An animal advocate for more than two decades and the co-founder of Rocky Mountain Animal Defense, David Crawford knew how to help injured and distressed animals he encountered in Boulder -- but was often at a loss for the right resources outside the area. "We were constantly getting calls from people who had encountered animals that needed their help and the people had no idea what to do," remembers Crawford. "Injured and orphaned wildlife, dogs in hot cars, cats on top of telephone poles, lost-and-found animals and situations like that. We kind of knew what to do; we as an organization had the local resources. But it was difficult to help somebody who wasn't right in Boulder and it was very frustrating to have people call us and not be able to know always where to send them."
Now there's an app for that: Animal Help Now.
Crawford knew that there were services available to help not just domestic animals, but wildlife -- it was just a matter of connecting people trying to aid animals in need with those services. "There are lots of people who are willing and ready to help animals -- veterinarians, mobile veterinarians, animal control officers, wildlife rehabilitators, cruelty investigators, even Crime Stoppers helps animals in Colorado," says Crawford. "Then you have a huge population of people who need these resources and may not know how to get it. With humans, the connection is 911; with animals, there isn't any such service."
While he was traveling, Crawford encountered a situation that proved the real catalyst for Animal Help Now. "About five years ago, I came across a family of birds just outside Crested Butte," says Crawford. "The parents had been killed by cars and there were four baby birds; two of them had already been killed by cars. I drove up to the scene and people were just zooming right by -- I pulled over and, unfortunately, one of the last two keeled over right there, but I grabbed the last one and spent the next hour looking for someone who could help me." He eventually tracked down a vet at a health club.
That experience provided the impetus to create the app. "I already knew that some kind of a resource for people to help animals was needed, but it was that event, where even I (as an animal advocate) didn't know what do, made me realize, okay, we can do better than this."
Now, with just a tap of the Animal Help Now App, you can find out where the closest veterinarian is to where you are -- which can be especially helpful if you're traveling around the state. The app not only gives basic information like phone numbers, addresses and directions, but also features a series of questions that can guide you to the right resource.
Upon opening the app, users can select one of the following options: nearest vets, animal neglect or abuse, animal issue involving human safety, pet or farmed animal issue (lost and found), wildlife issue and disasters. After you click on one of these, the app guides you through several quick questions to connect directly with the right kind of care. From there, veterinarian and other animal services are listed in relation to proximity, what care they provide and how to get in touch.
The app also works through wifi, so even if you are out of cellular service range -- say, on a hike -- you can still get help.
For people who suspect an animal in their neighborhood is being abused and can't get help from municipal services, there is even an option on the app to connect with an animal advocate in Colorado. "If all else fails -- and this stems from a real-life situation where a dog was being left outside constantly -- there's an advocate that we list who can try to help out," says Crawford. "That's not just for dogs in back yards; if you have a cat on a telephone pole and the utility company or firefighters won't help, you can involved the advocate."
Though the app is new, Crawford says he already sees changes happening in the way animals are being helped and advocated for. "911 took like thirteen years to take hold -- and though we have a better trajectory because we have social media, it can still be a slow process," he notes. "We've built it, we've tested it and as the word gradually gets out, more and more people are using it. We see our work and this app as being a component of a larger effort that is under way to improve the lives of animals."
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The Animal Help Now App currently is only available for Colorado and Texas residents; it's free for both the iPhone and Android. (Crawford says it can be difficult to find in app stores; searching "AnimalHelpNow" usually works.) For more information, visit the Animal Help Now website.