July 24, 2018
Categories: Budgets and Financial Development
West Highland White Terrier

What if you could reduce the time animals have to wait to find a forever home, while increasing adoptions and seeing your adoption revenue go up?

This positive turn of events has been playing out this year at San Jose Animal Care Center (SJACC)– and the center says a newly-implemented strategy called “variable pricing” is largely responsible.

Variable pricing assigns a higher adoption fee to pets perceived as being more coveted, like puppies, kittens and purebred animals. Those higher adoption fees for those pets will help offset the cost of care for all pets. In the case of San Jose Animal Care Center, the average length of stay dropped to 10 days from 14, and the rate of adoptions increased for all their animals.

How are the fees assigned? Staycee Dains, Animal Shelter Operations Supervisor at SJACC says it’s about the cute factor, and the dollar figures often come down to a gut feeling. The idea is these fortunate animals can use their high adoptability to help others.

Puppy prices start at $135. But when the center had a litter of six four-month old German Shepherds, they priced them at $600 each, and adopted them out in less than an hour. Instead of bringing in $810 in adoption revenue, they were able to get $3,600, which helped fund care for every pet. Similarly, in early spring, kittens were priced at $200, when the demand was extremely high.

Jon Cicirelli, Assistant Director Public Works (and also a Maddie Hero), said market forces are at work for pets, and  “Price is a factor, and that needs to be recognized.” An adopter may come in decide $800 is too much for them to spend on a dog, he said, but that adopter may then decide to adopt a $115 dog instead. This less expensive dog may have been overlooked, before but is now getting a second look.

Once variable pricing is explained to a skeptical adopter, they understand the value of a higher adoption fee for a highly adoptable pet, and that the higher fee helps with the care of other animals.

If you’re a non-profit, implementing variable pricing is easy. You can just make the change. For a municipal shelter, it requires a little more work. Cicirelli said he convinced the city council that this was a sensible change to make. These changes were then written into the city code, giving the shelter the authority to set prices.

They only have one regret: They wish they’d done it sooner.

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