Long after animal shelters closed for the night, the social media website Nextdoor helped reunite pet owners in the Sacramento area with dogs that ran away during the fireworks noise of July 4.
Christopher Yang was visiting family in the Land Park neighborhood for the holiday when his black German shepherd, Yuna, pushed the back gate open and ran away.
“I started running up and down the street barefoot screaming her name and squeaking her ball,” he said. “I probably gave my phone number to 60 to 70 people, and spent three or four hours running around looking for her, and that yielded no results.”
A neighbor then suggested Nextdoor, a social networking platform for residents to share information about their neighborhoods. Yang’s brother-in-law downloaded it. Within 15 minutes Yuna had been found. The people who found her running down a busy street had posted a message on the social networking platform, along with her picture.
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Pictures of pets – those lost and those found – regularly populate the Nextdoor website, where residents of specific neighborhoods can communicate with each other and people in surrounding neighborhoods.
On average, Nextdoor posts about lost pets increase 60 percent during the Fourth of July week, according to Jen Burke, senior communication manager for the San Francisco company.
Local animal shelters, such as Front Street Animal shelter, are using Nextdoor regularly too.
Front Street is at its busiest around July Fourth, said Gina Knepp, manager of the shelter. “As soon as they start selling those stinkin’ fireworks, the uptick begins.”
The shelter has 312 animals, and that’s at least 50 to 60 more than comfortable, Knepp said.
To help more owners reunite with their pets, Front Street started using Nextdoor in May. Their Sacramento Missing Animal Response Team (SMART) posts pictures of stray dogs on the social network in the neighborhood where the animal was found. Since the shelter started using the service, they’ve reunited an additional 50 dogs with their owners. Knepp said she attributes the increase to their use of Nextdoor.
Staff at the shelter monitor lost pet posts on Craigslist and Facebook too. The Sacramento Lost and Found Pets page, for example, has had more than 50 dogs posted in the last week, according to Patty Blakeley, an administrator for the page.
To increase the likelihood of finding your pet, Knepp said she encourages people to microchip their pets. A chip costs $5 and an ID tag is free at Front Street.
If an animal comes in and it’s chipped, the shelter will hold it for 10 days before putting it up for adoption. Without a chip, the animal is held for three days.
“If you lose your pet, don’t delay,” Knepp said. “You need to keep coming back.”
Pet owners can check the lost and found pages in the lobby of the Front Street Animal Shelter to see if someone has found their pet and is holding it until the owner claims it. They can also check the Sacramento County Shelter on Bradshaw Road, Sacramento SPCA on Florin Perkins Street, Happy Tails on Folsom Boulevard and Nextdoor in their neighborhood.
Amy McMullan regularly scans Nextdoor looking for lost dogs in her neighborhood. She said she has returned at least seven dogs to their owners in the past year. “It’s been a really great tool,” she said. “There’s been a much greater success rate of returning dogs since Nextdoor came along.”
Molly Sullivan: 916-321-1176, @SullivanMollyM