For Chicago pet owners, finding a lost dog or cat could now be just a few clicks away.
Chicago’s municipal-run animal shelter recently launched a partnership with Finding Rover, an app that uses facial recognition technology to help connect owners with lost pets.
Founder and CEO John Polimeno said the algorithm behind the app looks at 138 spots on an animal’s face and recognizes faces with 98-percent accuracy.
The app prompts owners to upload new photos of their pets every three months until they are 18 months old to account for changes as they grow, then once a year after that.
Owners are asked to provide only their zip code, and information about them and their pet are kept private until the pet is reported as lost, Polimeno said, at which point owners can decide what information they want to share.
Finding Rover’s database updates hourly and shows lost pets to anyone within 200 miles of the pet’s home zip code, Polimeno said.
Photos of stray animals arriving at Chicago Animal Care and Control now also appear on Finding Rover, in addition to the shelter's Pet Harbor website, which shows photos of lost and adoptable pets.
All shelter staff have received training on the new app in recent weeks, said CACC’s Jenny Schlueter. The shelter is also planning events and marketing efforts to encourage Chicago pet owners to download the app, which is free, and upload photos of their pets.
CACC takes in more than 3,000 stray dogs and 3,000 stray cats each year, but only a fraction of them are reunited with their owners. A majority of strays arriving at CACC do not have a tag, microchip or other form of identification.
Since launching in 2014, Polimeno said Finding Rover has prompted about 18,000 owner-pet reunions.
For more information on lost and stray animals in Chicago, visit CACC’s website.