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There's an app for helping pets in an emergency

By: Kathy Maynard, The Loomis News Correspondent
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What would happen to your pets if an emergency prevented you from caring for them? That question prompted Karen O?Brien, of Loomis, and Mary Clark, of Gold River, to form Paws4Purpose, to make pet owners aware of the need to make emergency care arrangements for their pets. The women developed an iPhone application to inform first responders and emergency and disaster relief personnel that an animal needs help. It all started last year when the two women met for coffee after riding horses at the Knickerbocker Stables, in Loomis. O?Brien had stopped by her house to pick up Boris, the rescue dog she had recently adopted, and took him to the Flower Farm Coffee Shop to meet Clark. ?I looked at him and asked Karen, ?What would happen to Boris if he were home alone and something happened to you??? said Clark. ?We just looked at each other and realized that although pets wear lots of identification in the form of a tag or a chip, there is often no way to link people with their pets.? Recognizing this gap in pet care protection, the longtime friends and former co-workers decided to work together to fill the need. ?We both felt so strongly about this need. We are very excited about it, it?s a great opportunity for us to flex our entrepreneurial muscles as well as do something that is a work of the heart,? said O?Brien. Their first step was to create their ?Help My Pet!? symbol, a stylized paw print with a heart for the pad and a slanted exclamation mark, which is internationally recognized to mean ?take action? Clark said. That symbol will be the icon for the iPhone application, slated to be released this summer along with their Facebook page and other social media tools. From there they plan to make applications available for Android phones and the iPad. ?We learned that emergency responders check cell phones for the acronym ICE (In Case of Emergency) in front of the name of an emergency contact. We hope that when people see this symbol in someone?s smart phone they will recognize that this person has pets they obviously cannot take care of and notify the contact listed,? Clark said. The application is not just for dogs and cats, it could also apply to horses, llamas, pot belly pigs or any other animals you care for, said O?Brien. It will allow pet owners to list information about where their pets are, any medical conditions that need to be attended to, as well as multiple caregivers in case the first contact called does not answer. O?Brien and Clark will also be a sponsor of The Doggy Dash, a charity event for the Sacramento SPCA on June 9 in William Land Park in Sacramento where they will hold a drawing for a dog-themed quilt that O?Brien made. ?What matters most for us is to raise awareness of this as an issue,? said O?Brien. ?If we can just save one pet, and reunite a pet with its ?parent,? we know we?ve done something good. But our grandiose vision is that this symbol will become an internationally recognized symbol, because we are not the only society with pets. Obviously, the more recognition we have, the more pets we can help.? For more information, contact paws4purpose.com. Paws4Purpose What: iPhone ap alerting emergency responders there is a pet needing care Who: Karen O?Brien and Mary Clark When: Available this summer Information: paws4purpose.com