In 2012, I wrote an article for Blood-Horse magazine pertaining to the potential use of facial recognition software in identifying racehorses (click here for the article).  After it was published, I received an email from the founder of a Thoroughbred aftercare facility wanting to know how the technology might be employed to ascertain the names of horses in danger of being sent to slaughter.  Sometimes, lip tatoos can be difficult to read and in other instances a full-blooded Thoroughbred may never have been registered.  And most other horse breeds don’t use lip tatoos. 

A website called Finding Rover demonstrates the opportunity for applying facial recognition software for locating at-risk horses.  A dog or cat owner uploads a picture of their lost pet to the Find Rover website.  Similarly, animal shelters and Finding Rover users upload pictures of found dogs or cats.  Facial recognition software is used to find matches–and then owners are notified. 

The facial recognition software developed for Finding Rover is 99 percent accurate.  The main obstacle that Finding Rover must overcome is not accuracy, but rather is having enough pet owners and animal shelters participate.

A website like Finding Rover for horses would take a while to get up and running.  It would require a database of horse photos and widespread cooperation from aftercare facilities.  Whether a Finding Rover type of website for horses would work or not is an open question.  However, it is worth a try, given the number of animals that are sent to slaughterhouses every year.  Maybe Finding Rover could be persuaded to expand beyond dogs and cats to include horses. The folks at the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance should explore the possibilities. 

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