Pets hit cyberspace

Web site gives prospective pet owners nationwide access to animals

In an age in which consumers buy everything including cars and prescription drugs online, its not surprising that the Internet can help man find his new best friend.

The Web site, www.petfinder.com, gives prospective pet owners nationwide access to hundreds of thousands of dogs, cats, reptiles -- even barnyard animals.

"You can go on there and see what's at the shelter before you go," said Kathie Johnson, Craig Police Department animal control officer. "At least you can see what they look like, and we try to put a little description of that."

Johnson looks at the site often, "just to see what everyone else has." She said the Craig site has had about 50 hits a week since the shelter began using it four or five years ago.

Adopters typically will see a pet they like in the newspaper, then visit the site to find out more information. Many users are local, but Johnson has had potential pet owners visit from as far as Albuquerque, N.M.

The site was launched in 1996 in New Jersey, with only 13 shelters listing their available pets. The site went national in 1998, and today, more than 8,700 shelters and groups post animal descriptions there.

"We're extremely pleased with the numbers," said Betsy Saul, president and co-founder of the site, in a recent press release. "What they mean is that we are making strides toward fulfilling our mission to end the euthanasia of pets."

With six million visitors to the site each month, Johnson said the page makes her job easier and is important to the adoption numbers the shelter has.

Last year, about 700 animals were processed through the shelter, 300 of which were adopted. Most of the rest were returned home, and a minimal number were euthanized.

Many times, Johnson said, prospective adopters will call her to see whether a specific animal is still available, and she has to tell them, no. But adopting them too quickly is better than not at all.

Plus, she said, the Web site has been helpful in other ways. Earlier this year, the shelter won a contest for a Kuranda dog bed, the hammock-style beds the shelter uses.

"It's just a great site," Johnson said.

Interested people may visit the Craig Animal Shelter, located in McCandless Animal Hospital, 2430 E. Victory Way, or call Johnson at 824-7235 between 11 a.m. and noon and 3 to 4 p.m. Log on to petfinder.com to see the pets available locally.

Michelle Perry may be reached at 824-7031 or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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