Animal shelter uses Pokémon Go craze to enlist volunteer dog walkers

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.

“I’m flabbergasted!” Phil Peckinpaugh tells As It Happensguest 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.

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

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!”

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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