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The Race for the Right House: Special Needs Adoption Candidates Campaign for Loving Homes

Michigan Humane Society (MHS)

A $20,000 winner in the 2008 Maddie’s Fund Marketing Competition; submitted by Cal Morgan, President and CEO, Michigan Humane Society, Detroit, Mich.

With election season in full swing, the Michigan Humane Society (MHS) set forth on our Race for the Right House campaign to endorse some candidates of our own: special needs adoption candidates who are often overlooked by those seeking a pet at MHS three metro Detroit adoption centers.

The Race for the Right House campaign resulted in increased awareness for special needs pets who are excellent candidates for adoption, but who may require extra training, medical care, or financial commitments due to previous obstacles in their lives, or who have physical imperfections. The program centered on the premise that, with increased awareness, caring constituents would be willing to elect one or more of these special pets as a new family member. After all, theyre cute, cuddly, and their platform is unconditional love!

At the Michigan Humane Society, its always our goal to find the right home for each of the adoptable animals in our care. And, while it can be more challenging and take longer to find, we believe there is a right home out there for all of these special pets. With the national elections coming up, we also made sure to mention that, at MHS, there is never a time limit for adoptions.

Our campaign communications platform included a press release to local print media; Pet of the Week spots on local television and radio stations; eye-catching graphics on our homepage and other collateral; a Web page devoted to the campaign; individual web pages, posters and e-cards for several individual candidates; and an e-newsletter that went to approximately 40,000 email addresses.

The campaign slogan, featured on the Web site, graphics appearing on television Pet of the Week spots, posters and our e-newsletters was For the Change They Need.

We incorporated grassroots elements into the campaign by inviting the public to meet some of the candidates online at and encouraging those who could not adopt one of the candidates to continue supporting their candidacy by donating, hanging their posters at their workplace or favorite coffee shot, or sending free e-cards to friends and family.

Posters were placed in key locations within the adoption centers and near the individual candidates. All the candidates received backing from the MHS adoption counselors who made sure visitors had a chance to meet them. Four special needs dogs and one cat declared their adoption eligibility on October 16, 2008, and a few more pets were added to the campaign as they announced their candidacy at later dates.

Dino, a 10-year-old beagle was the first to be elected by a family, after winning over television viewers with his plan for love well into the future. Rottweiler Tesco sealed up support among the young male demographic on his way to adoption a few days later. Five month-old kitten Peanut, who was born at one of our adoption centers and had resided there ever since, was quickly adopted after hitting campaign trail.

Web site traffic of those viewing special needs animals went up over 500%.

Other candidates still awaiting election include: Chestnut, a timid Labrador mix who was evacuated from Hurricane Gustav and suffers from slight hair loss as well as a luxating patella; Sugar, an eight-month-old kitten with a misshapen rear leg; and Dash, an eight-year-old Golden Retriever mix who will require dental surgery. They are campaigning hard for their shot at the Right House. Its a close race that none can afford to lose. With so much riding on the line with these adoptions, the remaining candidates are scrambling to purr their way into hearts and lick as many faces as possible before their adoption day comes.

The campaign is scheduled through November 4, and we expect that, due to the initial success of the campaign, even more special needs animals will soon be elected into the Right House.

The Michigan Humane Society (MHS) is a private, nonprofit organization which cares for more than 100,000 animals each year, while working to end companion animal homelessness, provide the highest quality service and compassion to the animals entrusted to our care, and to be a leader in promoting humane values.

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