Pets are part of the family; we want them safe, happy, and healthy. Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever owned a dog can attest, you can’t really have a reasoned conversation with them about why it’s important to stay in the yard, why they shouldn’t go harass the neighbors, why there is no wandering near the street…and they certainly can’t call home if they do disobey those wishes and they get lost! Securus has a solution, the Spotlite 2.0, a GPS tracker that attaches to your pet’s collar and lets you track their location, receive alerts if they leave the area, etc.
Porter and I gave it a whirl this week. Does it get two paws up? Read on to find out!
The Spotlite itself is pretty simple. It’s a small box, a bit on the heavy side for its size. On the front are three alert lights for battery, signal, and GPS, plus an SOS button. On one side is a SIM (screwed in), as well as a miniUSB slot; the rest of the sides are clear. The miniUSB is for charging, and there is a wall charger included. It takes about 4-6 hours for the initial charge, and the Spotlite will last 1-4 days depending on usage. The unit is fairly small, I’d say about the size of a DSLR camera battery. On a very small dog, this would look comically big, but Porter is 100 pounds of labrador enthusiasm, so it wasn’t too large for his collar. Securus includes a small cloth zipper bag that fits along the collar to hold the Spotlite, so it has some protection from the elements. It is also waterproof, but since it is March and cold, Porter and I didn’t test that. Porter would like to add that he’s very angry about that turn of events, as he would have happily hopped in the water no matter how cold.
Once the Spotlite is set up, you can add “safe spots”. These are areas where you know your dog is safe (so, your house, a friend’s house, etc). You then set how far outside a “safe spot” your dog can get before an alert is issued. These range from 100 yards to 1000 yards, but Securus does warn you that too small of a range can trigger false positives. I set 150 yards for Porter, and had no issues with false alarms, but he spends all day in the house and is only outside tethered in the backyard or wandering the neighborhood with us. Once we made it down the street on his walk, I immediately received text and email alerts letting me know we’d passed outside the safe area. I also received alerts when we returned to the house. Note that you can change the name of the dog from the default of Spot; I didn’t because Porter was so anxious to try out his new Spotlite that I barely had it set up before he wanted to go outside. Or, for those who don’t assign normal human impulses to animals, I made the mistake of trying to set up the Spotlite while Porter needed to go out, so adding his name, photo, and other details were less important than “IT IS TIME FOR MY WALK SILLY HUMAN. WE GO NOW.”
There are a few features in the Spotlite that stand out. For one, when you receive an alert that your dog is outside the Safe Spot, they include how fast the dog is moving. As Securus explains, this is to let you know if your dog is on foot or in a vehicle. They also offer phone, app-based, and website tracking, so you can get turn by turn directions to track your pet easily if they are MIA. The website and app also give you updates on the battery life of the Spotlite, so if you’re tracking your dog you have an idea of how low the charge is as well. You can also set up alerts that warn you when the battery is getting low via text message and email, which is pretty handy. It’s also key because there is no external battery indicator on the Spotlite itself until the charge is low. An LCD that shows the battery levels at a glance would have been nice, but having the app report levels back to you mitigates that. Finally, the Spotlite isn’t entirely standalone-the American Kennel Club Companion Animal Recovery (AKC CAR) is a partner in the Spotlite. Each device comes with a tag from AKC CAR, and they are available 24/7 via phone. The idea is that even if the Spotlite is dead or inactive, if someone finds your lost pet and calls the number on the AKC CAR tag, your dog can still be tracked back to you and returned safely.
I found the Spotlite to be simple to use, and it certainly works as advertised. Porter and I were walking through a park today, and it couldn’t give me turn by turn directions because we were off roads, but it did give me the correct location of the park, which I thought was impressive. All this tracking and protection does come at a price though. The Spotlite itself is $119.99 (you can get a refurb model for $99), and there is a monthly service fee for the ongoing tracking. Is it worth $12.99-$19.99 a month? (the price varies if you pay for several months up front)
I think the answer is a qualified yes. If you own a dog who never leaves the confines of his or her home space, then the expense is probably overkill. But if you have an active dog, one who runs the risk of wandering off because HEY A SQUIRREL, or OMG ANOTHER DOG COME BACK SO WE CAN PLAY, then the cost is worth the peace of mind that your pup is safe or easily tracked. Porter certainly liked it!
MSRP: $119.99 plus a monthly subscription
What I Like: Easy to set up; lots of customizable options; AKC CAR integration adds additional value
What Needs Improvement: Receiver is a bit large for smaller dogs; no battery indicator on the unit itself
Source: Manufacturer provided review sample