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Phoenix-area shelters using facial recognition to help return lost pets

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PHOENIX – Maricopa County Animal Care and Control is going high tech in its efforts to reunite lost pets with their owners.

The county’s shelters started partnering this week with a free facial recognition service for furry faces, providing a new tool for locating lost dogs and cats.

“Basically, it’s just one more option for folks out there who have lost their animals to be potentially reunited with them,” Jose Santiago, a spokesman for the agency, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“When you lose a pet it’s a stressful situation for everybody involved, and you should be willing to do anything and everything to go ahead and try to find that pet.”

The service was developed by Finding Rover, which teams up with shelters across the country.

“They reached out to us because we’re the government agency that goes out and picks up lost and stray animals,” Santiago said. “So it made sense to go ahead and partner with us.”

Finding Rover has an app and website to which you can upload a photo of your pet. You can do it even if your pet isn’t lost, so it’s in the system in case the critter ever does wander off.

“What it will do is it will upload your pet’s picture, use its facial distinctions, if you will, to try and see if there are any animals within the shelter system that match your pet’s description,” Santiago said.

Maricopa County has the second largest county intake shelter system in the country. The agency’s two facilities – at 2500 S. 27th Ave. in Phoenix and 2630 W. Rio Salado Parkway in Mesa – have been overcrowded since the Fourth of July, when many pets run off each year after being spooked by fireworks.

Santiago said to always check with the shelters first if a pet is lost.

“By law we’re required to hold an animal for 72 hours before placing it for adoption,” he said. “So this is always your first option, but now, with Finding Rover, it’s another option for you to help find your pet.”

For more information about the shelters, visit the animal control section of the Maricopa County website.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report.