New app helps dog owners find their lost pets

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DENVER -- If you've ever lost your dog, you know the feeling.  That sinking feeling as you roam the neighborhood trying to find Rover!  It's like losing a member of your family.  John Polimeno has been there.

“Our beloved Harley got lost.  Driving around town with my kids crying in the back seat, putting up posters, knocking on doors.  Devastated!” explained Polimeno.

Luckily for Polimeno, he found Harley but he never forgot that feeling.  He decided there had to be a better way to connect lost pets with their owners.  That's why he created a new app called Finding Rover.  It was released for the iPhone in July and seems to be taking off with over 20,000 registrations and seven lost dogs reunited with their owners.

"The primary goal is to create a community of people who look after each others' pets," said Polimeno.

At first he said he was turned away by various groups because they said using facial recognition technology on a dog would be too difficult.  Finally, a team of researchers at the University of Utah agreed to take on the project.  The result is an app that he says has 98 percent accuracy.

Polimeno showed us how the app works on one of the dogs at the Dumb Friends League dog shelter in Denver.

If you find a lost dog you simply use the app to take a picture of the dog.  There is even a button in the camera app that creates a dog barking sound to help you get the lost dog to look at the camera.

You'd be surprised how well that actually works. Once the picture of the dog is snapped you place three points on the dog's face.  One on each eye and one on the dog's nose.  This helps the facial recognition algorithm map out the dog's features.  Then, it will search the database and let you know if there are any matches.

"Even an officer that picks up a dog in the field can take a picture with their phone and instantly identify an animal," added Polimeno.

You can add any existing dog to the database right now just in case it gets lost in the future.  If you lose your dog and didn't register it, you can use a photo to add it to the lost dog database.

Polimeno says he plans to keep the app free and would like to see a big corporation invest in the company.  He hopes this is the missing tool that finally helps cut down the number of missing dogs that never get reunited with their owner.

Chris Gallegos, spokesman for the Dumb Friends League shelter, said there are many tools being used to find lost pets and thinks this could provide an extra set of digital eyes.

"Checking out apps like this or other technologies like this is always beneficial because our number one goal is really to get the animal back into their original homes," said Gallegos.

Check out Kirk demonstrating the app on Good Day Colorado with John Polimeno:

Finding Rover is available for iPhone right now:

An Android version is in the works and will be released in the next few months.

More information at