FORT WAYNE – Used laptops installed in Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control vehicles allow officers to return lost pets to their owners’ homes sooner than if they take them to the shelter, officials say.
The program, dubbed Home Again, uses old computers from the Fort Wayne Police Department and puts them in the animal control vans.
Animal control officers now have pet owners’ information at their fingertips, allowing officers to take lost pets directly home. Pet owners still will have to pay $10 for the first time a pet is returned, $30 the second time and $75 the third time.
Previously, animals were often taken to Animal Care & Control’s shelter on Hillegas Road where they were fed and housed until owners picked them up.
It really gets an animal home within minutes, said Randy Thornton, Animal Care & Control enforcement division supervisor. It saves time, money, energy, resources and fuel.
The 11 laptop computers have been in use since August and have allowed officers to return 66 pets directly to their owners. The number of direct returns is up from 26 over that same time last year.
Taking lost pets home instead of housing them at the shelter saves on the department’s limited space and resources.
The volume that we take into this building is already overwhelming, said Belinda Lewis, director of Animal Care & Control.
Police Chief Rusty York said animal control officers help his officers daily during investigations.
The computers will allow a more rapid response for officers responding from both departments.
Having the officers seeing immediately where they’re being dispatched, is beneficial, he said.
For example, York said, if people are down and injured in their homes, emergency responders may not be able to get to them if there are unruly pets in the homes.
Animal control officers will be able to see on their screens where police are and get there before a dispatcher has to call them, York and animal control officials said.
Lewis said it’s important that pet owners keep their pet registration updated with the city. She also said pet owners who have microchips inserted in their animals should remember to keep that information up-to-date.
Pet owners who live outside the city, but within Allen County, can benefit from the program as long as animal care has updated pet registration info, Lewis said.
Any cat or dog in the city must be registered by the time it is 5 months old, according to city ordinance. Registration costs $5 per year per pet if an animal is spayed or neutered or $100 if it is not. A lifetime registration is $30 if animals are spayed or neutered.
Another perk, Lewis said, is that animal control officers can now take injured pets that have identification directly to their veterinarian.
Other benefits provided by the installation of laptops include animal control officers being able to write their reports while in the field, rather than waiting until they return to the office.