FurAlert helping Berlin Borough pet owners and residents find lost pets quickly

The app is similar to an Amber Alert, but for pets. It enables pet owners and residents to help each other find lost pets quickly, even if they don’t know each other.

If you ask people how important their pets are to them, there’s a good chance they would tell you they are like a member of the family.

So imagine losing your pet and not having any idea where it is. Contacting the police and local animal shelters would be the first step to try to locate it, but the response might not be as quick as one would hope.

A similar situation happened to Cory Donovan. While his dogs were running around in the backyard of his Haddon Heights home, a gate was left open and his dogs got out.

“I found myself frantically searching for my dogs, worrying with every minute that went by that they were getting run over by a car,” Donovan recalled. “As I passed people sitting in their porch or casually walking, I thought they would probably help me if they knew I was looking for my dogs, but instead they were just going about their day/business. That’s when I thought about an Amber Alert for pets.”

Shortly after the distressing situation with his dogs, Donovan created FurAlert — a free app you can download on your iPhone or Android.

FurAlert enables pet owners and residents to help each other quickly in an emergency, even if they don’t know each other. Donovan said it’s all about proximity.

“If you’re not nearby, you don’t need to get an alert. But if you happen to be nearby when a pet goes missing, you are a valuable resource for a panicked pet owner,” Donovan said. “FurAlert also gives you the ability to contact the pet owner, even if you cannot or will not approach the animal. This is valuable in many scenarios because if you can’t physically engage the animal, the tag on their collar is of little use. But FurAlert allows you to contact the owner once you see the animal to alert the owner where the animal is at the time.”

Donovan said the first few minutes of a pet getting loose are the most crucial.

“Once a pet gets loose, time and distance are the enemy,” Donovan said. “With that premise, your best resource are other people that happen to be nearby, simply because they have eyes and because of their proximity. The goal is to retrieve the animal safely before they have a chance to put themselves in harm’s way or before they cover enough distance to compromise any search efforts.”

Donovan launched the app in January, and Berlin Borough recently introduced it in October in hopes of enhancing the police response for families getting their pets back more quickly and putting less stress on the police department and local animal shelters.

“We are a small town, and the reality is, most times the pets aren’t going that far away,” Public Safety Director Jim Pearce said. “Hopefully with this system, your neighbors will spot the dog sooner and give you a direct call through the app.”

Mayor Jim Bilella said in some situations, the app could potentially help people bypass calling the police department when their pet goes missing.

“Residents can communicate with other residents saying they lost their dog, and if they see the missing pet, they can report directly to one another,” he explained. “It circumvents the whole system, and people get their pets back sooner than later.”

Police Chief Mike Miller embraced the idea as something that could help the community and the police department. He said the app is downloaded on his supervisor’s phone, and other police officers are interested in the app because they are pet owners as well.

“If somebody puts an alert out, we’ll have it at our fingertips and we’ll know about it,” he said. “I’ve spoken to dog owners in the community, and they are excited about it.”

Donovan said FurAlert is in all 50 states and urges every pet owner to download the app.

“Don’t wait until something happens to your pet,” he urged. “If everyone does that, there’s no FurAlert community to help anyone.”