Between three and four million dogs and cats are adopted each year. With so many homeless pets waiting, it can be hard for any single cat or dog to get noticed. Large shelters have an abundance of animals clamoring for the attention of visitors while small rescue groups might not be the first stop for prospective pet parents. It can take some creative marketing and effort to help people envision your adoptable pet in their home.
Names are the first impression:
“Killer” the Chihuahua might get adopted. “Killer” the Rottweiler--probably not. Similarly, Max, Blackie and Rex are less likely to stand out compared to counterparts with names like “Catniss” or “Big Head Ted.” It’s okay to change names or add some spark. Maybe change “Maggie” to “Magnolia” or “Queen” to “Queen Rosalita the 8th.” It’s okay to be trendy: A litter of kittens named after Glee Characters are likely to make a love connection with some Gleeks out there.
Post quality photos:
Don’t be in a hurry to post adoptable pet photos where the animal is behind cage bars, the eyes are glowing green from the flash and the animal is nervous. Even if you’re looking for sympathy, no one wants to imagine a damp, fearful street dog on their sofa. Here are a few quick tips to improve shelter animal photos:
Take a step away from the concrete kennel and do a photoshoot in a natural setting, like a grassy spot, in an office or against a neutral backdrop.
Use natural lighting when possible, or place a piece of facial tissue over your flash to avoid the “green glare” eyes.
Instead of posing on a leash, catch them swatting at a toy, rolling over for belly rubs, or enjoying a nap in the sun. Showcase their personality!
Use props, costumes, or accessories. I dare any of you to see a profile of a dog wearing a bow-tie and not give it a second look.
Now that you’ve got great photos, create social media banners and videos for people to share. Make a fan page or do a daily update about a pet’s activities. Just as we feel like we “know” celebrities, people bond with animals in a social media space. Remember, keep it positive. Pleas for attention and sympathy only turn people off, but demonstrating the many ways your adoptee will fit into their family will win hearts.
Enable fosters and volunteers to be ambassadors
I knew one foster mom who raised bottle-fed kittens and almost always had homes lined up for them before they were available for adoption. We supported her efforts by giving her copies of adoption info up front. She went so far as to take photos to jury duty with her. By the time the verdict was in, all six kittens had adopters waiting, and she was grateful to get to know their new families.
A dog that is climbing his cage door will likely be passed over for the pile of sleepy puppies in the next run. Keep adoptable pets at their finest by offering plenty of enrichment, exercise and mental stimulation. Since almost every adopter will ask a dog to “sit” during a meet and greet, plan ahead and teach the dog to sit. Then work on leash skills and some other manners or cute tricks. It’ll give the dog a leg up on the competition and maybe prevent them from demonstrating less appealing behaviors when they are desperate for attention.
Every pet has a home out there, but it’s up to you to help that home see what they’ve been missing.