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The Humane Society of Warren County is taking a new approach to reuniting pets with their owners and smart phones are the key.

When stray animals are brought to the shelter, staff and county animal control officers do their best to get them home. 

“If they come in and they are micro-chipped or wearing tags or a collar or some type of identification, we will attempt to find the owner and reunite them,” said shelter manager Kayla Wines.

She says social media has made it easier, but one in five stray animals at their shelter never make it home. 

“We hold that animal for ten days,” Wines said. “After that ten days, we will vaccinate that animal and put them up for adoption.”

But with new technology, Wines and Warren County Sheriff’s Deputy Laura Gomez think they have a more efficient way to return lost pets before they even make it to the humane society.

The key, Gomez says, is a QR code.

While many people may get their pet micro-chipped, Gomez says the chips aren’t  the information isn’t up to date. With so many micro-chip companies out there, searching for an owner that hasn’t even fully registered their animal’s micro-chip can waste valuable time.

On top of that, micro-chips require a specialized scanner to be read. Although animal control officers, shelter staff, and veterinarians may have access to those scanners, the average person does not. 

Even with the county’s older issue dog tags, deputies have to check the license against a registry kept by the county treasurer, which can take days. By law, all dogs in Warren County are required to be licensed, making the registry a necessity.

In order to streamline the return process, the county and shelter are switching to tags made by Pethub, a Washington-based company that produces pet tags with a unique QR code, which can be scanned by anyone.

“Anyone who has a smartphone, if they have a bar code scanner, can basically scan this information here with their phone,” said Gomez. “It will go to a pet’s profile on their phone. The person that found your dog could email the owner and say, ‘Hey, I found your dog. This is where we’re at.'”

According to Pethub’s website, one in three pets will go missing at some point in their life, and the return rate for dogs is less than 20 percent. 

Although the humane society’s return rate is higher, Wines hopes that the new tags will simplify the process and ensure every lost dog makes it home.

“I’m very excited for the new tag,” she said. “I think it’s much more people-friendly, easier to use, easier to reunite the animals, and quicker than what we could before.”

The tags will go on sale November 1 and will be available for purchase at the humane society’s rabies vaccine clinic on November 3. The tags cost $7 if an animal is spayed or neutered, or $10 if the animal is not.