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  • Shreya Manivel

Return to Home Technology that we LOVE

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

Did you know that 1 out of 3 pets goes missing at some point in their life? What’s worse - more than 80% are never reunited with their families. Fortunately, shelter technologies are changing that.

We're sharing our three favorite technologies that are improving return-to-home (RTH) rates in animal shelters and the most important things you need to know about each.

Finding Rover

What does it do?

Finding Rover is a free online platform that helps find lost pets using facial recognition technology. Pet owners simply upload a picture and register their pet by filling out some details such as their pet’s physical characteristics. If they report their pet as lost, Finding Rover’s system will scan all local shelters within a 200-mile radius and report matches that resemble the lost pet starting with the closest match. Information about the organization that has found the lost pet is provided. The photo is also checked against animals that are found by community members.

What’s unique about it?

Did you know that it's significantly harder to perform facial recognition on an animal than a human due to their fur and face shape? That hasn’t stopped Finding Rover, which has an algorithm that boasts an impressive 98% accuracy rate (when matching a single pet to a database of 25,000!). That’s because the technology, which picks up minute variations using 138 points on the animal’s face, was developed alongside researchers from the Software Development Center at the University of Utah.

How do we know it works for RTH?

Finding Rover works with over 600 shelters in the U.S. and has more than 700,000 pets in its database (with 1,000 new registrations per day). It has reunited 18,000 pets with their families so far.

How does a shelter get started?

One of the best things about Finding Rover is that it’s completely free for the participating shelters, pet owners, and community members - courtesy of the Petco Foundation. When a pet is brought into your shelter, all nearby members are alerted. Finding Rover doesn’t just work one way: shelter staff can also find the owners of lost animals on Finding Rover’s website.

Sign up: This link will take you to a short form you need to fill out to become a shelter partner.


What does it do?

One of the biggest barriers to happy reunions is the public’s lack of knowledge of where to go and convenience. Lost2Found uses automated text messaging to guide owners through every step of finding their pet, eliminating the guesswork and giving them hope. Owners can text “STRAY” to your shelter’s designated number and they will be sent instructions regarding exactly what to do when their pet goes missing. They also receive links to Craigslist, local lost and found pages, nearby shelters, and Finding Rover.

What’s unique about it?

Developed at Front Street Animal Shelter, Lost2Found is the first use of text marketing to increase RTH! On top of helping pet owners, Lost2Found reduces staff time and improves customer service because the staff is able to quickly provide an all-in-one resource to people looking for their pet.

How do we know it works/proof?

Lost2Found has proven text messaging is a powerful tool - their text messages have a 98% open rate. Front Street has seen great results from the program so far – in the first 12 months, over 3,000 citizens texted the number to get help finding their pet. The shelter has also seen a 4% increase in its return-to-home rate.

How does a shelter get started?

Here are the basics:

  1. Sign up for an account: Go to and start an account for the 7-day trial. Later, you can select a paid plan.

  2. Keyword: The next step is to choose a unique keyword for your shelter such as STRAY and your 10-digit text-to number.

  3. Automate responses: Set up autoresponders, which are automated texts sent to your subscribers at intervals that you specify.

  4. Test: After you get it set up, be sure to test it and have your staff test it.

  5. Soft launch: Then you can soft launch it with your customers and with people on social media. Once it’s working the way you want, you’ll want to start marketing.

If you're interested in setting up a similar program at your shelter, you can reach out to one of the masterminds behind the program, Ryan Hinderman, who will walk you through the process. You can also watch the video he produced here.


What does it do?

PawBoost uses Facebook and Instagram to get lost and found pet alerts in front of local pet lovers who want to help. When a pet goes missing, PawBoost leverages location targeting and ads to alert users in the area where the pet was last seen. PawBoost Alerts are literally seen millions of times a day.

What’s unique about it?

PawBoost cleverly leverages Facebook's powerful ad platform, email, the web, and mobile apps to get lost and found pet alerts to as many people as possible - over 35 million people see Pawboost Alerts per month. Over 4 million pet lovers have signed up for local lost & found pet alerts. More lost and found pets are posted to PawBoost than anywhere else – over 2,000 pets every day.

Pawboost’s community (or Rescue Squad, as they call it) comprises a group of volunteers, rescue owners, shelter employees, veterinarians, and pet lovers determined to reunite pets that operate across a network of 762 local lost & found Facebook pages.

How do we know it works?

PawBoost has reunited 841,510 pets so far. 49% of lost pets and 34% of found/stray pets posted to PawBoost are reported reunited. Out of these reunions, 28% are attributed to PawBoost.

How does a shelter get started?

PawBoost is currently partnering with shelters on Chameleon, Petpoint, Shelter Buddy, and (soon) Shelterluv. Setup is super simple. To turn on the integration, shelter personnel just need to send an email to their shelter software rep authorizing PawBoost to receive stray pet data. The integration is 100% free. Once the integration is turned on, it's 100% automatic. Stray intakes are pulled into a lost & found database – which receives 1M+ visitors per month – as stray pets. Pawboost specifies which shelter the pet is currently being held at and how to get in touch. Pets that are reclaimed, adopted, transferred out, etc. are removed from the database automatically.

Want more ideas, inspiration and technology for increasing your Return to home rate?

This month Adoptimize has teamed up with the No Place Like Home Challenge, an initiative in which nearly 300 shelters across the US are participating to help improve RTH numbers and keep pets with their families! Our partner Maddie's Fund is hosting 8 huddles throughout the month of February, on every Tuesday (10am PST) and Thursday (1pm PST). Each huddle will cover one area or "practice" of Return to Home. Sign up here.

^ RTH classic (and the BEST part of the 90's Homeward Bound)

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