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Tag: app

NY council member calls for Wag probe

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Wag, an Uber-like app that pairs dogs with walkers, is getting more heat in New York, with city council members calling for an investigation into its dismal safety record.

Lawmakers and animal-rights advocates say Wag walkers have lost as least seven New York dogs since 2015 — four in the last two months.

“I have reached out to the Department of Consumer Affairs to investigate Wag immediately,” Councilman Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn), a former animal-welfare advocate. “I feel absolutely terrible for these animal lovers and what they’ve been through. Clearly, Wag’s vetting process is a joke. Maybe this kind of thing flies in West Hollywood but it doesn’t fly here in New York City.”

According to the New York Post, dogs who escaped from Wag walkers in February included an Upper East Side Chihuahua named Norman, who slipped out of his harness and is still missing, and a goldendoodle named Simba who darted from his walker and was hit by a car.

New York City requires dogsitters to be licensed, but there are no rules governing walkers.

“There aren’t any regulations and there should be,” said Manhattan animal-rights lawyer Susan Chana Lask. “You can’t be the ‘Uber for Dogs’ without some kind of licensing — we already know what happened with Uber.”

Wag says its walkers must pass a background check, complete a rigorous online dog-safety and dog-knowledge test and attend an in-person orientation.

The Post reported that their are rumblings among state lawmakers as well that Wag might be worthy of some scrutiny.

“There’s a good possibility we may need some extra regulations and guidelines,” said state Sen. James Tedisco, who represents Schenectady.

(Photo: Teddy, a dog that went temporarily missing while under the care of Wag in December 2017; Facebook)

When something as simple as feeding the dog requires technology, we’re in trouble

Because your dog is not going to tell you that he has already been fed, a California company is introducing a “smart scoop” that, via bluetooth technology and an app, will let you know if that daily deed has been done.

That’s right. A smart dog food scoop. What’s next? Smart spatulas? Smart doorstops? Don’t tell me if they already exist; I don’t want to know.

Leave it to 21st Century America to come up with fancy, complex, intrusive and expensive communication technology to get the most mundane of chores accomplished when much simpler ways exist, such as a hand-written note, or perhaps the spoken word.

YaDoggie delivers its brand of dog food and treats to your door, and it plans to make the smart scoop available this spring to those who sign up for subscription plans.

The company showed off the scoop at the CES tech show in Las Vegas Monday.

scoopCNET described how it works:

“The YaDoggie scoop will connect to an iOS app on your phone through a Bluetooth connection. A small light on the scoop will turn green if no one has picked up the scoop and connected with the app that day, which means you’re good to feed your dog. The light will turn red if the app has detected that someone has used the scoop. The app will also tell you who has fed the dog based on whose phone is closest to the scoop.”

Now I understand that, in an active, on-the-go modern American family, multiple family members might take it upon themselves to feed a dog not knowing he had already been fed. I understand that such mundane matters aren’t always communicated between family members.

I can understand that happening even when it’s just a couple sharing a home with a dog.

And I’ll admit that even those who live alone, such as me, might forget if they’ve already fed their dog on a particular day. (My solution is attaching a Post-it note to my forehead.)

In all seriousness, though, there truly are simpler, no-cost ways, to accomplish this.

I don’t think that multiple feedings alone are the main cause of overweight dogs, as the company’s promotional video (above) implies. Treats, lack of exercise and table scraps are all probably bigger factors.

On its website, the company says the “simple, elegant scoop,” when paired with the app, notifies everyone in the family that the dog has been fed. It also lets the company “figure out when you’re running low on food so we can make sure you never run out.”

At least it doesn’t keep tabs on how many times you are feeding yourself, or sneaking treats for yourself, in the kitchen — at least as far I know.

The company says the battery in the scoop will last at least “a year, if not more” so there is “no need to worry about charging or replacing batteries.” It doesn’t make clear whether you get a new scoop after a year, or a new battery, or have to spend hours reprogramming everything, but it says more information will be coming out before the device hits the market.

I don’t want one. I’m old school enough to suspected that the more “smart” devices we come to rely on, the more stupid we are going to get. And I’m already getting stupid enough. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m walking around with a Post-it note on my head — until the dog tells me.

Dog swiped (as in stolen) during Tinder date

tinderAn 18-year-old dog-sitter in New Jersey says the man she arranged a date with on Tinder stole the dog she was watching.

The woman was house-sitting a two-year-old Maltese when she invited the man over to a home in Leonia.

He showed up with another man.

As the dog-sitter and her date got acquainted, the other man wandered the home.

He gathered up the dog-sitter’s laptop, a package from Amazon and Maggie, a Maltese, police said.

Only after the two men left, on Sunday, did the 18-year-old realize that some items, and the family dog, had been taken from the home, according to the New York Post

Police have questioned at least one of the men. “We have had a limited conversation with him,” said Leonia police Capt. Scott Tamagny. “The investigation is still underway.”

According to ABC7, the dog was found at an animal shelter in Garfield, a town about 20 minutes away, after her photo was posted on a Facebook page for lost and found pets.

Maggie has been returned to her family.

(Photo: Leonia Police Department)

Rover.com gobbles up DogVacay

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The country’s largest online pet sitting and dog walking company has bought out the second largest.

Rover.com, based in Seattle, was already top dog, but by acquiring DogVacay, based in Los Angeles, it becomes one offering pet owners access to more than 100,000 “five-star” pet walkers, boarders and sitters across the country.

Together, the two companies generated over $150 million in bookings in 2016.

The combined company will keep the Rover name, and will remain based in Seattle, Geekwire.com reports.

Terms of the all-stock deal were not revealed.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 22 of DogVacay’s 100-plus employees will be laid off.

The combined company, which will have 250 employees, will be led by Rover.com CEO Aaron Easterly. DogVacay CEO Aaron Hirschhorn will join the board of directors

Both companies provide customers with access to independent pet-sitters and dog-walkers, and keep about 20 percent of the fees those contractors charge clients. Pet owners also pay a service fee of up to 7% with each booking.

“Rover and DogVacay are both made up of dog people on a mission to enable everyone to experience the love and joy of a pet,” Easterly said in a news release. “Together, we can accomplish our goals quicker and make an even bigger impact. Plus, this partnership will enable us to pick up engineering velocity, bring new products to market faster and invest even more aggressively in building the best tools for our sitters and dog walkers.”

Garmin takes heat for dog-zapping device

Garmin, a company that makes devices that tell us how to get from here to there, has unveiled its latest gadget aimed at “teaching” your dog good behavior — by shocking him when he misbehaves.

The Delta Smart is a small, smartphone-compatible gadget that fits over a dog’s collar, enabling an owner, through an app, to keep track of their dog’s activity levels, and how much barking they are doing while we’re away.

It’s not the first Garmin product for dogs, and not the first to include a shock feature — but it is the first to spark such widespread protest and an online petition asking the company to remove the feature.

The product promises to “reduce or eliminate unwanted behaviors” and make your dog a “more enjoyable member of the family.”

It gives dogs warnings by beeping, vibrating or by applying what the company likes to call “static” or “stimulation” — which is a nice way of saying a jolt of electricity.

deltasmartThere are 10 levels at which a dog can be zapped, either by an owner who is present, or remotely.

As the petition points out, it’s not the right way to train a dog:

“For example, a woman wants her dog Bowser to learn to not jump on the couch. Bowser trots into the family room, jumps up on the couch, and climbs into her daughter’s lap — at which point the electric shock hits him. She has now put her child in serious danger.

“Bowser will not associate the act of jumping up on the couch with the pain; he will associate her child with the pain and could very well become aggressive toward her.”

Like all the makers of shock collars, Garmin says the jolt does not hurt the dog.

“What is missing from this argument is the fact that aversive methods only work if they scare and/or hurt the dog. If the zap doesn’t bother the dog, then the dog will not learn. Electric shock collars do hurt and scare dogs. If they didn’t, no one would use them,” says the author of the petition, dog trainer and freelance writer Tracy Krulik.

barklimiter

Garmin’s Bark Limiter

We haven’t seen the CEO of the company try one out (but then again maybe he or she hasn’t misbehaved). To the company’s credit the new device has put some cushioning over the two metal probes that, in earlier versions, stuck into the dog’s neck.

The Delta Smart is basically a combination of a FitBit-like device and the company’s “Bark Limiter,” which has been on the market for a while.

In the ad above, various dogs are shown, each labeled for the kind of bad behavior they engaged in — barking too much at the mailman, shredding the blinds, stealing food off the kitchen counter, knocking over the trash can, chewing up the slippers.

The “dog activity trainer and remote monitor” can correct all those problems — even when you’re not home, the ad says.

It can monitor barking and activity levels while you’re away, and it comes with tags that can be placed on items and in areas you don’t want the dog near that activate warning tones when the dog approaches.

In other words, it is a control freak’s dream — and it’s only $150.

After the video was posted on Facebook, it had nearly 2,800 comments, most of them condemning the product as cruel, and the wrong way to train a dog, according to the Washington Post

On YouTube, the company has disabled public comments on the video — and if you try to leave one, you receive an electrical shock. (OK, we made that last part up.)

You’ve got to wonder, though, technology being what it is, if the day will come when we get shocked for making wrong turns or for not taking enough steps during the day, for failing to do our sit ups or eat our vegetables — and if someday, by a family vote, we can equip a bratty nephew or an annoying uncle with such a device.

For his own good, of course, and just to make him a “more enjoyable member of the family.”

Loaner dogs: There’s an app for that … but should there be?

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Once again, I’m app-rehensive.

Seems to me we’re turning to apps for just about everything these days — even to accomplish all the simple things that used to come naturally, in time, with a little effort.

Want all the ingredients to cook up a tasty dinner? Don’t go to the grocery store. Fire up an app and have them delivered. Want a ride from here to there, a date, a wife, a plumber, travel directions? Turn to an app.

Need an inspirational phrase or selection of scripture to get through your day? Need to know what the weather’s doing? Don’t open a Bible. Don’t step outside. Fire up an app.

There are, of course, plenty of apps you can use to buy or adopt a dog, or at least get pointed in the right direction. But now comes an app aimed at those who want a dog but can’t have one.

It matches up people who want to spend a limited time with a dog with dog owners who wouldn’t mind a little help — in other words, the app serves as a middle man, as apps often do, charging both sides, as apps often do.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m between dogs, and find myself seeking out a canine fix several times a week. I strongly believe that the joy of dogs should be spread among as many people as possible, and that it’s in a dog’s interest to hang out with as many new people in new situations as possible.

I’m all for those two groups — those with dogs and dog-less folks wanting to spend time with one — getting matched up, assuming all involved are sincere dog-loving sorts without evil agendas. But what’s to assure that?

All these start-up apps promise “screening” and “vetting,” but try to find one that actually describes what steps they take in that process, other than using a vague term like “background check.” You rarely, if ever, will.

My guess is that they all use a background check app for that.

So we end up with psycho Uber drivers, and getting matched up for dates with “millionaire bachelors” who are actually unemployed sex offenders, and plumbers who are only vaguely familiar with what a wrench does.

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Berkeley

Bark’N’Borrow is the brainchild of 24-year-old Liam Berkeley.

Berkeley says the app is meant for people who wish they could have a dog, but can’t care for one full-time. It connects them with dog-owners who are willing or wanting to loan them their dog for playdates and sleepovers.

The app also caters to dog owners who are interested in trading dog sitting responsibilities with each other, thereby avoiding hiring a dog sitter or relying on a kennel.

The app had 70,000 users even before it debuted its 2.0 version on Friday, National Dog Day, according to Forbes.com. The new version includes a paid subscription model — users pay $7.99 for one month or $4.99 a month if they sign up for three months.

“Dog sharing connects you with people and puts your dog in a happier place,” Berkeley said. “There’s more love to be shared.”

With the app, dog owners can browse potential borrowers, and borrowers can flip through borrow-able dogs, seeing where they are located, their breed, size, personality, breed and training level.

On the plus side, Bark’N’Borrow is donating 5% of all subscription fees to the Best Friends Animal Society.

It also says it is insuring every subscriber — both dog owner and dog borrower — for accidents up to $2 million, just to be on the safe side. (That insurance only applies to dog dates that are scheduled on the app’s platform.)

Berkeley points out that dog owners hire dog walkers they don’t know all the time. “Your dog sitter and dog walker are a stranger until they become your dog sitter or dog walker,” he said. “We do a very good job of vetting each individual. We try to create the safest, most responsible community possible.”

The website does not describe what’s involved in that “vetting.”

Berkeley, originally from Sydney, moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment and launched the site in 2014. He said he came up with the app idea when he and his then-girlfriend wanted to adopt a dog but knew they couldn’t look after one with their busy schedules.

Instead, they played with neighbors’ dogs, which helped Berkeley realized many people — those with dogs and those without them — would like an arrangement like that.

It is a wonderful thing, when it happens naturally.

To coax it into place by remote control, and on a nationwide scale, strikes me as problematic — just like those dog rental companies that popped up a few years ago and, thankfully, went away.

For a non-dog owner seeking some dog time, there might be better ways:

Go for walks and see who you run into. Strike up conversations (an exchange of words that occurs verbally and face to face, without the use of a device). Volunteer at your local shelter or with a rescue group. Go to a dog park, even though you don’t have a dog. (It’s allowed.) Attend dog-related functions.

For dog owners, good old-fashioned friends are probably a preferable, and less pimp-like, alternative, to turning your dog’s leash over to a stranger and saying “OK, have fun, see ya in a few hours.”

I won’t go so far as to say one should never use this app.

I’d just say use it carefully, as you might use Craigslist. If you do meet with a listed dog borrower (or even an owner), do it in public, with a friend along. And don’t rely on your first impression, or all that vetting the app promises.

In other words, do like they did in the old days and get to know that person first.

Before you turn your dog over to a stranger, make sure he or she is not a stranger anymore.

(Photos: Barn’N’Borrow)

That dog poop app was a bunch of crapp

pooper-ui-device3Pooper, that new app that promised to send a human to scoop up your dog’s poop on demand — Uber-style — was, as we suspected, a bunch of crap.

Its originators have now confessed — to Newsweek and others — that it was a hoax, or, to put it nicely, “an art project that satirizes our app-obsessed world.”

While a good many media outlets presented the story with at least a little skepticism — skepticism being easier than getting to the bottom of the story — more than a few fell for it hook, line and sinker.

After its initial announcement, Pooper garnered media attention from around the world.

Even the Washington Post treated it as (mostly) legit.

“We’ve gotten hundreds of sign-ups,” Ben Becker told Newseek. Becker came up with a hoax with a friend, Elliot Glass. “People have been signing up to be both poopers and scoopers.”

Newsweek reported:

Becker, a creative director in the advertising world, and Glass, a designer and web developer in Los Angeles, hatched the idea this past winter during a discussion about navel-gazing startup culture.

“We wanted to begin a project that reflected the state of technology—specifically apps,” says Becker in a phone interview. “Taking the visual signifiers and language and the entire world and inhabiting it, inserting an absurd purpose for it. In this case, that would be dog poop.”

Throughout the spring, Becker and Glass spent weekends and late nights plotting “Pooper,” an inane but otherwise believable app that parodies Silicon Valley’s brand of innovation: It purports to solve a problem that doesn’t exist unless you are very rich and lazy.

Whether you see it as a satirical art project, social experiment, or scam, the whole thing did show how gullible we, as a species, are; how increasingly gullible (and lazy) much of the news media has become; and how all is not peachy with our economy.

It’s not like 99 percent of us signed up to clean up after the one percent’s dogs, but a lot more signed up to be scoopers than did those thinking they might want to use the service.

Becker and Glass used Uber as a model for the app and website, issued a press release and put together a demo video. They claimed the project was in the beta testing phase in a few major cities.

News organizations couldn’t resist the story.

As Newsweek reported, some publications “wrote about Pooper in a skeptical, this-is-maybe-fake-but-we’re-going-to-write-about-it-anyway voice, which is increasingly how bloggers write up hoaxy stories as a way of scooping up traffic without touching shit.”

(We’d agree, and that’s what we did. Then again, there’s not too many dog poop stories we ignore, and it was one of my websites that, tongue in cheek, promoted the idea of dog poop valets years ago.)

Ludicrous as it may sound, it, and the phony Pooper app, are not entirely outlandish ideas. There are some aging and afflicted folks who might need help with the task. And — apologies to all my very close professional dog walker friends — but is having one walk and clean up after one’s dog really that different?

Becker and Glass told Newsweek they are at work on other undisclosed schemes — even though they’ve already proven that their high tech hijinks are not to be trusted.

That’s kind of their point.

“We’d like people to question what they’re reading in the news, question what they’re looking at online and question what their own relationship is to technology,” Becker said.