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This App Could Help Animal Shelters Stay Empty

May 03, 2015 05:32 PM EDT

Animal shelters are no-doubt good things, especially since they give stray and starving animals a temporary home. However, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, about 2.7 million animals are still euthanized at US shelters each year. Now a team of student programmers hope to change all that with a new app.

The app is called Pttr and it sets out to make matching a loving family with the ideal shelter pet easier than ever.

You can think of Pttr a lot like a dating site or even shopping online for a used car. Through, the app, shelters can upload and update profiles of all the animals that they currently house. Families looking to adopt a pet can then scroll through lists compiled using certain preferences, including animal type and how close a shelter is. Users can then choose to "like" an animal, adding it to a personal list of cats and dogs that they can later physically visit before making a final decision. Users can even go through the adoption paperwork using Pttr if they don't feel like waiting.

Freshman computer science major Kennet Postigo, at Florida International University (FIU), explained that the aim is to help increase the likelihood that someone looking to adopt a stray will quickly and easily find what they are looking for at a shelter. Shelters can likewise keep track of which animals are getting the most "likes" or if other nearby shelters have open space. This can be invaluable information when making the tough decision on who or when to euthanize.

Postigo, who used to volunteer cleaning cages at a shelter, knows all too well the fate that faces many animals in these overcrowded environments.

"Being there and seeing how quickly dogs get put down - every so often new dogs get put in different cages - you start to notice how quick it goes," he said in a recent release.

That's why Postio and his colleagues decided to improve shelters' situations, so they find themselves making hard decisions less often. (Scroll to read on...)

"We want to create a unified hub not only for the local community, but nationally, for animal shelters and animals lovers to communicate and all be on the same level technologically," added FIU sophomore Joel Greenup, who reached out to local shelters about the app.

What's most stunning about this novel idea is that the app was created in only 48 hours as part of the Smart City Challenge Hackathon, a global coding competition.

Smart City asked students to design an app that would tackle a problem in their local community, but they only had two days to do it. More than 180 designs were submitted worldwide, but only 38 moved forward in the competition. Now Pttr un uphill battle against other app designs from places like China, Brazil, and even New York City, in a bid to win cash prizes, mentorship from industry thought-leaders, and even support to see their ideas prototyped on an international scale.

As things stand, Pttr remains a strictly local project, with its database only encompassing pet shelters and agency animal lists in the Miami-Dade County.

However, it's deign was also made as open-source material, meaning that other app developers and coders can make improvements or expansions to Pttr online, with approval from the group. The hope it that the app and ones like it can grow to bring this technology to a national or even global scale, even without the competition winnings.

"I definitely think this app will save animals' lives," added project coder Xavier Thomas, "and if other developers can continue to do things like this, the app could be huge."

The competition's winning apps are expected to be announced by the end of May.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS.

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