I searched for months to adopt my dog. I saw dog after dog at foster houses and was rejected from all of them for nonsense reasons like I was single, I worked a full-time job, I live in an apartment, I didn’t have a backyard. I wasn’t looking to adopt a huge dog. I wanted a medium to small dog that would have room to run in an apartment. The whole process was long and frustrating. I spent many nights upset over all the time I wasted trying to get people to give me a dog. I was a great candidate with years of dog and cat experience, came with great references, had a good job, owned an apartment in the city and a house in the country…..but that wasn’t good enough. This experience got me thinking about how some shelters are run. Obviously, many of them are overcrowded so fostering is great, and I understand that you get attached to the pet in your care; however, sometimes you have to let them go to their new furever home. The goal of shelters should be to get pets into good homes – not necessarily the absolutely perfect home. Here are some ideas I had that I think would help get more animals adopted. First it’s all about how the animals are presented. Do they have a good name? A great photo? If not, start there.
- If you don’t have a great photographer on staff or as a volunteer, post an ad on Craigslist for an amateur photographer looking to get their name out there. Have them photograph your animals. Reward them with credit for the photos and be a great reference for them.
- Set up a small area with a nice backdrop to be your permanent photo area. Animals do not look their best in cages. Take the extra minute to photograph them elsewhere. Perhaps have them sit on a chair. Get on their level. I am not a photographer so I don’t have lots of tips for this but there are many sites out there that do. Check out this site for a good start.
- Make sure your listings on Petfinder are awesome…… Use photoshop if you have to
(or another less complicated program) and throw a hat or caption on a picture – especially if you don’t have a great picture of the animal. Don’t have time for this? Recruit an intern who can work on this task from home.
- On that same thought, use that intern to spice up your listings. Make them funny and interesting. You have to get the viewer to connect with this animal and all you have is a picture and words. Take the extra time to post something fantastic. You can always recycle verbiage from animals that have already been adopted to save time.
- Organize! Use your computer. Print as much information about the animal as possible on an index card size paper and attach it to their cage. This way potential adopters will know as much as possible about the animals they are viewing. You can cheaply add and replace information by attaching paper to the cage via a clothespin. Use a border and a nice font. Include language that will connect the animal to your potential adopter instead of just bullet points. Something like “Hi, My name is Misty. I love other cats and dogs but little children scare me. I’m 8 years old and love to be tickled under the chin. I’d love to become part of your family.” Include a great photo of the animal in case they are hiding in the back of the cage.
- Make it easier for people to volunteer at your shelter. I tried to volunteer at several shelters and had to jump through hoops just to get a response. I never felt like they wanted or needed my help even though their website asked for volunteers. In the end, I chose to volunteer elsewhere where I felt appreciated.
- Shelter hours – Hours that people can visit pets after work and on the weekend are a must! Having hoards of people come into your shelter during the couple of hours you are open on a Saturday is just not a great way to get your animals in front of people. I realize that shelters are often short-staffed, but getting people in is how animals get adopted! Make it convenient. Animals will be less stressed when viewed by fewer people at one time as well.
- Ask your local high schools if they have home economics classes. Perhaps they can sew pet beds for you
made out of things they already own, or if there is a woodshop class, they can construct some that are even fancier – perhaps for sale at your shelter or for auction at an adoption event. See some options here and here and here!
- Dog toys are also an option for group projects. If you can’t get local schools on board, perhaps schedule a night out at a bar or restaurant. Have tools and supplies on hand and ask participants to bring supplies as well – old shirts, tennis balls, etc. Here are some ideas for homemade toys. Some of those toys are easy enough for elementary schools to create. Projects are great ways to keep kids occupied on rainy days – instead of just plopping them in front of a television.
- Make an Amazon wish list to allow people to buy specific items for your shelter. Keep active on social media. Show both success stories and animals still in need of homes. It’s amazing how people will pull together to get your animals adopted; it just has to be easy for them to do so.
Sorry this list was so long. I feel like I have a million more ideas, but I’ll write them up another time. If you have any ideas of your own or thoughts about mine, please leave a note in the comments section. I would love to be able to help shelters in any way I can.