In this digital age, online photos and profiles of adoptable dogs play an important role connecting dog-seeking humans with pups who need a home. For some animals, a flat photograph is all it takes for potential adopters to fall in love, but others need a more interactive way to showcase their three-dimensional personalities. Fortunately for shelter pets, the tech startup PetCube is using its interactive video device to help shelters get their dogs seen online. The free PetCube app allows potential adopters to play with pups without even setting foot in the shelter.
“It’s been a long time since we were dreaming about it, and just a few months ago we started this Petcube for Shelters program,” explains Yaroslav Azhnyuk, co-founder and CEO of PetCube.
PetCube launched on Kickstarter in 2013 with a goal of producing the PetCube Camera, a high-tech box that lets humans use a smartphone to watch, talk to, and play laser games with animals they’ve left at home. The PetCube quickly became a crowdfunding success story, with backers receiving their PetCubes last December. The device (which retails for around $199) is now available at PetCube.com and through some North American retailers, including Brookstone, DataVision, B&H Photo Video, Amazon, and BestBuy Canada.
“Having your pet connected to the Internet means you can talk to your pet anytime, you can share your pet with anyone easily, and you can also have and benefit from aggregate data about how different pets behave,” explains Azhnyuk.
Although the PetCube was developed primarily as a commercial product designed to appeal to pet parents who want to check up on their pups during the workday, Azhnyuk says the team always knew the device would one day have great potential to help nonprofit animal organizations.
“We were actually designing this device while keeping in our minds that it would be the perfect thing for pet shelters to be able to showcase all the pets,” says Azhnyuk, who adds that shelter animals also benefit from the extra communication with humans, who can speak to or play laser games with the dogs and cats (depending on the shelter’s privacy settings).
“Connecting with shelters isn’t just for those who own the PetCube Camera,” says Azhnyuk. “Anyone can download the Petcube app for free. It’s like a community of pet lovers.”
The PetCube for Shelters program began when the company reached out to animal shelters to see if the organizations would be interested in having a PetCube camera on site, to allow users of the app see and play with adoptable animals.
“They were pretty excited,” says Azhnyuk of the response from shelters. “Lots of them are in the Bay Area, but we also contacted shelters all over the U.S.”
The PetCube for Shelters program started with 20 participating organizations, but more shelters have signed up since the program launched in the summer of 2015, and now more than 30 shelters are allowing their adoptable animals to show off their adorable antics online. According to the PetCube CEO, there’s still plenty of room for more shelters to get onboard.
“We would love new shelters to connect. Whenever there’s a new shelter we’re happy,” says Azhnyuk, who hopes shelters might be able to turn their livestreams into revenue streams eventually.
“Maybe one day they’ll be able to use it to collect more donations,” he says. “At this moment we’re just encouraging them to explore this opportunity with PetCube to get exposed to more potential adopters.”
Azhnyuk says he would encourage anyone who loves pets to download the app, even if they’re not in a position to adopt right now. He says his busy work life means he can’t commit to an animal right now, but can still enjoy interacting with them online — which can help keep shelter pets fit as they chase the PetCube laser.
“I’m rarely at home, and I just felt it would be irresponsible of me at this stage in my life, but I enjoy playing with all these publicly shared pets through PetCube,” he says. “It’s entertaining; for me it’s a stress relieving thing.”
The PetCube for Shelters program is also relieving stress for the shelter workers, who can now check on their charges from anywhere in the world. It’s also busting boredom for shelter pets, who can enjoy virtual visits with casual playmates and potential adopters alike. It’s not yet known how many adoptions have been the direct result of the PetCube for Shelters program, but the folks behind the technology continue to monitor the results, and they predict good things for whole PetCube community.
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.