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Originally published May 20, 2012 at 8:02 PM | Page modified May 21, 2012 at 6:09 PM

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Pet ID tag gets an update with QR code and web link

Link tags, produced by Issaquah-based PetHub, have a QR code — the barcode-like symbol that can be scanned with a smartphone to load a website — and an address for an individualized Web page, which the owner can update as needed.

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Since my phone could read the tag on the monitor it would undoubtedly read it from the... MORE
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Cooper, a 9-year-old chocolate lab, doesn't usually run away.

That's why his owners were surprised he dug under a fence to escape from their North Seattle home Thursday night — and that he was already being returned to them by the time they knew he was missing.

Thanks to a pet tag linked to an online profile with Cooper's information, owners Todd and Stephanie Gowing got a call while they were running errands and were reunited with the escape artist just 20 minutes later.

"We were both very surprised and happy with that, that we got the call," Todd Gowing said.

The Gowings had received the Link tags, produced by Issaquah-based PetHub, from a relative about a year ago for Cooper and his brother, Abram, a German shepherd/Labrador mix who is usually the troublemaker of the duo.

The tags have a QR code — the barcode-like symbol that can be scanned with a smartphone to load a website — and an address for an individualized Web page, which the owner can update as needed. It's like a Facebook profile for your pet, says PetHub founder Tom Arnold, a place to store and share information about an animal.

PetHub didn't really start selling its tags until this January. That's when it sold 10,000 in three days through a deal with Groupon, the online deal site, though they made some sales and handed out test tags before that.

Winning multiple awards, including a Dog Fancy magazine Editor's Choice Award in December, helped get the word out. The company, which is financed primarily by Arnold and his family and has one angel investor, sold roughly 30,000 tags in the first quarter this year.

The focus is on information such as how to contact the owner and which medications the animal needs, but Arnold joked that allowing owners to "friend" other pets and make play dates for their animals could be possible in the future.

On Monday, tags will also have a hotline to call, where operators can help connect those who find a missing animal with the owners. While tags sold before Monday don't have the number, the websites do.

That's how Cooper was reunited with his owners. The man who found him 20 blocks north of the jail break scanned the QR code on Cooper's tag, and called the hotline number listed online. The call center then contacted the Gowings to facilitate the reunion.

Arnold said having the hotline printed on the tag will help people without smartphones, and can facilitate privacy, if owners don't want their personal phone number posted online.

PetHub sells the basic tag and service for $12.95 through its website, and licenses the software to several other companies that produce their own tags. The tags can be used for cats and some other pets.

More comprehensive plans have additional services, including a map showing where someone's smartphone scanned a pet's tag or the ability to send a lost pet's profile information to local shelters.

Other companies with QR tags have emerged, but not with those features, the company says.

The highest level includes a $3,000 insurance plan, in case a pet is injured while lost.

Arnold has an account himself, for his 18-month-old Newfoundland and Australian Shepherd mix, Ullr. When he travels abroad on PetHub business, his pet sitter posts photos of the Norse God's furry namesake on the profile.

The purpose is more safety than social for the Gowings; having Cooper home safe makes them glad they got the tags.

"It turns out that it's really great that we did," Todd Gowing said.

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