It could be a dog trotting along a highway, a squirrel stuck in your chimney, or a raccoon that got its head trapped in a tin can. You want to help but don't know what to do. App to the rescue?
Animal Help Now, an online and mobile app, launched in Texas in March. It has a comprehensive list of whom you should contact when you have an animal emergency. That includes everything from veterinarians to rescue groups to wildlife rehabilitation groups. The program can also be used as a networking tool for vets or rescue groups to find peers in other parts of the state.
Animal Help Now is a project of Animal Watch, a nonprofit group that was formed in Boulder, Colorado, in 2009 by a group of animal and environmental advocates who were concerned about the animal situation in Colorado. They created the first database in their home state as a tool for Coloradans who wanted to help animals in distress.
AHN was used in 2012 to help rescue Missy, a German shepherd whose plight made national news when she was left for dead by her owner on a Colorado mountaintop.
Texas is the second market for Animal Help Now, says executive director Dave Crawford.
"We came to Texas with the help of the Summerlee Foundation, a Texas-based organization dedicated to animal protection that expressed an interest in our work, and in helping us expand regionally," says Crawford. "With their particular interest in Texas, it seemed like a reasonable move to focus our energy there and knock out what we thought would be the toughest state in the country."
Texas is tough because it's such a large territory geographically and because animals are a complicated hot button here. On the positive side, we have activities like the recent creation of the Dallas Companion Animal project, whose goal is to network rescue organizations in Dallas.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have ridiculous initiatives like HB 629, a law currently under consideration that would allow roadside zoos and exotic animal "collectors" to acquire animals without having to register their acquisitions.
The Texas app represents 2,500 hours of time and energy, from the development of the program itself to the collection of information about animal organizations across the state.
"It was a big job," Crawford says. "It was five months of collecting data about rescue groups, veterinarians in every town. We had a team of seven researchers who did the work."
The app provides resources on any animal issue, he says. "Wildlife or domestic, day or night — we built it to handle any foreseeable emergency," he says. "It's time and location sensitive. If you need a vet or a wildlife rehabber, an animal shelter or a law enforcement, you’re going to get it."
Texas today, tomorrow the world, says Crawford, who intends to expand it across the country.
"It's been near and dear to my heart for decades," he says. "I've been in the situation where I saw an animal in distress several times, where I needed help and haven’t known where to turn."