New lost and found website for pets

dog-text CityPetFinder is South Africa’s first
electronic pet-finding website which
aims to help both pet owners and
animal welfare organisations.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

• JP Smith
  Mayoral committee member
  +27 21 400 1311

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The City of Cape Town has launched a new electronic pet-finding website, which will help reunite lost pets with their owners and address the problem of stray animals in the city.

Known as CityPetFinder, the site is a joint project of the Cape Town Safety and Security Directorate and the city’s 21 Registered Animal Organisations (RAOs). An RAO is a registered animal welfare organisation such as a pound or shelter.

The website is part of the Safety and Security Directorate’s mandate to enforce the city’s by-laws and reduce the population of stray animals in Cape Town. The initiative will also enhance the safety and wellbeing of both residents and animals.

In July 2011 Jean-Pierre Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, told iol news that the city had at least 230 000 stray dogs.

Unique features

The first phase of the initiative enables pet owners to log the details of lost dogs and cats.

Unlike private websites for lost and found animals, CityPetFinder aims to help both pet owners and RAOs.

CityPetFinder has entered into a partnership with RAOs to establish a single point of access that allows pet owners to browse a database of all lost animals at registered RAOs in the metro.

RAOs, in turn, can use the website to find out if any of the animals in their care have been listed as lost. This duel feature of the site can increase the chances of reuniting lost pets with their owners

A better solution for stray animals

Animal complaints from the public and impounding lost or stray animals are a major burden for the city’s law enforcement officers. Finding the owners of animals is a cumbersome process and sometimes animals are simply left to linger in pounds.

The electronic system should make it easier to locate pet owners after their lost animals have been impounded, thereby ensuring that animals don’t have to stay at pounds and shelters for lengthy periods.

Safety of pets guaranteed

Anyone who wants to use the site has to register and provide details of the lost animal.

When performing a search, pet owners will only have access to potential matches based on the lost pet criteria that is provided, such as the suburb where the animal was found, the breed and the contact details of where the pet is held.

Site developers explain that this is a security measure to prevent animals being collected for fraudulent activities such as dog fighting or reselling.

To prevent fraud and minimise security threats to animals, the site also doesn’t provide a photo gallery of lost pets.

If a pet owner sees an animal on the site they believe is theirs, ownership will first be verified by the RAO before the pet is handed over. The RAO will have access to other information, such as the pet’s name, sex, or size, or a microchip number to perform a security check.

The developers say that people who do not have access to the internet via a personal computer or mobile phone can also use the CityPetFinder service. They merely have to use the city’s Smart Cape Internet facilities or contact an RAO to log the details of a lost pet on their behalf.

Found animals

The website also makes it possible for RAOs to log found pets on the CityPetFinder database.

Members of the public can take lost animals to an RAO listed on the website. The RAO will capture the pet’s details on the CityPetFinder database and put up a collection notification.

Working with an RAO is much safer for the public as it eliminates the security risk of collecting pets at private residences.