Williston, N.D. (AP) - Many Americans find themselves online looking at photos of other people's pets during the day, and one Williston man has found a way to make that pastime productive.
Bron Rathert started the Pet Connection Williston Basin page on Facebook to reconnect pet owners with their missing pets, the Williston Herald reported. The site has already garnered an impressive number of likes: 10,271 as of July 25.
"I just hit 10,000 last night," he said. "I didn't think it was actually going to turn into all this though."
When the site really started picking up, his phone would die from trying to keep up with all of the Facebook notifications.
"That's just insane," he said. "I can barely keep up with it."
Lost and missing pets are a known problem in Williston. The Williston Herald even took in a stray dog for a short period last month while trying to find its owner.
"There's a lot of pets that are coming up missing, and they don't have tags," Rathert said. "There's also an issue with people stealing pets out of yards and the back of parked trucks when the owner is away."
"I've talked to the sheriff's office and they told me they use them for bait dogs," he said. Bait dogs are used as fodder for fighting dogs to train for illegal dog fights.
Before creating the page, Rathert reconnected owners with their pets by simply cross-referencing different Internet sites.
"I got on all the different sites and I'd find the missing pets, and I'd connect them to their owners," he said. When he saw how effective the strategy was, he took it to the next level.
Now he's even using the site to hold pet contests and track down people who've hurt animals. He's currently offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a person who took a pit bull out of its owner's vehicle, suffocated the dog with plastic bags and then dumped the body in a river near Watford City.
Animals are an important part of his life, Rathert said. When he was young, pets he owned were killed in traffic when the gate of his home was left open.
He recalled a story about the last time he hunted. He shot a deer, and the sound of it wheezing when he found it stuck with him.
He has never hunted again. Now, he doesn't want harm to come to any animals.
Rathert doesn't expect any personal reward for operating the site, he said.
"No, I just want to help out the community," he said.
The site also connects people with local breeders, animal shelters and other pet-related services.