New facial recognition app Finding Rover helps find lost dogs

County Animal Services plans to use app

SAN DIEGO - Innovative facial recognition technology is now being used to find lost pets in the form of an app called Finding Rover.

Liliana Silva grew up with Fifi, her family's 14-year-old Chihuahua.

"Every holiday picture, she's in them. She's a part of our family," Silva said.

In August, Fifi escaped from her mother's backyard in Eastlake.

"I've plastered the neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods with posters ... you name it," Silva said.

Bay Area resident John Polimeno developed the app with a Utah company to perfect facial recognition software for animals.

"They've developed these algorithms that actually can identify a dog or a cat," Polimeno said.

The app, available for iPhones or iPads, allows the pet owner to take a picture of his or her dog, match up the eyes and nose, and then enter the dog's information. By completing those steps, the dog joins the Finding Rover database.

If you find a lost pet, you take that dog's photo and the app matches up the best fit among the animals in the database.

"We're creating a crowd sourcing of people looking after each other's pets. Now, there's no excuse. All you need is a phone and your thumb," Polimeno said.

"This technology is in a word, amazing!" said Dan DeSousa, deputy director of County Animal Services.

DeSousa said they plan to take pictures of all its lost dogs for Finding Rover. However, the department needs to wait for funding for new phones for its 31 animal control officers.

"We're trying to weigh the cost and the benefits for the phones," DeSousa said. "I think it will happen, [but] I can't say exactly when."

DeSousa said phones would cost thousands of dollars and would be used for additional purposes, such as on-site credit card payments for such transactions for dog licenses.

Now that Silva knows about the free app, she said it is another tool she can use.

"Anything to bring her home," Silva said.

In its first seven weeks, 20,000 dogs were registered with the app. Palimeno says 170 lost dogs have already been found through "Finding Rover."

DeSousa reminds pet owners to always microchip your pet, but also recommends registering your dog with the Finding Rover database.

Right now, the app is only available on for iPhones or iPads. It will be available on the Android and Internet early next year.

Polimeno said an app for lost cats is currently in the works.

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