May 30, 2014 -- Roughly 10 million pets are reported lost each year in the U.S., according to the American Humane Association. What if you could see Spot on your phone as soon as he goes missing?
That's the idea behind a new animal tracking device called WhistleGPS. The product communicates a pet's location in real time using a small unit attached to its collar that syncs with an app on the pet parent's smartphone. Think of it as Big Brother for four-legged friends.
"A lot of the inspiration came from my own dogs growing up" said founder and CEO Ben Jacobs, whose family kept German Shephard rescues during his childhood. "Health prevention and loss prevention are the two biggest concerns for a pet parents. Our Whistle Activity Monitor and GPS collects data for both."
The WhistleGPS costs $129, plus a $5 monthly service fee to sync insights to the smartphone app.
Is it worth the investment?
Of the 10 million annually reported missing pets, "85 percent of lost dogs and cats were recovered" noted a 2012 survey by the ASPCA on the subject. Cat guardians were less likely to find their cat (74 percent), while 93 percent of lost dogs were recovered. In such cases, dogs were recovered either by searching the neighborhood (49 percent) or with a tag or microchip (15 percent).
The ASPCA report noted that one of the key components to finding a lost pet was beginning the search immediately. And that's where WhistleGPS representatives feel their product can make a difference.
"We are certainly in favor of dogs being microchipped," said Jacobs. "But there are lot of factors that need to line up: The pet has to find its way to a vet or animal clinic and their information has to be accessible to whatever database that business is using."
With WhistleGPS, a pet parent will receive a ping on his or her phone as soon as Fido leaves the safe zone, said Jacobs, allowing them to be proactive and track the dog's location.
"For many pet parents, just like parents of children, just knowing that your dog is home safe provides a steady emotional balance," he said.
Meanwhile, the device's small size makes it a boon for a beast to wear on its collar.
"There are a number of GPS trackers on the market that ride traditional cell networks and are basically like strapping a cell phone to your dog," said Jacobs. "But recent breakthroughs have changed what is possible now from even two years ago. We use Sub-ghz and our device is under a third the size of competing products. So even my current 15-pound mutt can wear it easily."