As It Happens

Animal shelter uses Pokémon Go craze to enlist volunteer dog walkers

Phil Peckinpaugh, director of Muncie Animal Shelter in Indiana, is capitalizing on the popularity of Pokémon Go by encouraging players to get the shelter's dogs active.
Munice Animal Shelter is encouraging Pokémon Go users to walk their rescue dogs. (Facebook/Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images)

They're called "Pokémon dogs."

No — they're not virtual Pokémon Go creatures that you can catch with your smart phone — but rather a group of rescued dogs in need of some physical activity.

Now, an animal shelter is calling on Pokémon Go players to volunteer and walk dogs.

Phil Peckinpaugh is the director of Muncie, Indiana's animal shelter. (Munice Animal Shelter)

"I'm flabbergasted!" Phil Peckinpaugh tells As It Happens guest host Susan Bonner. "I think it's just one of those things that is so simple. It's just a great fit — people love the game and they love dogs!"

Peckinpaugh is the director of an animal shelter in Muncie, Indiana. He came up with the idea when he was out walking his dog and playing the app with his six-year-old daughter.

"[We] noticed how many other people we were seeing out playing the game — just droves and droves," Peckinpaugh explains.

The shelter put up an ad on their Facebook page encouraging volunteers to take dogs out while they explored the city for Pokémon characters.

"Much to our surprise, the post has reached nearly 2 million people," Peckinpaugh explains. "It's just incredible!"

(Remko de Waal/AFP/Getty Images)

​Peckinpaugh says on a typical day one or two people would show up to volunteer their service. But since the post was published, the shelter is now averaging upwards of 70 volunteers. He says people were lining up outside on Thursday morning.

"I've never seen so many people out enjoying our city and getting involved with this animal shelter," Peckinpaugh explains.

He knows the game has it's critics and admits that giving dogs to pedestrians already distracted by their phones could be dangerous. But he insists that volunteers understand their responsibility and that exercising basic common sense minimizes the risks.

"Obviously, the love of the dogs and wanting to be involved in the community is the number one priority," Peckinpaugh explains. "The game is just a bonus!"


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