For animal welfare organizations, it’s often difficult to balance shelter pet marketing with adoption counseling. But with some forethought, these two vital parts of the adoption process can smoothly transition from one to the next.
Think of marketing your shelter pets as your Tinder profile, says Monica Frenden, Maddie’s® Director of Feline Lifesaving and Austin Pets Alive! Cat Program Manager. You want to put your best foot forward, and then ease into any special needs or negative quirks. “Just like when dating, your special needs and quirks get disclosed at an appropriate time or no one would ever swipe right on you,” says Frenden.
“Absolutely everything should be disclosed, not only to set the pet and adopter up for success, but to eliminate shelter liability and encourage transparency. It is when and how we disclose that our industry can be doing much better at,” says Frenden.
Frenden suggests never using “stop sign language” on a kennel card. Putting an overly broad warning like “no kids” on a card could turn off an adopter. Should that pet really not be around children, or would that pet do better in a home with teenagers, not a toddler? Technically, a 2-year-old and a 16-year-old are kids, but they couldn’t be more different.
When an adopter comes to the shelter, engage with them immediately, uncover what they are looking for and direct them to good matches. “That will almost always stave off disappointment because if they make it clear they aren’t interested in a challenging pet, we aren’t going to let them fall in love with with that pet and set them up for disappointment,” Frenden says.
All of this goes for foster-based organizations as well. While these organizations may not have the benefit of having a physical location, it’s important to pick up the phone and have a conversation before a pet visit. With a conversation, you can determine what an adopter is looking for and if the pet they want isn’t going to be a good match, this provides an opportunity to tell the adopter about all the wonderful pets you have that fit their criteria.
Finally, Frenden has some advice on names. Austin Pets Alive! will never use a name that will reflect negatively on a cat, like Lucifer or Smelly. Common names like Callie, Blackie and Socks have been permanently banned because the names are so common, and they don’t help the cats stand out “like the individuals they are,” she says. She cites a study that 18 – 29 year-olds are more accepting of cats with behavior issues, so they will name the “naughty cats something from pop culture that will resonate with a young audience.” Try names like Cardi B, the kids from the show Riverdale (Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead) or Beyonce for your next cat or dog.
For even more insight on this topic, you can watch this presentation from the 2018 American Pets Alive! Conference.