if the frequency is using a penetrating frequency, it will work behind/inside buildings and walls (if your pet is hiding). There is a range limit with radio frequency, but depending on the device that can still be up to several miles. The benefit of this type of device is there is not a monthly subscription fee. Radio products may give you less specific location information (like having a map or providing directions to your pet); and instead lead you to your pet by showing signal strength. Because it doesn’t utilize GPS, batteries last much longer before needing to be recharged.

GPS trackers: These devices depend on GPS satellite signals, so no GPS signal and the device won’t work (a good way to think about GPS is that it requires “open sky” to work; so indoors, in certain terrain and in areas that the particular network provider doesn’t have good coverage, you’ll see service gaps). These devices have monthly service fees (because you are paying for network usage to some provider, either internet or cellular), and some are restricted to a particular carrier (AT & T or Verizon, for example).