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2010-07-14 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

No matter how wonderful a shelter dog or cat is, Lady Luck plays a part in whether or not the pet finds a loving home. Since many shelters, especially municipal facilities, are constantly filled to the rafters, any dog or cat can get upstaged or lost in the crowd. Even when enough visitors come to adopt, a pup or kitty may still be overlooked unless the right person notices him at the right time. However, adoption odds are about to improve with AnimalRoulette.com, a new video spin on showcasing homeless animals.

This Saturday, July 17 from 1 pm to 4 pm, Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton will be teaming up with Petwebdesigner.com (a Long Island pet website design firm) to debut AnimalRoulette.com for the first ever real-time video/audio online feed of pets for adoption. The goal of the partnership is to offer the entire Tri-state area of potential pet adopters an interactive way to see available dogs and cats from the comfort of home. Think of the experience as a live Meet n’ Greet on your computer screen.

AnimalRoulette.com is the brainchild of Michael Ayalon of East Meadow, CEO of Petwebdesigner. com. Ayalon created this revolutionary approach to broaden the reach of shelters beyond their local communities. The process also lets potential owners preview possible pets in action which is a huge determining factor when deciding if a pet will fit into a family. Because of the audio component, an adopter will be able to ask staff and volunteers questions about the selected pets, while shelters will get some preliminary feedback about whether the person inquiring is a suitable applicant for this particular pet.

Here is how Animal Roulette works. Viewers at home need a web cam, plus an audio hook up, if they want to speak. This weekend Kent (www.kentanimalshelter. com) will be the first shelter to participate. The dogs chosen for the video feed premiere will be taken out of the noisy kennel and put into a quiet room, similar to the way folks get to spend one on one time at shelters. People looking to adopt can log onto animalroulette.com, and choose one of the featured pets to watch. There is a “next” arrow to forward selections and a live video chat room where one person at a time can ask questions. Once Animal Roulette becomes a regular feature, designated times will be posted on Kent’s home page.

Let’s back track a moment. In 1996, Petfinder. com changed the way America looked for pets. The dog or cat of your dreams was just a click away. You can still fine tune your Petfinder search by breed, gender or zip code. Most shelters and rescue groups have a Petfinder site which includes photos and descriptions. Some add short videos but the feed isn’t live. Presently Petfinder is responsible for finding homes for over two million pets each year.

Petfinder is a Godsend, or should I say, “Dogsend?” I have seen many people show up at the Babylon Shelter just because of a Petfinder photo, often because the dog/cat reminds them of a beloved pet now gone. One favorite Cinderella story is the cardiologist who adopted a Husky mix that had been rescued in a cemetery near the shelter. This black Husky resembled the doctor’s dog who had recently died. Some Petfinder customers travel a distance. Now Animal Roulette can expand on Petfinder possibilities by adding a virtual introduction. The static dog or cat in the photo comes alive before the possible new owners even get into their car. The ultimate rescue objective is a forever home. By giving a glimpse at temperament, Animal Roulette can help cement that permanence.

Ayalon got interested in shelter adoptions in the 1990s while in college upstate after adopting an overlooked Pit Bull named “Soco” from a local shelter. Despite the stigma her breed too often endures, Soco turned out to be the sweetest dog and a best pal to everyone. He knew many dogs like her weren’t as fortunate. From the start of his pet web company in 2003, Ayalon has focused on ways to improve the adoption process. Meanwhile the Pit glut in shelters has worsened since the time Ayalon adopted Soco. Each Pit competes with scores of clones for limited homes waiting. Animal Roulette can individualize poor Pits and others languishing at shelters by allowing each pet time under the spotlight.

Last month, America got a preview of this unique concept when ABC news featured Animal Roulette. After the broadcast, the ASPCA proclaimed Michael Ayalon their Animal Hero of the week. You can see the ABC news clip on Kent’s website. Marley, the yellow Lab shown, was adopted shortly after his TV appearance. Kent Shelter director, Pamela Green said the online experience is similar to a “pet test drive.” True, give technology and compassionate innovators like Michael Ayalon a little more time, and we will be reaching into our computer monitors to pet our future best friends. Don’t forget to log on this Saturday to witness Internet adoption history.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon….. where, alas, there is no Animal Roulette yet….please stop by to see the cuddly crew. “Webster”# 93421 is a unique puppy. He looks like a brindle Pit on a Basset frame. “Garfield” # 20320 is one of three declawed cats. He is a semilonghair who loves people but would prefer not to be around dogs. Garfield’s adoption fee is a bargain $5.

Male: Bradley the Beagle; Casper the Weimaraner, Rocky the Pit.

Females: “Cali & Cassie” #20271/72 twin tabby sisters with a splash of auburn; “Heather” #92855; “Jinni” #93155 carries her bowl; “Victoria” #93399-loving Cocker Spaniel.

Reminder: Please attend the public hearing on Tuesday, July 20 at 7:30 pm (Village Hall 1 College Place) to protest Rockville Centre’s illegal Pit and Rottweiler breed ban. We need hundreds of dog lovers to speak up so this ordinance goes away forever. See “Pets” Beacon online: June 24, 2010.

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