Mini shelter adopt-a-thons

I noticed a few weeks ago that people react better to individual dogs, separated from the mob, than they do to large numbers of dogs together. When the SMART (Shelter Matchmaker And Rehab Training) team is working they bring dogs into a front hallway at the shelter. Potential adopters will usually stop and visit with the dogs we’re training. Some adoptions have taken place in the hallway, with dogs being presented to people by the SMART team. Some adopters will say they prefer to not even go into the big dog room because of the noise and perceived aggression issues.

It was a natural journey, therefore, to consider changing the shelter’s adopt-a-thon process. Setting a goal to make the animals more attractive and adoptable, I first decided to reduce the number of dogs and enforce a 1:1 ratio of volunteers to dogs.

Here’s how it worked before —  1) an adopt-a-thon location was contacted, room was made for the HSOV set-up,  2) eight to ten dog-walkers would show up at the adopt-a-thon site that morning,  3) shelter staff would make 2-3 trips transporting a dozen-or-so dogs and cats,  4) kids would walk the dogs around the parking lot and the store, and  5) very few animals got adopted.

Here was my plan — 1) contact a few local businesses interested in mini-adopt-a-thons,  2) create a plan and system for individual volunteers to personally haul individual dogs to adopt-a-thon locations,  3) train volunteers to behave respectfully and to be an asset to the store, rather than being in the way or an intrusion, and  4) test and monitor the constant, impromptu adopt-a-thons.

Yesterday I met with the manager of a local pet food store that provides cage space for our shelter cats, ex-pen space for some of our shelter dogs, and works closely with our shelter as well as other area shelters. The manager was delighted to provide a small space near the front of the store for an individual volunteer and a dog or two.

This morning I arrived at the shelter having done an mental inventory of the available shelter dogs. I wanted a dog available for adoption (we have 20+ dogs leaving for New England shelters and rescue organizations tomorrow), I wanted one I could manage (my knee injury forces me to limit myself to dogs less than 40 pounds), and I didn’t want to take a little puppy. My choices included a little black lab mix who was extremely shy and a rotty mix who was very well behaved.

Imagine my pleasure when I walked into the shelter and found, in the little-dog room, an 8-or-9-pound terrier mix who had just been surrendered to the shelter. She was too recent an addition to be slated for the rescue transport, she was well-endowed in the cute department, and she was just the right size for this lame handler.

In addition to “Gretchen,” the shelter staff called We Luv Pets and discovered they could make room for some of our cats. We loaded 3 cats into a carrier, loaded Gretchen into one of my crates, took volunteer applications and some treats, and headed out to We Luv Pets.

When I arrived they’d set up a chair for me and asked if I needed a table or anything else. They had a cat cage all cleaned and ready for the cats, and were incredibly welcoming. While Gretchen and I settled in the manager cut fleece fabric to create hammocks in the cat cage.

I spent a really pleasant 2-hours in the store, schmoozing with customers, talking about shelter dogs, showing off Gretchen’s new tricks (she learned sit, sit-pretty, and dance in about 5 minutes) and generally being goodwill ambassadors for the shelter.

We cleaned up our area and headed back to the shelter. Gretchen was exhausted and I was very happy with how the non-event functioned. The new shelter manager, Sue Goff, decided that she’d go back to We Luv Pets on quiet afternoons and take one of the shelter dogs along with her.

I’m hoping this becomes an even better relationship, between us and this pet-food store. They compete with a nearby Petland that sells dogs for big bucks, so I’m hoping folks will see the benefits of visiting We Luv Pets instead.

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One Response to “Mini shelter adopt-a-thons”

  1. Erica Says:

    We do the same thing with a local pet store, and along with the other items (applications, etc.) I take a binder with photo and writeup on all the adoptable dogs in our area (Ohio/KY). You might be able to do a similar thing to entice folks to come back to HSOV after seeing a particularly compelling face or story (often the story is what sucks them in!). Perhaps one of your marketing students could work on that project for you. If a dog gets adopted, don’t pull the page, just mark a big ADOPTED! across it with highlighter. Of course, keep the ratio of available to ADOPTED! very high – like 20:1 to keep the pressure on.

    You are doing such wonderful things for HSOV! They must be ecstatic!

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