October 21, 2010, 11:04 AM — It takes about an hour to lure the stray dog into a steel cage with food. During that time, Sean McCormack, a co-founder of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Taiwan, sits taking pictures and video with his HTC smartphone.
The dog's leg is bleeding from a wire trap set by a farmer in this small mountain town north of Taipei. McCormack plans to take the dog to a local animal hospital for treatment as soon as it's safely in the cage.
A worker at a local temple says the wire traps don't always injure the dogs, and that it's the farmer that does the most damage. "I saw him," says the worker. "He just walked right over with a big knife and [chopped] the dog's leg off to get it out of the trap." He shudders, making a chopping motion. "It was terrible."
McCormack is recording the testimony, making a video as the man talks. "This is evidence. We can use this when we go to the authorities," he says.
In Taiwan, where a problem with stray dogs has reached epic proportions, rescue workers at the SPCA have turned to smartphones to help them do their jobs. Besides collecting video testimony, they are used to show dogs to potential adopters or to let donors see how their money is being put to use.
They also use smartphones to update their websites, read e-mails and check for rescue requests on their Facebook page. And the handsets lead them to remote rescues via GPS and Google Maps
Once, they fixed a flashlight to a smartphone and lowered it into an air duct to find a lost kitten, using video to see where it was. An echo in the pipe made it sound like the kitten was close by but it was actually two floors down. Without the video they might have wasted hours tearing up the pipe.
"This is our Swiss Army Knife, it does so much for us. I don't know what we'd do without them," says McCormack.
He has worked with animal groups in Taiwan for over a decade, arriving on the island when a boom in pet ownership led to an explosion in the street animal population. Puppies and kittens that looked cute in night markets and pet stores ended up dumped on the street. Strays became so prevalent that, in a twist, Taiwanese people -- always eager to put a positive spin on a bad situation -- started to say that stepping in dog poop was "lucky." And people were getting lucky everywhere.