Toronto Ad Agency Develops Controversial New Dog Collar That Texts You When it Gets Too Hot

A scorching hot car is no place to leave a dog, and it’s heartbreaking to hear any news of a neglected pet found heat-stressed or dead after suffering through such unbearable temperatures. The problem has prompted Toronto advertising firm Rethink to release a high-tech, heat-sensing dog collar that can automatically send SMS alerts to the dog owner’s smartphone when the collar detects that the temperature is getting too hot.

With help from the Toronto Humane Society, the collar was developed to feature a built-in SIM card, a thermistor, some LEDs and a coded chip. It’s been named the “Dog Caller,” and it operates just like a cellphone without a keypad. The collar’s tipping point is 26-degree Celsius, and an SMS warning is sent when that temperature has been reached.

Although the idea is unique, the announcement of the new Dog Caller hasn’t exactly impressed every pet owner or animal lover out there. In fact, it’s probably caused more outrage than anything else.

Many argue that pet owners should never leave their dogs in a vehicle even for a just short period of time, and some are worried that people could use this new heat-sensing, text-messaging dog collar as a bad excuse to leave their dogs behind in a car a lot more often while they go about their business.

A commenter on an article by The Verge made a good point by asking: “What happens when some schmuck doesn’t feel their smartphone vibrate/chirp/etc. as your dog hangs out in a car that’s over a hundred degrees?”

Another Verge commenter wrote: “The real problem with this product is that I imagine the people responsible enough to buy it and people irresponsible enough to leave their pet in the car under dangerous conditions have almost no overlap.”

Despite the issues, Dog Caller inventor Aaron Starkman told the Toronto Star that the product is by no means intended to encourage dog owners to leave their pets in a car.

“We never ever under any circumstance want anyone leaving a dog in a car,” Starkman said—but “if the collar does end up saving a dog in a car, we’ll obviously be thrilled in that result.”

The product is still currently in its prototype phase, but Rethink expects to soon start a crowdfunding campaign for it and plans on selling the collar for $20 per piece. It won’t be tested on any animals, and it should be available to purchase in 2013.

So, is there a market for this sort of thing? The Dog Caller may be able to detect a temperature of 26-degree Celsius and send you a text message, but there’s another problem here: it can’t figure out what temperature your dog cannot individually withstand, and it sounds like the collar has no customizable settings either.

I know a big friendly Newfoundlander with fur like you wouldn’t believe, and even though he’s a real trooper, it’s not uncommon for him to become pretty exhausted in temperatures below 26 degrees. If left in a car with the Dog Caller on, he could potentially still suffer well before his owner receives a text alert or makes it out to the car in time.

Factors like breed, size, age, fur coat and overall health will obviously influence a dog’s heat-stress levels. The Dog Caller shouldn’t be used as a substitute for that, especially with its current one-temperature-setting-fits-all-dogs idea.

In any case, Rethink’s effort to develop a high-tech product that could save an animal’s life is still somewhat commendable. It’s the part where you need to purposely place your pet in a potentially dangerous environment to properly use it that makes it sound more unappealing than anything else.