Music players, reflective collars, a rescue app: Tech is your pets’ best friend
Animal lovers and activists are using technology to make animals’ lives easier in small but significant ways.Updated: Nov 12, 2017 08:43 IST
Pumpkin the puppy loves pan pipes. There’s a yoyo-sized woofer that hangs from his collar, and plays tunes designed especially for dogs like him.
The tunes have helped him get through Diwali without whimpering and hiding under the furniture.
“I introduced him to the woofer in September,” says Maneesha Yadav, 28, a marketing executive in Mumbai. “I heard that an NGO was distributing the gadgets, so I borrowed one. It worked so well I now plan to buy it.”
The Animals Matter To Me gadget is just one of the ways in which technology is coming to the rescue of canines, pet and stray.
The woofer (with seven minutes of instrumental music available free online) helps calm ruffled nerves during a storm or festival; reflective collars are keeping animals from being hit by traffic at night; there’s even a new app that helps connect animal lovers with NGOs, vets, clinics — and blood donors.
The initiatives have used technology as their base, and to raise funds and rope in talent.
AMTM founder Ganesh Nayak, for instance, teamed up with digital marketing agency Tonic Worldwide to create the woofer.
“When everyone else was busy making merry during Diwali, I was always worried about my dogs,” he says.
He reached out to Pratik Hatankar, head of innovation and new initiatives at Tonic Worldwide. “Instead of posting on social media, we decided to do something about it,” Hatankar says.
Their innovation team came up with the idea of the woofer and tied up with musician Siddharth Basrur, who tested different kinds of instrumental music on 150 dogs at the AMTM rehab centre for stray animals and birds — a mix of bamboo, flute, water and pan pipes turned out to be most effective.
“The response has been encouraging,” says Nayak. “We’ve already got more than 1,200 inquiries from cities across India, and from the US, Hong Kong and Singapore.”
The collar costs Rs 2,500 but the free music can be played off a regular speaker too.
AMTM has since reengineered the gadget to add GPS tracking to reduce the chances of a pet getting lost in the melee of processions or firecrackers.
LET IT WAG
Across Mumbai and Delhi, meanwhile, a two-month-old app called Let It Wag is helping connect animal lovers with vets, ambulance services and even blood donors for pets.
Mumbai techie Yash Sheth, 26, used a crowdfunding campaign to raise Rs 20,000 so he could set up the app.
It’s already helped in four adoption cases across Mumbai and Delhi, and 10 cases of connecting stray animals with vets.
“I’ve used it twice,” says Kunal Das, 24, a social media account manager. “Once to get help for a stray dog who had a big wound infested with maggots, and once for a dog who was suffering from a skin disease. I posted both problems on the app and was given the numbers of nearby NGOs, who came and picked up both dogs. No more googling and calling and wondering. Let It Wag made it easy.”
It’s exactly for such cases that Seth set up the app. “I saw a neighbourhood dog get hit by a car, while I was standing in my balcony,” he says. “It was left with a broken leg. The animal was in pain, and the ambulance I called was exorbitant and took hours to arrive. I just didn’t have enough information, so I decided to set up an app where animal lovers can help each other in times of distress.”
IN A FLASH
A spell of cases where dogs were run over at night in Pune prompted Shantanu Naidu and Mrinmayi Dalvi to set up Motopaws in 2014, to create a collar coated with reflective fabric so dogs are more visible to motorists. The collar is now worn by dogs across 14 cities in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
The team of volunteers has since grown to 210 across the country.
“We knew that in order to save the dogs’ lives we had to make them visible from a good distance,” says Shatanu Naidu, 25, an MBA student and Motopaws co-founder. “After a couple of prototypes, we came up with a durable design that combines denim with US-made reflective material visible from up to 450 feet.”
The youngsters decided on denim because it’s tough, and easy to find — every home has some to give away, says Naidu.
The scaling up came with help from the Tata Group — Naidu was a design engineer at Tata Elxsi.
They have also tied up with the Pune municipal corporation, which now puts the reflective collars on strays after they are sterilised.
Motopaws Kolkata lead Reshmi Sen Sharma, 31, an animal activist and veterinary student, is now working on an app that will track the collared strays in real time, recording their location, vaccination status, health parameters, birthmarks etc.
“I think technology is the hero here,” Naidu says. “At a time when sensitivity to the plight of animals is slowly growing, technology is paving the way for innovation.”