A Review of GPS Pet Tracking Systems

by Joe Mueller on August 13, 2009

GPS tracking is getting small, and the smaller it gets the more uses we are thinking up. One of the more recent uses is GPS pet tracking. This works just like you might expect. The first think you do is you attach a GPS tracking device to your pet, with the most popular place for this being the collar of your animal. This is not the only place that a device could be attached, but it is definitely the most popular. Then, when your pet wanders off to an unknown location you simply go to your GPS tracking software and find out exactly where they are at.

Some GPS pet tracking devices make use of cell phone technology to transmit the location information from the dogs collar while other devices use radio signals. Each of these systems have their positives and negatives. For example, a device that uses cell phone modems will end up having a monthly subscription fee so that they can make use of the cell phone towers to transmit the information. It also means that your pet has to be within the reach of a cell signal for you to get information about where they are. The positive of this system are that the tracking can occur irregardless of your proximity to your pet. You could be in Paris, France and still know exactly where you pet is in Wasilla, Alaska as long as they have a cell signal.

For radio transmission models, the downsides include a higher purchase prices and a limited area of operation. Most models only let you track your dog up to a mile from your current location since this is the limit to the radio transmitter found inside the device attached to your dog’s collar. These pet GPS tracking systems do have a lot of upside too. The first is that they don’t cost a thing to operate. Once you purchase the device you won’t have to pony up any more cash for a monthly service fee. Another benefit is that you they can be used anywhere in the world as long as you are within range of your pet. Hunting in a remote area without access to a computer or a cell phone signal? Out camping with your pet in the wilderness? Exploring Antarctica? Then a radio transmission GPS pet tracking device is what you will want to take along.

Here is a short list of some of the available GPS pet tracking devices:

RoamEO GPS Pet Location System

The RoamEO GPS pet location system is a high quality tracking device that works on the radio transmission model mentioned above. It uses the MURS band at 154.60 MHz and has a functioning radius of approximately 1 mile. It also supports simultaneous tracking of up to three pets, making it great for hunters with a pack of dogs or a group of hunters moving together. It also works well for a family who wants to keep tabs on the family pets while they are out on an extended camping trip or who call the wilderness their home.

The LCD color screen is bright and easy to read in the sunlight. On the screen you will see your pet’s exact location along with their current movements and their current speed. If they are racing off the edge of the screen you know that your dog is getting close to being over a mile away and you better get going on find them. You can get all of the following on your LCD screen: your location, your pet’s location, distance in feet between you and your pet, your pet’s velocity in MPH, direction your pet is heading, a general compass to get your bearings, the location of your GeoFence if you have set one up, the battery remaining in the collars, battery life of the handheld unit, GPS signal strength, radio signal strength, and zoom scale.

The GeoFence feature allows you to set a GPS based “fence” for your pet. If they leave this defined boundary you will receive an audible alert so that you can go to the device and find out where your pet has wandered off to. This can be a real time saver for those that are going to be doing other things while they let their pets roam free.

If you like forest walks but your pet is often distracted by the random scent here and there and goes flying off into the wilderness then this pet tracker will probably be a good fit.

Garmin Astro GPS Dog Tracking System


The Garmin Astro GPS pet tracking system is very similar to the RoamEO device. It too transmits the position information of the dog via radio signals, but this time it is via VHF. The system includes a bright LCD screen and a tracking device called the DC 20. You keep the handheld LCD screen and your dog gets the DC 20. All you need to do to get the ball rolling with this system is to get it outdoors, turn it on, and attach the DC 20 to your dog’s collar or strap it on using a neoprene harness over its shoulders. Then you can just sit back and watch the tracking commence.

If you wanted, you could be updated with your dog’s position every 5 seconds with this GPS pet tracking device. This information will be breadcrumbed on your screen, giving you an electronic trail that your dog has taken. You can also switch to another view – the Dog Tracker page – where you will get an update on your dog’s current status. A dog’s status can be whether or not they are running, sitting, on point, or treeing a quarry. Great information for a hunter.

The Astro has an astonishing range of five miles (depending on terrain) and comes with a powerful GPS receiver that is capable of getting a satellite fix in the densest cover. You can also track up to 10 dogs at one time, making it much superior to the RoamEO even though it is being offered at a significantly lower price.

Also, since the Astro is a Garmin it has some of the best maps int he business and features some of the other features that one of their outdoor hiking GPS devices might have. It has a barometric altimeter, celestial information, a waterproof exterior, a microSD card slot of loading and downloading information, an area calculator, and a 3-axis compass. You can even get detailed city street maps and turn-by-turn directions making it the only GPS you will need when making a hunting trip.

Zoombak GPS Dog Locator

The Zoombak GPS Dog Tracker is essentially the exact same device that Zoombak sells as a personal locator and teen tracking device. As such, it uses cell phone technology to transmit GPS coordinates to the Zoombak servers where they make it available to their users in a variety of different formats (text message, email, Website). Unlike the previous two models, you always need to have access to the Internet to find your dog and your dog must always have access to a cell phone signal in order to be tracked.

The Zoombak also has a battery life of 5 days when on standby mode (when it is not transmitting any data) or it can send 150 locations. Most people will probably get somewhere less than 5 days and less then 150 location requests because no one immediately asks for 150 location requests as soon as they put fresh batteries inside their dog GPS.

The Zoombak is not for hunters or other outdoorsmen but is instead for more urban and suburban use. If your dog escapes your yard and is out on the lamb then this is the pet GPS tracking device that you probably want to use. It will enable you to find out where your pet is in reasonable amount of time, helping you recover your pet and avoid an unnecessary animal death.

GPS Pet Tracking Systems In Review

The main thing you need to decide when making a GPS pet tracking system purchase is what type of device you want, one that uses cell phone towers or one that uses radio signals to transmit information. The former is used mainly for lost animal recovery while the later is best suited for hunter, hikers, and adventurers who want to keep an eye on their pets. Once you have decided which one you want, finding a pet GPS tracking system that works for you is a piece of cake.

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Donnie October 18, 2009 at 8:57 pm

How big is this unit? Where is it located on the animal? How much does it weight? I have an idea on a unit that will be very sought after if it can be produced affordably and small enough. It does not have to be accessed online just by a hand held unit with a range of roughly 150- 300 yards max.

Please contact me.
Thank you

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2 Joe October 24, 2009 at 7:10 am

Hi Donnie,

Each unit is different in size. For example, the specs given on for the Garmin Astro are 2.6 x 2.4 x 6.2 inches while the specs for the RoamEO are 9 x 7 x 7 inches. I believe that each of these is the dimensions for the handheld tracking display, not for the actual tracking device.

Most of the time the tracking device is going to be located on the collar of the animal. However, if you want, the Garmin Astro does come with the capability to be mounted on a chest harness. This gives the tracking device a little more stability and helps unlock some of the cooler features of this GPS pet tracking system.

If you do come up with a good idea then you should definitely pursue it. GPS tracking devices are getting smaller and smaller by the year while they get more and more powerful. While some people may not think that using GPS tracking for a pet is such a great idea there will be some people who will and you can definitely be able to sell a good device to them. Good luck!

-Joe

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3 Tracking System July 11, 2010 at 8:08 pm

I understand that these GPS trackers use what the manufacturer refers to as assisted GPS technology, meaning that cellular technology is used to transmit recorded data. This leads me to believe that if a dog was wearing one of the these pet tracking devices and then roamed off into an area that was not in cellular coverage, the tracking system would be useless. However, if the engineers develop the same type of unit that has GPS uplink capabilities that would resolve the issue…but that would make the product much more expensive I bet….

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4 Steve Andrews July 27, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I want to sell these items online. Please contact me with your info as to how to get started. My email is project dot pros at yahoo.

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5 Maria August 11, 2010 at 7:36 am

I have a garmin 60csx, is there a collar for the dog that I can purchase separatly that can be used with my unit?

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6 William December 15, 2010 at 8:37 am

Good Information on GPS pet tracking devices but I’m surprised Spotlight gps pet locator is not included in your list. SpotLight GPS Pet Locator use satellites technology in conjunction with cellular networks. With the help of SpotLight GPS Pet Locator you can track your pet using your cell phone, smart phone or personal computer, or you can text message from your cell phone or give a call to them.

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7 John Amos February 8, 2011 at 8:51 am

I can this type of technology being very helpful in the world of falconry.
currently everone involved uses telemetry (tranmitter,reciever). how long before your product could be used for this perpose and what would it cost?

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8 Joe February 8, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Hi John,

I think falconry is awesome and have always wanted to do it since I was a kid. That being said I’m not sure that devices are going to get small enough to be used on such a small animal. The Garmin Astro does seem to be fairly consistent with what you described but it seems so large it would be hard on the falcon.

I hope I’m wrong and something gets developed in the next couple of years.

-Joe

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9 jaydeep March 4, 2011 at 11:22 am

hi, i am from gujarat(india) . I want to know that is gps successful in my new bike? Becaus in my city bikes stolen everyday. And i am among them. Please help me. How can i secure my bike with small gps device. Thank you

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10 Joe March 4, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Hi jaydeep,

I’m not sure what is going to be the best tracking device for your bike in India. Most of the devices discussed on this site work mainly in the United States, with some coverage in Europe. I would definitely be interested what you find!

-Joe

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11 Veronica May 20, 2011 at 4:41 am

Hi I am from South Africa. Recently 18 of our sheep were stolen, as you can thing it was a huge loss for us. We are now in the process of buying new stock. Is there a way that a GPS tracker could be fitted to our sheep and where can I get hold of this product. Also what would this cost me to do? I really thing there is a business opportunity for this product in South Africa, which I am also interested in. Could you please forward information in this regard.
NS a collar with a tracker would not be suitable

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12 Joe May 21, 2011 at 10:47 am

Hi Veronica,

I don’t think that there is anything like what you are looking for. Pretty much all the GPS pet tracking devices I know of are placed on a collar of some sort. This makes them pretty terrible for use in animal theft since they are so clearly visible, but placing the device on the sheep, dog, cattle, etc in any other place is not really possible. Subcutaneous GPS tracking devices have not been invented yet, but once they have been this would probably be what you are looking for.

- Joe

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13 joanne nelson July 18, 2011 at 6:17 am

hi there im wondering if theres a pet tracking devise like a micro chip that gets inserted into the dogs neck like the identity chip.my dog has wondered off a few times now and were very lucky to get him back after 5 days.could you please let me no if you no off any companys that do this kind of tracking devise. many thanks jo

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14 Joe July 22, 2011 at 10:45 am

Hi Joanne,

There no chip that can be implanted on the dog that will give true GPS tracking for your dog. There are many different collar trackers out there – some of which are included in the article above.

- Joe

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15 Darlene August 25, 2011 at 11:46 am

Hi Joe,
I want to make sure I understand this correctly. A GPS chip, say the size is 2.5mmx2.0mm needs some sort of battery life to be tracked by your cell phone or computer with a tracking service of some type? Is there a battery connected to the chip? Just wondering. I have an idea that might be the next Big Thing.
Darlene

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16 Joe August 30, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Hi Darlene,

Yes. Electronics need some sort of power supply to do what they do. A GPS tracking chips by themselves cannot accomplish anything by themselves. They need to be connected to other components in order to work in the larger tracking device. While the chip itself might not need very much power at all, all the other components – cell phone modem, etc. – make up most of the power demands.

- Joe

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17 Joe Shmoe September 6, 2011 at 2:49 am

do you know of any GPS tracking collar that is compatable with other handheld GPS units outside its brand? It seems they all want a monopoly like Garmin demands the use of Astro Garmin GPS and so on. I’ve already got an expensive handheld device and I’d really like to avoid buying another one just to be able to get the collar to work. Its not cheap but what is cheap is the “only to be used with” part. Any ideas?

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18 Joe October 23, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Hey Joe,

I know of no way to “unlock” a the collar from a Garmin Astro to work with another GPS brand. It also might have to be a specific type of GPS since it would have to receive the radio signals from the collar tracker on the dogs. I am not sure if the Astro just uses the same receiver that hears the GPS signals or if uses a completely different technology.

It does seem doable (as in possible), I’m just not sure it would be worth the time and effort it would take to develop the hack to get the job done.

- Joe

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19 Mona September 11, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I been reading all the diffeent types of gps for lost animals, and I wondered if it could be a computer chip, inserted into the skin, like the other computer chip. The colars are great, but if someone stold your dog, they could easily take the colar off and there you would be, still not knowing where your dog is? Please help.

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20 Joe October 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Hi Mona,

That would be a really good idea, but it doesn’t exist – yet. It might be available one day, maybe even one day in the next 50 or so years. But I don’t think it will happen in the next 10. Right now we are stuck with tracking devices that attach to the collar.

- Joe

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21 Tim September 13, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Joe,
Do you know any electronic experts to help me develop a tracking system that I’ve come up with? This would resolve all pet owners concern about tracking their family member.

-Tim

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22 Joe October 23, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Hey Tom,

I wish I did, sorry.

- Joe

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23 Patricia September 18, 2011 at 12:55 am

Hi Joe – Not too long ago I heard on the news of a woman who got robbed, including her cell phone that had a GPS tacking device installed in it. Bad mistake for the thief because the police tracked the cellphone and caught the bad guys. Given that, I don’t understand why it is that a tiny GPS chip can be purchased (or may come installed in some items) for use in a cell phone, flat screen TV’s, computers etc. and if stolen, these items can be traced or tracked probably over many many miles… why can’t this same technology be used or be implanted in a dogs collar to track lost and particularly stolen dogs , so they can be tracked over many many miles. It’s bad enough when dogs wander off and get lost, something I don’t understand, but it’s so tragic when a dog is stolen which happens often in large cities, especially during home robberies. I sure wish that could happen!! Think it will anytime soon??

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24 Joe October 23, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Hi Patricia,

This has already happened, it just might not be small enough for you. The Zoombak GPS Dog Locator which I mentioned in the post can be placed on your pet’s collar and is a GPS tracking device.

- Joe

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25 Mary Scheitlin October 9, 2011 at 8:10 pm

I am wondering, I have lost two cats in the past five years. It is definitely a personality thing for the cat. While one will definitely stay within two houses in any direction and is scared of anything or anybody will avoid all contact; the ones that went missing are much more brave and person friendly. When seeking them, I found that there are so many ways that can cause your cat to go missing and that they like to hide if you are trying to find them. I need a device small enough to fit on the collar of a 7 pound cat, that has a long battery life, fence parameters and a gps system that will track their coordinates, not just be a dot on the map when finding them. I am urban, but will be in the future traveling with my pet to other locations that may be in the wilderness (camping motor home). They might get loose and I would want to find them if that happened. Which would be the best tracking system. I have read some reviews that say the battery life doesn’t last more than two days, and others that say that there is only a dot on the map with no coordinates to really find the exact location of the pet, just the general dot on the map. Cats are tricky. They aren’t like dogs that are loud and the cat I am hoping to retain has a very quiet meow. Hard to hear. Please help me. It was devastating to lose my pets, but I feel so bad for her not getting sunshine and exercise that the others get. I don’t’ want to be caged in life, why would I want to cage an animal?

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26 Joe October 23, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Hi Mary,

With any GPS tracking device size and battery are going to be concern. The smaller you get in terms of size, the smaller you get in terms of battery life. This is true of all GPS tracking devices but is especially true for real time trackers like the one you are describing. I am sure the technology will get there sometime in my lifetime, just not yet.

- Joe

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27 Rebecca October 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Hi guys,

While I do think a pet-tracking gps is a great idea—why can’t we come up with the technology to get a gps micro-chip that can be inserted into a dog—the way the info micro-chips are now? Collars come off—and I have 3 dogs none of which wear collars unless they are on a leash-because they rough-house with each other and collars can turn dangerous when dogs play rough. So I can’t find my dog unless he’s wearing a collar at the time he/she wanders off? Not practical.

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28 Thomas J. Tesi October 18, 2011 at 3:15 am

I will be purchasing two to three giant beed show dogs, weighing between 160-200 pounds and desire to obtain the ability to track their location should they leave my property. I own 3.5 fenced acres with my property adjoining a heavily forested state park. Should the dogs escape my fenced property, I wish to track their location real-time. Obviously, their size would enable them to wear a GPS collar device, however, due to their value as champion show dogs, should a disreputable person come in contact with the dogs, they may not wish the dogs located and remove the collar. Also, as they are large with necks 25+ inches in circumference and chest girth exceeding 40-50 inches, do devices exist affixed to a harness that with fit these dogs? As these dogs are very rough and rugged, have exceedingly high pain tolerances, and past experience has shown that they generally destroy anything affixed to their collar in attempting to undermine fencing and roam free, which devices are most durable? Which devices can extend a search for the widest radius, in the case a dog is removed by a vehicle, taken outside the immediate vicinity and may be located many miles away from a home territory? How long do these devices continue sending a signal when a dog is outside its home range? If a dog is kenneled and gets out and roams in the mountains, I being located at work many miles from my home, would like to be able to check on my dogs location, can this be accommodated with existing devices? Thanks

Dr. Thomas Tesi

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29 Joe October 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Hi Thomas,

It seems like what you would be looking for is something like the Zoombak Pet Locator. I doubt it would be useful against thieves because they would just take off the collar. I do not have any experience with its durability so I cannot comment on that front. They are also limited by access to cell phone towers. If the tracking device does not have access to a cell tower on the network that it operates on then you will have no chance for it work if they are in a remote area without coverage. I’m not sure what the best solution is going to be for you, but research is definitely going to be that answer and I would love to hear what you find out.

- Joe

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30 Thomas J. Tesi October 29, 2011 at 3:17 am

Dear Joe:
Thanks for your input regarding the pet tracking GPS devices. I have been informed that the Zoombak Pet Locator uses T-Mobile as a service provider, which does not get any reception what so ever in my area. So that device can not be considered.

Thanks

Dr. Tom

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31 Joe October 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Hi Thomas,

Sorry to hear that. Most tracking devices I have come across run on AT&T or T-Mobile. I haven’t seen one that works on the Verizon network, which would probably fix your problem since they are EVERYWHERE.

- Joe

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32 Skip Skipper January 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Tagg pettracker device uses Verizon

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33 Mary-Beth January 15, 2012 at 10:42 am

Hi,
Two questions. First, we have an in ground electronic fence, and two dogs who occasionally break through it. Is there a potential conflict with having both the electric fence collar, and a tracking collar on a dog? Will they both work fine?
Also, we live in Canada. Do you know of any tracking devices which work with our cell phone providers?
Thanks,
Mary-Beth

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34 Joe January 25, 2012 at 11:47 am

Hi Mary-Beth,

I don’t know of any conflict between a GPS tracking collar and an electric fence collar. My assumption is that they would both work just fine if they are on at the same time.

I also don’t know of any cell phone providers in Canada or any dog tracking products that work in this country. Most tracking devices will provide a coverage map to let you know if your location is covered. For example, Zoombak’s coverage map appears to include just the United States with no coverage in Canada.

- Joe

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35 Frances January 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I recently purchased the Tagg unit but after reading all the legal and safety information I am a bit concerened. There is contradicting information about the RF emissions produced by the unit. One section of the legal disclosures sates that since the FCC does not set RF safety standards for pets Tagg chose to use the standards set for humans. Sounds good, right? But deeper down int he legal info it specifically sates “To comply with FCC RF exposure compliance requirements, a separation distance of 20 cm (8 inches) must be maintained between the antennas for the Tagg tracking device and all persons.” So, it is not safe to bring the tracker within 8″ of humans? Then why is it safe to attach to my dog’s neck? I have called Tagg twice with questions about this but was both times referred back to the leagel & safety info. I have requested the specific RF SAR values so I can comare it to that of a cell phone, which is what the Tagg representative tells me it is comparable to. I would love to hear info / advice from others about his.

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36 Joe January 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Hi Frances,

I found this on the web from the FCC: WHAT LEVELS ARE SAFE FOR EXPOSURE TO RF ENERGY?

If you want to compare that to your cell phone this might be helpful too: Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) for Cellular Telephones

I hope that helps.

- Joe

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37 Barbara Aran March 4, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I am considering purchasing a “secure a pet” collar for my dog, it’s an accessory for an app for the iPhone, which allows tracking the animal on the phone. The app is inexpensive, but the collar is $150 and there is a yearly fee of $99 (must be cell technology, don’t know which provider). If it works, it’s worth it, but I don’t know if it works. Prior version got mixed reviews, current no reviews. Anyone have info? This is not a tag, but a collar, rechargeable battery.

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38 Joe March 8, 2012 at 6:20 am

Hi Barbara,

I really don’t have any information about Secure A Pet. It appears that they have a coverage look-up on the their site where you enter in your zip code to see if you have coverage. Also, from the FAQ it does look like you can return the device if you find that you have no coverage where you live.

The biggest problem with devices like this is the battery life. According to the FAQ it looks like the battery is supposed to last a full month, which is pretty good. I doubt this includes many check ins on the animals location, however.

- Joe

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39 Decha April 3, 2012 at 2:28 pm

The doctor?The yewlar?The chef?Which finace are we talking about here?Dude, tell us in detail how you would use her phone and your home computer to do this (Animal House cough) bullsh*t.*****Awwww is him sad because someone wee-members him widdow troll?Don’t ask shitty stupid questions if you don’t want us to remind the world you are a troll with 3 finaces, Elmer.

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40 Joe April 13, 2012 at 4:55 am

Hi Decha,

I have to admit I am completely lost here.

- Joe

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41 Pat April 7, 2012 at 8:47 am

Hi, I live in Swansea, Wales, UK. I have a dog and 9 cats. I would love to be able to track the cats. Come on Swansea university I know you have some very clever departments.We need a tracking device like a microchip that can be implanted.

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