The traditional method of finding a lost pet worked well enough.
A distraught owner might tape or staple some homemade signs around the neighborhood, knock on doors, put out some favorite treats on the porch or lawn, and perhaps even pray and check the bank account in hopes of offering a monetary reward.
Still, that seems so old-fashioned in this digital age — at least according to Andrea Chavez, Founder of Pawscout, a company whose signature product is a Bluetooth-enabled tag that not only helps pet owners find their wayward pets, but gives them access to other digital and mobile services. In a new PYMNTS interview, Chavez talked about bringing more online efficiencies to pet ownership.
“The goal is to create a really affordable, much better pet tag,” she said. And the idea is to take advantage of the ongoing rise of mobile commerce and social media to create, in essence, digital communities centered around pets — and not just ones that spark to life when little Fido goes missing, or plots an escape from a dog park or a particular section of the beach in the summer.
One example comes from Walmart. The retail chain is rolling out an online pet pharmacy and opening additional veterinary clinics. The retailer plans to bring its number of clinics to 100 from the current 21 in operation. The idea is to bring in more of the consumers who spend billions of dollars a year on their pets. Meanwhile, Amazon also has its Wag pet food brand, and Target has teamed with BarkBox to offer chew toys and treats online and in-store.
Pawscout, as it turns out, just launched its $20 pet tags in Walmart, and is selling the product via other retailers, Chavez told PYMNTS. After all, pet supplies, according to her view, is a “recession-proof” industry.
The way the tags work is to create what Chavez calls a “virtual leash” set by the pet owner via the company’s smartphone app — any time the pet leaves a predetermined digital parameter set on the app, the pet owner gets a smartphone alert. Say what you will, but any dog owner who goes to a dog park or beach knows how easy it can be for those curious, playful animals to get into their own grooves and travel widely.
When that pet does break free of the virtual leash, the app can send out alerts to others connected with the owner, and create a lost pet “poster in digital format,” she said, one that can be posted on digital and social media channels relevant to the owner. The app also can provide information about whether the pet in question has “medical or behavioral issues that anyone who finds (the pet) should be aware of,” Chavez said.
So far, some 5,000 pets have been found using the technology, she told PYMNTS.
Social Media Aspect
Pet owners already have access to microchipping technology, but in the view of Chavez, that’s not enough. “Microchipping is not available in wide areas of the country,” she said, “especially in rural areas, where veterinarians can be several hours away.” Not only that, she said, but microchip scanners can be “very expensive, and people don’t always update their information.”
But 2019 being 2019, nothing seems complete with a social media community angle — and that’s the case with the Pawscout technology, which offers a “lightweight, Instagram-like feed” through which pet owners can interact with each other — perhaps admiring each other’s dogs and cats, or setting up “pet play dates,” she said. That feature just launched about six weeks ago. More recently, news emerged that Pawscout has secured $3 million in seed funding from Leadout Capital.
As digital and mobile technology progresses, pets are along for the ride. That includes such items and operations as “smart dog houses” connected to the Internet of Things, as recently documented by PYMNTS. It seems all but certain that the digital ecosystem has much more in store for all those domesticated creatures.