Searching for Strays with a FLIR E8-XT

The task of finding and rescuing stray dogs, cats, and other pets is a challenge many animal-loving volunteers are willing to take on every day. It can be tough to bring in skittish strays that find safety in hiding, but organizations such as Stray Rescue of Saint Louis, Missouri, recently discovered the benefit of using a FLIR thermal imaging camera to locate animals in need.

The Missouri nonprofit aims to take in animals that no other organization will and care for them until a family adopts them. The group’s main objective, though, is to rescue homeless dogs and cats. Stray Rescue of Saint Louis is often the first responder for many severe stray cases and regularly finds animals suffering from malnutrition, burns, amputated limbs, and even gunshot wounds. The organization believes their operation is critical to ending the overpopulation problem of strays and preventing hundreds of thousands of puppies and kittens from being born on the street.

One such rescue got the attention of FLIR in March of this year. A truck driver discovered a puppy sitting in a tub atop a trash can during his break at a park, and called in Stray Rescue. Since the driver had to get back on the road and couldn’t monitor the pup, it was gone by the time Donna Lochmann of Stray Rescue made it to the park. The sun had set, and while Lochmann located the tub, her search around the pavilion with her flashlight didn’t turn up anything.

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When Lochmann arrived at the park, the dog wasn’t visible. The trash can and tub are on the right.

Lochmann was about to give up on the assumption that someone had taken the dog, but couldn’t shake a gut feeling that the dog was still there. It was then she remembered the FLIR E8-XT thermal imaging camera the shelter bought after a recent fundraiser. Lochmann grabbed the camera from her car and panned around the park. Despite having no formal training and only using the camera three times, Lochmann almost immediately found the puppy curled up in the bushes.

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The stray dog located with the FLIR E8-XT.

Once rescued and brought back to the shelter, they discovered the dog had caught a case of parvo while out in the wild. Parvo is a common but deadly virus that causes fever and sever vomiting in dogs and can reach a staggering 91% mortality rate in its victims. Stray Rescue was able to save the dog through blood and plasma transfusions and has thankfully found him a temporary home in foster care.


“Flir” at the shelter shortly after being rescued

“That thermal camera absolutely saved that puppy’s life. Without it, I would have never seen him in that bush,” says Lochmann. “It saved this puppy and literally I think just in time, because there's no way as cold as it was and as sick as he was, he would have never lived through the night.”

The rescue organization was so happy with the results of the camera, they even named the dog “Flir”.


Flir required blood and plasma transfusions to combat Parvo, but he is recovering well.

Flir is the only rescue found using the FLIR E8-XT so far but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a worthwhile investment. Lochmann says one of the biggest benefits has been the peace of mind it provides when they can confirm there are no more strays in the area and their job is done.

 “Sometimes when we leave a rescue, we think ‘Oh my god did we get them all?’ They’re so little and when they’re scared, they just shut down. You could walk right next to one and they wouldn’t make a peep”, Lochmann explains. The rescue member recalled one time when the team found up to five more strays upon returning to a site for a second look. Using the thermal imaging camera might have helped them locate all the animals during the first visit.

“It's certainly going to save more lives. I absolutely have no doubt about that,” Lochmann says.

If you would like to learn more about Stray Rescue of Saint Louise and keep up with their rescues, you can visit their website here

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