Facial recognition technology helps connect lost pets to owners

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Cedar Valley Humane Society is just about at full capacity, especially for cats, and it expects to have more animals cross its doors soon.

The time around the 4th of July holiday is one of the most common times of the year for pets to go missing, according to shelter officials. Starting Thursday, the shelter will have access to new technology that will help reunite lost pets with their owners.

The Cedar Valley Humane Society is the first shelter in the area to begin using “Finding Rover,” a free app and website that allows people to upload photos of their lost pets into a database. The shelter will also be submitting photos of every animal that it takes in.

Finding Rover then uses facial recognition technology to match those photos and let the owners know where they can find their pet.

“Their accuracy is about 98%,” Hannah McFarlane, programs manager for the Cedar Valley Humane Society, said.

Currently, the shelter has a much more difficult time reuniting lost pets and families.

“Our return-to-owner rate right now is about 17%, so that’s about 80% of animals that their owners aren’t being able to find them,” McFarlane said.

Finding Rover is accessible around the country, which may lead to a better chance of it being found.

“If your pet were to travel out of state, it would hopefully be able to be found there too,” McFarlane said.

It also works for people who find lost pets on their own.

“So if they find and don’t take it to the shelter right away and want to try to find the owner themselves, they can upload it as well,” McFarlane said.

With photos of these pets accessible on Finding Rover, the shelter also hopes it’ll help get more pets adopted.

“Some people want a gray kitten with green eyes," McFarlane said. "You can tap the picture of the gray kitten with green eyes, and it’ll show you all the ones that are available for adoption here at our shelter."

Even if you use the Finding Rover service, the Cedar Valley Humane Society also recommends people use pet ID tags and microchip their animals.

The shelter is hosting a name-your-price microchipping event this Saturday from Noon until 5 p.m. at 7411 Mt. Vernon Rd SE in Cedar Rapids.