By Karen Feldman
Fort Myers News-Press
It's not quite the equivalent of putting missing children's faces on milk cartons, but a new national program aims to quickly reunite lost dogs with their owners.
Called simply 1800LostDog.com, the nationwide program uses a bone-shaped ID tag, a round-the-clock call center and the Internet to get wayward dogs home as fast as possible.
It's the brainchild of Steve Sapp of Fort Myers, Fla., who has a very personal reason for starting the venture.
At age 13, he returned home from a trip and raced from the car to see his dog Shadow. The neighbors who had been caring for her said the cocker-poodle mix had gotten loose.
"I looked for my dog for a year," he says. He never found her. Thirty years later, he can still recall the devastation.
It was the motivating force behind the new program he's created with business partner Carlos Corredoira.
Sapp hopes that 1800LostDog.com will prevent countless other dog lovers from suffering that loss and despair.
The system works like this:
The owner registers the dog online at www.1800lostdog.com, including contact information, details about the pet and photos. The fee is $15 per dog.
The company sends out a tag with the toll-free number and an ID number the pet wears on its collar.
If the dog gets lost, the owner calls the 800 number or reports it online.
Meanwhile, anyone who finds the dog can see the tag and phone the call center, which contacts the owner, who can then phone the finder and retrieve the pet.
You don't have to be a member to post a lost or found dog online but only registered pets get a tag and the call center service.
Beverly Zdrojewski, of Middleport, N.Y., has proof the program works.
Late last year, she registered her 3-month-old black Labrador, Angel, but not her 14-year-old yellow Lab, Tanner.
On Dec. 20, she left the pair in the yard for a minute while she went inside to get their food. When she came back, they were gone.
She and her husband searched the woods, then drove around the area, but couldn't find either dog.
When they returned from church the next morning, there was a message on their answering machine from the 1800LostDog call center telling them the puppy had been found.
"If it was not for this service and having this (tag) ... the puppy would have been lost or stolen or just taken in by somebody else," she writes in an e-mail.
When they got home from picking up Angel, they found Tanner had returned, too.
Needless to say, they've since registered him, too.
Sapp's program isn't meant to replace microchip IDs now commonly implanted in adopted pets, but, he says, the chips don't always work. Many people fail to register the animal after having the chip implanted so there's no way to trace the owner. And the person who finds the animal may not have access to a scanner.
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