Putting Pet GPS trackers to the test

SEATTLE -- It's one thing to lose your car keys or wallet -- quite another when you can't find your four-legged friend!

Consumer Reports just tested three GPS devices to see how well they can track pets who wander off -- the Roameo for $200, the $150 Garmin GTU 10, and the Tagg pet tracker for $100.

With the Garmin and Tagg you create virtual boundaries online, or what's called "geofences." Then you can use your smart phone to keep tabs on your pet's location. The Roameo uses a radio handset.

To test, they had staff members carry around the GPS trackers outside to see if they could be located.

The good news: no staff members were lost. But testers did find pros and cons with each.

The Roameo's handset made it very easy to track, but "it had limited range -- terrain and buildings could affect that, and it only had 24 hours of battery life," said
Bernie Deitrick with Consumer Reports.

Tracking with the Tagg was quick and easy, but its minimum virtual boundary is about four acres -- much bigger than your average yard.

"Your dog could be next door digging up the flower bed, and you'd never know it," Deitrick said.

With the Garmin you can create up to 10 different geofences of any size. Location updates are quick if you use its deluxe tracking plan for an additional $5 a month.

"It's easier to track, but battery life is shorter," Deitrick said.

But it just might be worth it, especially when it comes to quickly finding a missing pooch. Keep in mind, you may also need to pay a monthly or yearly fee on top of the purchase price.

One more thing to consider are service fees. Both the Garmin and Tagg link to a cell-phone network to relay information. The Garmin uses AT&T and charges $50 a year after the first year. The Tagg charges $7.95 per month after the first month to use Verizon's network. If you're thinking about buying one of these devices you need to factor in that on-going cost.

One more tip: Even if you get one of these gadgets, you should have your pet microchipped. That way if they do run off and are picked up by animal control or are dropped off at a shelter, they'll be able to track you down.