Having fostered 54 felines, a handful of dogs and even a few ducklings in the past five years, Megan Denize could easily be pigeonholed as a crazy cat lady. But this animal lover is also a big picture thinker, and this week, she launches Inspector Spot, a comprehensive service for pet owners especially tailored to help reunited them with lost animals.
Users who sign up to Inspector Spot register their pets to the database, including microchip and registration details, contact information, and photos. And as long as times are good, they'll receive goodies like birthday cards and email reminders when checkups or treatments are due.
But should said pet do a runner, the service swings into action: once alerted to a missing creature, it will generate and send the owner a personalised 'lost' poster and flyer with photo and contact details for distribution; an e-guide with tips on where and how to look for that particular type of pet; and will send out a geo-coded alert via social media to vets, rescue organisations, pet stores, breeders, and other contacts in the area.
Denize, who was bemused by the fact that there didn't seem to be any good solution out there for finding lost animals in the tech age, says the lost pet guides are tailored to each species based on how animals are inclined to behave.
"Certain pets tend to get found within a particular geographic radius of where they disappeared from. Pets don't typically walk in a straight line ... they tend to roam around in circles."
The database is searched daily to see if any matches have been reported (Spot also works in reverse, so users can list 'found' animals), and lost pets also have the chance to be featured in media campaigns. In short, it's designed to help get the word out as much as possible in order to increase the chances of return.
For this, users will shell out an annual registration of $20. The lost pet service is also available to non-users, but at a cost of $95.
Half of the registration fees will be donated to rescue organisations through the Inspector Spot charitable trust, and the public will soon get an opportunity to have input into how those funds are spent. Denize, who volunteers at multiple animal rescues, says most rely on the likes of sausage sizzles and raffles to keep afloat.
Inspector Spot was built by BKA interactive, which started the development process last year. Denize says there was a lot of complexity involved, such as working through the electronic animal matching (is this the same fluffy white cat, or a completely different white cat?) and the lost animal alerts, especially on Facebook.
"Facebook is a platform that changes constantly," she says. "And that's fine, because we've got an amazing platform that we can use essentially for free."
Do we care enough about lost pets?
Denize thinks the uproar that Gareth Morgan's anti-kitty campaign was met with demonstrates how much New Zealanders love animals.
"We've got the highest rate of pet ownership anywhere in the world," she says, at about two-thirds, and about one in three pets expected to go missing and never find their way home.
The amount of love and money we're willing to lavish on our pets is "phenomenal", and the business opportunity is highly scalable.
"What we do here we can do anywhere else in the world," she says – from London to Manhattan and beyond.
She says as people are marrying and settling down later, they're also increasingly keeping "pedigree pets", so as well as families, females aged 25-40 are a key target market.