In late June, two shelters associated with LifeLine Animal project – a nonprofit adoption organization – asked for help finding homes for 250 pets in five days. They had received more than 400 animals in the span of a week, and needed to find homes for them quickly. 

They ended up surpassing their goal by more than 100 adoptions. 

“Our goal was 250 animals adopted, and we had 400,” LifeLine Public Relations Director Karen Hirsch said. “It’s just amazing.”

The summer usually brings higher numbers of lost animals to shelters, and Dekalb and Fulton County Animal Services are no exception. Hirsch said in March of 2020, 463 animals were brought to the DeKalb Shelter, while June, July and August saw 753, 719 and 811. At the Fulton County shelter, 464 animals were brought in March of 2020, compared to 582, 524 and 660 for June, July and August. 

Karen Hirsch said LifeLine was able to facilitate adoptions for 400 animals during its adoption event at DeKalb and Fulton County Animal Services.

Hirsch said an increase in litters in the spring could account for higher intake numbers in the summer, but in general, a large number of pets become lost around that time of year. 

“People go on vacation. Sometimes the pets get out; the pool person leaves the gate open,” she said. “There’s a lot of pets that get lost. That’s actually the majority of pets that we get in, are pets that people just find or our animal control officers pick up.”

Hirsch said LifeLine does a lot of general outreach to help find homes for pets that come to their shelters – they often offer free or low-cost neuters and spays, and they’re set to hold another adoption event from July 9-11. But, they also put a lot of energy into reuniting pets with the families they’ve lost. 

A new way to recover lost pets

According to Hirsch, LifeLine helped reunite 1,809 lost pets with their owners in 2020. But in 2021, they’ve been able to take advantage of a familiar form of technology that’s used in a different way. 

In April of 2021, Petco Love – a nonprofit animal welfare organization – launched a service called Petco Love Lost. The service uses facial recognition technology to operate as a national lost and found database for pets. 

Spokesperson Jennifer Perez said the company purchased the animal facial recognition technology, called Finding Rover, last year. 

“It’s a centralized database that connects pet parents, community members, good neighbors and shelters all in one place,” Perez said. “Anyone who loses a pet, or even a good neighbor who finds a lost pet, can use Petco Love Lost.” 

A screenshot of Petco Love Lost’s website.

To use Petco Love Lost, anyone can upload a picture of their lost pet or a pet they find to the website. The website then scans the database to see if there is a match with another photo, whether that’s from a neighbor in the community or a participating shelter, including LifeLine. 

According to Perez, more than 1,000 pets have been reunited with their families since the service went online in April. Hirsch said all of LifeLine’s shelter pets are automatically uploaded to Petco Love’s website. 

“We have focused a lot of our efforts on trying to reunite pets and trying to empower the communities to reunite pets with their owners,” Hirsch said.

Helping pet owners in need

Hirsch said LifeLine’s mission of keeping pets and families together will continue when the country’s eviction moratorium is lifted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first issued the moratorium in September of 2020 to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The moratorium was set to end on June 30, but has since been extended to July 31. 

For pet owners who might be evicted from their homes, Hirsch said LifeLine has a program they call “safety-net fostering” as a way to assist families who might not be able to take care of their pet while they take care of themselves. 

“If you have a temporary need – so you get kicked out of your place, or you’re living out of your car, or maybe in a friend’s basement, and they can’t have animals … instead of you having to give up your animals to a shelter, we will find temporary foster homes to take care of your animals until you’re back on your feet,” she said. 

LifeLine’s July 9-11 adoption event will allow people to adopt pets for a fee of $25. That includes the cost of spaying or neutering, microchips and vaccinations. 

Correction: a spokesperson previously stated LifeLine’s safety-net fostering program correlated with the eviction moratorium ending this summer. The safety-net program has actually been in effect since February. The article has been updated to reflect this.

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.