Tuesday, 14 August 2012
High-tech collar aims to stop dogs dying from heat
I hope this doesn't encourage more idiot owners to leave their dogs in a hot car just because they now have an alert.
When Aaron Starkman stopped to get a camping stove on a trip near Penetanguishene, he left his golden retriever Hefty in the car. He figured he’d only be two minutes, and besides, it was pouring rain.
Yet when he emerged after a 20-minute-long lineup, it was sunny and Hefty was struggling in the heat. Hefty lived, but the close call stuck with Starkman.
“I almost was one of those awful people you read about,” he said of the long-ago incident. “Nobody knows it’s just a matter of minutes.”
After being horrified at this summer’s news of dogs dying of heat exhaustionwhen left in cars, Starkman and a team at his ad agency, Rethink, invented a dog collar that texts your cellphone when the temperature is too high for a pooch to handle.
Made of a SIM card, a thermistor, a few LEDs and a coded chip, the Dog Caller operates like a cellphone without a keypad or screen.
Whether a power outage leaves Fido trapped in a sweltering apartment or an owner leaves their pup in a stuffy car, the collar monitors temperature and alerts owners when it passes a 26 C tipping point — before it’s too late for their pets.
The invention is part of a campaign the dog lovers at Rethink (an agency better known for its beer advertisements) created as an “extracurricular” project that could “actually do something to save dogs’ lives,” said Starkman, a partner and creative director at the agency.
With the collar still in the prototype phase, Rethink approached the Toronto Humane Society this summer with a more immediate plan to stop the doggy heat-related deaths. The agency created a web campaign for Doggy Havens, dog-friendly stores where dogs can bask in air conditioning on hot days (the first was Scarborough’s FreshCo, overseen by humane society volunteers) and a TV commercial.
As for the collar, Rethink plans to crowd fund the product and expects to sell it for about $20 sometime next year. And no, it won’t be tested on animals.
The collar is by no means meant to encourage people to leave their dogs in a car — “We never ever under any circumstance want anyone leaving a dog in a car,” Starkman said — but “if the collar does end up saving a dog in a car, we’ll obviously be thrilled in that result.”
A car seat maker introduced a similar concept this year, with an app that alerts parents if their baby is incorrectly strapped or if they forget their child in the car.