PetfindeR, R Wrapper for the Petfinder API, Introduction Part Two

Getting Started

The first post introduced and explored the basic usage of the PetfindeR library. In this post, we take a quick look at some of the additional uses of the library and its methods to extract data from the Petfinder database. Before getting started, it is worthwhile to recall the limits imposed by Petfinder when interacting with its API. The following restrictions are copied from Petfinder's API documentation:

  • Total requests per day: 10,000
  • Records per request: 1,000
  • Maximum records per search: 2,000

Therefore, a single call cannot exceed 2,000 records, and there is a maximum of 1,000 records per request. Knowing this information, we can construct our calls to the API to extract the maximum amount of information without exceeding the limitations imposed by Petfinder.

After PetfindeR is installed, it can be loaded using the library() function. We initialize the Petfinder R6 class object using a key received from Petfinder. You can easily obtain a key by creating an account on Petfinder on the site's developers page. Once the key is obtained, we use that as an argument when initializing the class. We can now begin to extract data from the Petfinder API!

key <- Sys.getenv('PETFINDER_KEY')
pf <- Petfinder(key)

Paging Results

The Petfinder API pages results to reduce the stress on the API when extracting a large number of records. Paging is the only way to exceed the API's limitation of 1,000 records per request. For example, to get 2,000 animal records located in Washington State (and beyond), we could set the count parameter in the pet.find method to 500 and the pages parameter to 4. We could also change the count and pages parameters to 1, 000 and 2, respectively, which would achieve the same result.

paged <- pf$pet.find(location = 'WA', count = 500, pages = 4, return_df = TRUE)
paged2 <- pf$pet.find(location = 'WA', count = 1000, pages = 2, return_df = TRUE) # Returns the same as above

The PetfindeR library will check to make sure the count parameter doesn't exceed 1,000 to avoid wasting an API call.

count.too.high <- pf$pet.find(location = 'WA', count = 1001, return_df = TRUE)

## Error in check_inputs(animal = animal, size = size, sex = sex, age = age, : a single request cannot exceed 1,000 records

The library will also check to make sure that the input pages parameter and count will not exceed 2,000.

max.record.exceeded <- pf$pet.find(location = 'WA', count = 500, pages = 5, return_df = TRUE)

## Error in check_inputs(animal = animal, size = size, sex = sex, age = age, : searches cannot exceed 2,000 records.

Offsetting Results

Four of the available methods (pet.find, shelter.find, shelter.getPets, and shelter.listByBreed) in the Petfinder API offer an offset parameter which can be used to skip the first n results from the API. Behind the scenes, the offset parameter is used to page results if the pages parameter is specified, but it can also be used to avoid returning the same data when iterating calls. For example, the below two calls using the pet.find method would, in essence, return the first 100 results should the two results be appended.

no.offset <- pf$pet.find(location = 'WA', count = 50, return_df = TRUE) # Get the first 50 results
offsetted <- pf$pet.find(location = 'WA', offset = 50, count = 50, return_df = TRUE) # Skip the first 25 results and get the next 50

The above two calls could also be written as the below.

paged <- pf$pet.find(location = 'WA', pages = 2, count = 50, return_df = TRUE)
raw_count <- pf$pet.find(location = 'WA', count = 100, return_df = TRUE)


This short vignette explored some of the additional functionality of several of the methods available in the Petfinder API and PetfindeR library for further customizing the number of records and their location in the database using the offset parameter. Future vignettes will also explore some possible use cases of extracting and analyzing the data available in the Petfinder database.

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