Dedicated animal lovers in Derry are using the latest technology to reunite missing pets with their owners.
The team of volunteers behind Lost and Found Pets Derry (LAFPD) - a website, Facebook page, and mobile phone text alert service - have been involved, in tandem with existing services, in reuniting or rehoming around 80 pets, mostly cats and dogs, thus far in 2012.
It all began when LAFPD chairperson Sean Morrin lost his cat back in 2010.
“Ten months later I found her on a website,” Sean told the ‘Journal’ this week.
It set the LAFPD ball rolling. Now the service has a Facebook community of more than 1600 members - all dedicated to helping reunite owners with their lost pets.
The premise is simple - pictures and posters are put online of missing pets, and web users and Facebookers read the notifications and look out for the animals.
Two years on from its launch and LAFPD is making the most of social media and digital technology to help animals in need.
Sean says social media works well for LAFPD - it’s free. easy to use and brings communities together.
“What we do is use technology to complement existing animal welfare services, like the Rainbow Rehoming Centre,” he says.
“Our pages are updated around ten times a day by our team of volunteers and there is very much a sense of community around what we do. People really feel a part of it.
“Our Facebook page alone now has around 1700 members.”
From it’s initial inception as a lost and found service, now the team help foster and rehome animals where they can - Sean says within the last few days they have received “four wee pups, only seven weeks old, that we need a foster home for.”
Everything is meticulously documented - a database details information on all the missing animals LAFPD have dealt with - a management committee is in place,and strict policies and guidelines determine the fostering and rehoming services.
Mostly it’s lost dogs and cats the team deal with but LAFPD have encountered lost rabbits, guinea pigs and even a parrot.
“Because of the interest and dedication of the volunteers, we have been able to get into working to rehome the animals. It’s important to stress that we have very clear policies and procedures around fostering and adoption services,” Sean says.
And he is quick to pay tribute to the people who make the service possible.
“Our text alert service allows people to sign up and receive a text when a pet is lost in a certain area. Only last week we sent out a text about a missing dog and within minutes we had 11 people on the ground out looking for them.
“Without the volunteers we really would have nothing and we are very lucky to have a team of such great people.
“But we are always on the look out for more volunteers and anyone - if you can spare one hour a week or 40 hours - can get in touch with us via Facebook or our website.”
Sean says he is grateful to everyone who has helped the service grow and evolve since it’s launch.
“But there is still much more work to do in the field of animal welfare,” he says.