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Can stray animals be saved by this 14-foot tall robo-dog?

This 14-foot animatronic dog welcomes visitors to the Annenberg PetSpace with growls, whines and panting.
This 14-foot animatronic dog welcomes visitors to the Annenberg PetSpace with growls, whines and panting.
Leo Duran/KPCC

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Los Angeles is on its way to becoming a no-kill city, which is when over 90 percent of stray animals are adopted rather than euthanized.

But to get there, it may take more than finding people with a soft spot for furry and feathered friends.

It may be up to a 14-foot tall talking robotic dog.

This is one of the many high-tech features of the new Annenberg PetSpace, a 30,000 square foot facility in Playa Vista, the heart of Silicon Beach.

It's part animal shelter, part playground, part science center, and every inch is designed to be engaging and fun for visitors.

In addition to the robo-Corgi that whines and pants as people walk in, there's a human-sized hamster wheel equipped with nine cameras to take Instagram-ready pics.

And outside each of the 15 individual adoption rooms is a human-sized touchscreen that displays the pet inside, facts about him or her, quizzes about what goes into adopting an animal and more.

Harry is a black lab mix kept at the Annenberg PetSpace. Outside his own personal room is a large touchscreen that displays a picture of him, info and more.
Harry is a black lab mix kept at the Annenberg PetSpace. Outside his own personal room is a large touchscreen that displays a picture of him, info and more.
Leo Duran/KPCC

"It’s all really in the digital experience and the interface that you will have with an animal care expert," says Cinny Kennard, head of the Annenberg Foundation which privately funded this multi-million dollar facility.

There's nothing like PetSpace in the country, according to spokespeople with the ASPCA and Humane Society of the United States.

But it might ruffle the feathers of animal-lovers to know that millions is being spent on the technology of the place instead of directly on pets themselves.

A model displays the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace in Playa Vista – a two-story, 30,000 square-foot space that will include a pet adoption center and exhibition space.
A model displays the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace in Playa Vista – a two-story, 30,000 square-foot space that will include a pet adoption center and exhibition space.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

"A lot of money should be going towards that and programming," says Marc Peralta, formerly with the non-profit animal welfare group Best Friends LA. "That's going to affect lifesaving."

He admits, however, that there's a sea change in philosophy within his industry.

In recent years, his and other organizations have come to learn that they can better capture the attention of potential adopters by investing money and smarts in technology.

Take posting an animal’s pic online: Best Friends LA will "fluff" an animal's photo like it's headed for Tinder.

"Videos and photos," he says, "can really help show the personality more so that people can connect. Just like a dating website."

For example Bitsy the pitbull, shown here, looks friendly with her tongue hanging out, a flower pinned to her collar and, in one pic, a volunteer hugging her.

This is Bitsy, a pitbull up for adoption through Best Friends LA. Her photos have been styled to make her look as friendly as possible.
This is Bitsy, a pitbull up for adoption through Best Friends LA. Her photos have been styled to make her look as friendly as possible.
Best Friends LA

Spending the time to style Bitsy's pics was very intentional.

"Sometimes like us, you can look super scary in a photo no matter what," says Peralta. "But if you’re in a photo with a person where their personality comes out, it really helps people connect with them and see the creatures as they are."

Animal care centers are also trying to update what they look like, too.

"We’re fighting the idea that people are sometimes afraid of shelters," says Madeline Bernstein, president of spcaLA. "Sometimes the shelters really are dismal and people don’t want to go in there. They get depressed."

So spcaLA's took the effort to make its own Long Beach facility warm, bright and homey.

"I like to call it, 'messing with the Manchurian adopter,'" laughs Bernstein. "In that environment, if you can imagine that kitten or puppy in your own house, it may turn into a worthwhile thought of adoption."

A small window with a screen will allow animals to smell visitors through the door before making physical contact.
A small window with a screen will allow animals to smell visitors through the door before making physical contact.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

A nicer facility like PetSpace can be better for the animal, too.

"They can show their real true colors and show what kind of animal they are, possibly get adopted even faster," says Javier Gutierrez, general manager of L.A. County's Carson Animal Care Center where hundreds of dogs are kept in cages that run along four long, concrete buildings.

More than 100 dogs are kept in one of the long, concrete buildings at the LA County Animal Care Center in Carson.
More than 100 dogs are kept in one of the long, concrete buildings at the LA County Animal Care Center in Carson.
Leo Duran/KPCC

"It’s a stressful environment for them in there," he says. "You can only imagine when the animal comes in here, he doesn’t really know what’s going on. There’s a bunch of dogs, big and small, barking constantly. He kind of gets scared."

But up to 40 dogs and 40 cats will be transported from this packed shelter to the PetSpace in a partnership between Annenberg and L.A. County's Department of Animal Care and Control.

"The population is going to be a little less in there, which will probably lessen the stress of the animal," says Gutierrez.

This is one of the dogs kept inside the LA County Animal Care Center in Carson.
This is one of the dogs kept inside the LA County Animal Care Center in Carson.
Leo Duran/KPCC

So things like a talking robo-dog at the PetSpace might seem over the top, but making shelters more attractive for animals and humans could be good for both.

"We’re the City of Angels with a big heart," says Annenberg's Kennard. "It would be great to have something born in Los Angeles take root and go across the country."

A large cat sculpture moves its paws when there's a human running inside the large hamster wheel. One of nine cameras is also inside the cat's eyes to take pics of the runner, and then those can then be shared online.
A large cat sculpture moves its paws when there's a human running inside the large hamster wheel. One of nine cameras is also inside the cat's eyes to take pics of the runner, and then those can then be shared online.
Leo Duran/KPCC

The Annenberg PetSpace is located at 12005 Bluff Creek Dr in Playa Vista. Its grand opening is June 24th, and admission at all times is free.