Facebook plays key role in reuniting pets, families

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published November 11, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated November 9, 2012 at 8:52 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Curt Youngblood

Brittany Portale, a Cabot animal-control officer, dries off a Chihuahua mix after giving the dog a bath at the Cabot Animal Shelter. The shelter uses Facebook to reunite lost pets with their owners.

In 2012, it’s Facebook, not a hastily printed “missing” poster, that seems to be key in reuniting pets and owners.

Across Arkansas’ Three Rivers region, humane societies, veterinarian offices and animal shelters are turning to the online social networking website to publicize photos and information on lost pets.

“Facebook is the thing to have, and people are constantly on it every single day,” Cabot animal-control officer Brittany Portale said. “That’s where people are looking, so it’s easy for the information to circulate throughout the community.”

On the Cabot Animal Shelter Facebook page, area fans have been posting information about lost animals since the page was first launched, Portale said. Typically, a Cabot-area resident will go to the page and post facts about their missing pet. From there, fans of the page can see the post and circulate the information to their own friends.

“People on our Facebook can see, ‘OK, that’s my dog. They have it,’” Portale said.

It’s a method that pays off. The Arkansas Lost and Found Pet Network, a statewide resource on Facebook for lost pets, has more than 800 photos in its “reunited” photo album so far in 2012.

“Connecting lost pets to their homes is really a problem of geography and communication,” said Jamie Walden of Little Rock, founder of the Arkansas Lost and Found Pet Network. “A dog can go in any direction and travel 20 miles. It may not end up at a shelter where the owner would look. Social media centralizes communication. You put it on [Facebook], you can reach tens of thousands immediately.”

The Arkansas Lost and Found Pet Network Page currently has more than 8,000 fans on Facebook. Any Arkansas resident who has lost a pet or found a stray can fill out a short form and submit a photo to be posted on the main page. When the page was founded in December 2010, it saw about 1,600 submissions in a year. Now the page gets around 25 posts a day, or about 9,000 a year, Walden said.

Before Facebook, Jessica Warden and the staff at the Jacksonville Animal Hospital kept information on lost pets in a notebook at the front desk.

“A lot of clients will call if they find a pet, because if they have a rabies vaccine tag, it has the hospital information on it,” Warden said.

If the pet didn’t match the description or tag number of a client they had on file, the staff would write down the information in their notebook in case the owner called later. Then Facebook came along to streamline the process. When clients of the hospital lose a pet, they can post directly on the hospital’s Facebook wall so other clients in the area can keep an eye out for the lost animal.

The Arkansas Lost and Found Pet Network sees reunions happen nearly every day now.

“Just the other day, there was a cat named Dexter who was

reunited with his owner,” Walden said. “Someone saw him hanging around a house in Indian Hills and put signs in the area and on the Facebook page. Someone recognized him. They caught him and got him to the owner.”

While the Arkansas Lost and Found Pet Network covers the entire state, Walden said the majority of posts come from the central Arkansas area.

“Every city could benefit from a similar site,” he said.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Associate Features Editor Emily Van Zandt can be reached at .

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