Julie Morris, VP National Shelter Outreach, ASPCA
New and Improved in New Hampshire
After three decades in an increasingly crowded space, the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NHSPCA) proudly inaugurated a bright, new adoption center in July 2001. Thanks to a great deal of attention to detail by NHSPCA’s dedicated staff – the new center required 10 years of planning and three years of fundraising to complete – resident animals and their prospective adopters can now enjoy time spent at the shelter, and the organization can better serve its customers.
The NHSPCA, located in the city of Stratham, was incorporated in 1872. It has provided services to communities on the coast of New Hampshire, southern Maine and northern Massachusetts for more than 130 years, though it has only been at the newly redesigned location for 30 years. Since that time, the number of animals passing through the NHSPCA’s door each year has grown considerably – to more than 3,000 annually – and the need for shelter renovations became increasingly obvious.
Brainstorming for Blueprints
The shelter staff visited many facilities, old and new, to get ideas. Their goal was to create an environment that reduced animal stress and increased adoptions. They decided that the new space had to be bright, comfortable, and easily accessible to staff and visitors. What they came up with is anything but ordinary. For starters, a cheerful yellow, blue and watermelon-colored front lobby leads the way to canine ‘home rooms’ and cat community rooms that are both animal and people friendly. The feline community rooms, for instance, are lined with benches and surrounded by windows so visitors can view and interact with the animals, plus they house a variety of climbing structures, toys, scratching posts and hideaways for the cats to enjoy. There are also rooms specifically set up for rabbits, small mammals and birds that allow lots of natural light to shine through.
In the dog adoption area, traditional kennels are placed in the middle of the room and the home rooms line the walls. Dogs are housed in low- or high-traffic areas, depending on their personalities and ability to deal with stress from visitors and other animals. Each kennel has a place for the dogs to hide in case they need a private getaway. In addition to this creative housing design, the staff makes sure that the dogs have ample opportunities for walking and exercise. They’ve doubled their use of toys and blankets, and expanded their volunteer staff and hours of operation. The net result has been a huge increase in the number of adoptions as well as greater community support.
Using Incentives to Increase Animal Adoptions
The NHSPCA is a participant in the ASPCA’s Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. To help inspire members of the communities it serves to consider adopting homeless animals, the shelter offers a special adoption package, promoted with a press release and a newspaper ad insert that includes $10 off adoption fees, a welcome home package from Iams and a Frisbee®. Sue Carney, manager of the society’s programs and services, says, “Patrons who have been thinking about adoption often choose this month to start looking more seriously. Visitors increase by at least 20 percent due to advertising and press.”
The shelter also offers an alternative to pet owners who must give up their pet but feel strongly about not having the animal brought to the shelter. Its Matchmaker program provides space at the adoption center for pet owners to post photos and details about the adoptable animal’s personality and lifestyle. Potential adopters are screened just as if the animal was at the center, and then contact information is shared so the animal can be visited in his own home with his guardians present.
The adoption center was phase one of the NHSPCA’s building project. Phase two involves renovating the old shelter and establishing it as a learning center for the community. Carney says that the learning center will offer a variety of programs, such as obedience training, puppy parenting classes and humane education. “Education is the key to reducing the number of unwanted animals,” she says. We couldn’t agree more.
Julie Morris is vice president of ASPCA National Shelter Outreach.
For more information about the NHSPCA, write to
P.O. Box 196, Stratham, NH 03885; or log on to www.nhspca.org. The NHSPCA is a member of Petfinder.com
© 2002 ASPCA
ASPCA Animal Watch – Fall 2002
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