ASPCA, National Shelter Outreach
One of the most effective ways to increase animal placement while gaining exposure for the shelter is through advertising. Shelters can advertise at many levels — in the classified section of their local paper, in the Yellow Pages, in magazines or newspapers, on billboards, or mass transit, or through a full page advertisement featuring “pets of the week.” Local businesses are often interested in sponsoring adoption advertisements.
“Pet of the Week” Programs
Pet of the Week programs are probably the most prevalent form of shelter public relations. Pet of the Week programs run the gamut from television programs to radio talk shows to newspaper features. The one thing they all have in common is the promotion of a particular pet (or pets) and promotion of the shelter as a good place to adopt a healthy, happy pet.
Retail and Out-of-Shelter Adoptions
Don’t wait for the public to come to you — bring your animals to the public! Don’t lower your adoption standards, just increase your visibility and accessibility. Providing animals at convenient locations can mean increased adoptions and decreased overpopulation (you can displace intact animals with sterilized animals). Many of the major pet supply supermarkets encourage in-store adoptions. Community centers or large businesses often have space that you can use on an occasional basis. Promote these outreach events widely to attract adopters from the local community.
Internet Promotions and Adoptions
You don’t need to have your own website to benefit from Internet advertising. Internet adoption services are rapidly expanding and many allow shelters to join at no charge. Volunteers can update the photos and information on your site to keep it fresh and interesting. Affluent adopters can look for future companions by searching on criteria such as breed, size, sex, or location from the comfort of their home computers. Be sure to include your adoption hours, directions and other pertinent information.
June is “Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat” Month and October is Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog” Month. Take advantage of these months — offer specials, have a big media blitz, and/or have special events.
Showing groups through your facility familiarizes the community with your location, and your programs and activities. People who have been through your facility, either on an official tour or as a guest at an open house, are likely to remember the shelter when it comes time to get an animal.
Take advantage of your newsletter and promote adoption. Try a full page “ad” in the newsletter or something cute like the ten top reasons to adopt a pet from your shelter.
Have an adopt-a-thon or an adopt-a-rama. Chicago Anti-Cruelty has a “Midnight Madness” event where they have a special nighttime adoption promotion. Make it a happening — have face painting for kids, animal crafts for sale, and an “ask a vet/dog trainer” table. The Michigan Humane Society’s “Meet Your Best Friend at the Zoo,” an adoption event held at the Detroit Zoo, places over 600 animals in two days.
Get local veterinary practices to provide food, care and cage space for a small number of adoptable animals that can be adopted at the veterinary facility. Provide adoption training for their staff in counseling, proper screening, and paperwork processing. Where better to find a responsible pet owner than at a veterinarian’s office.
A well-managed foster program can provide extra time for animals — especially sick, injured or orphaned, and animals that are showing behavioral signs of stress from being in the shelter too long. An extra bonus is that many foster volunteers end up either adopting an animal themselves or finding potential adopters.
Start a mobile adoption program that brings animals out into the community for adoption. As with any off-site program you must keep in mind potential problems such as animal stress, over-handling of animals, food, water and protection from the elements (too hot, too cold).
Eye-catching bumper stickers that promote adoption can be given free to all adopters and sold at a nominal fee for the public. Obviously, cars adorning bumper stickers promote adoption all over the community. The Hawaiian Humane Society gives every adopter an “I Met My Best Friend at the Hawaiian Humane Society” sticker. Bumper stickers can also be underwritten by sponsors.
Pet contests are popular. Contest ideas are only limited by your imagination and, of course guided by humane principles. Some categories are: smallest, largest, ugliest, oldest, pet celebrity/pet look-alike, and best trick. Participants have fun and compete for donated gift certificates while the shelter promotes its adoption program and raises money.
All universities and colleges have alumni promotions; why not animal shelters? Alumni promotions can be as easy as putting up an alumni bulletin board or as involved as conducting a major alumni fund drive. Adopters are often proud of their pets and many feel especially proud that they “saved” an animal — why not take advantage of that feeling and encourage Fido’s owner to support his fellow “classmates.” Adopters that feel they are part of a special club are more likely to promote adoptions with friends, relatives and co-workers.
The San Francisco SPCA has a “Dial-a-Cat Service” and the Michigan Humane Society has a “FAX-a-Pet Program.”
Adoption promotion is limited only by your creativity and somewhat by your pocketbook. Think of every opportunity with the public as an opportunity to promote animal placement and responsible pet care.
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