Mobile app links families with shelter animals

An app designed by four FIU students aims to connect would-be pet owners with the perfect furry friend.

Pttr is a mobile app intended to link families looking for pets with animal shelters and adoption agencies in South Florida.

It is currently up against app designs from China, Brazil, New York City and more as part of the Smart City Challenge Hackathon, a global coding competition.

Smart City asked students to design an app in just 48 hours that solves an issue in their community, and of more than 180 designs submitted worldwide, only 38 moved forward in the competition.

Computer science major and group leader Alastair Paragas came up with the idea for Pttr, driven by his group’s determination to save shelter animals from euthanasia.


About 2.7 million animals are euthanized in U.S. animal shelters each year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, some in as little as two weeks after entering a shelter. The main issue is overcrowding: only about one-third of animals in shelters are adopted.

Freshman computer science major Kennet Postigo, who used to volunteer cleaning cages at a shelter, knows all too well the fate that faces many animals in overcrowded shelters.

“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,” said Postigo, who coded the app’s layout.

Through their research, the group found that local shelters and adoption agencies have unorganized databases, which interferes with adoptions and the transfer of animals between shelters. This makes finding the actual animals that potential owners see advertised on shelters’ websites or sites like difficult.

“Most of the time, if you want to know what they have, you have to go down to the shelter,” said senior computer science major Xavier Thomas, who helped with coding. “But we’re busy people.”

Pttr will unify local shelters’ and agencies’ animal lists, creating a single, standardized animal database for Miami-Dade County, and soon, the rest of the country.

Shelters, adoption agencies and potential pet owners will all be able to interact with each other in one forum, available online and on mobile devices.

The free app helps people sort through pictures of animals in shelters based on pet type and location as well as contact the shelter once they find an animal they want to meet.

“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,” said sophomore psychology major Joel Greenup, who reached out to local shelters about the app.

The app is open-source, meaning that other app developers and coders can make improvements and expansions to Pttr online, with approval from the group. The hope is that if other coders contribute, Pttr will grow to a national level and other similar apps will emerge, helping more animals get adopted.

“I definitely think this app will save animals’ lives,” said Thomas, “and if other developers can continue to do things like this, the app could be huge.”

The winning apps are expected to be announced in May.