Who are We Helping?

“His time is up. He’s too young and too beautiful to put down. Somebody please step up and adopt him. His days are numbered.” – from a random posting about a dog in a kill shelter

While I appreciate that posts like these are well-intentioned and aimed at expressing the urgency of getting a pet out of a kill shelter to save his life, I cringe when I read such statements.  Words have power.  And although the intended effect of the message was positive, the power behind these words is negative.

Consider the following:

  • He’s too young and too beautiful to put down.  It’s ok to kill older pets or the ugly ones since most people don’t want those kinds, but we should try to save the young and pretty pets because youth and beauty are valued in our culture.
  • His days are numbered.  He’s a dead dog walking.  It’s his destiny to die in the kill room of a shelter.  By the time you read this and take action, he may already be dead and who wants to set themselves up for that kind of disappointment?  Just pass this one by.  There’s nothing you can do.
  • His time is up.  This pet is worthless.  His value is so low, he’s not even valuable enough to LIVE past an arbitrary date on the calendar.  He’s had his chance to get adopted and nobody wanted him so obviously he’s no good.  Oh well, we can’t save them all.

Are we helping these pets by putting out these kinds of messages?  Are we helping foster a culture of compassion about shelter pets and promote the concept of a no kill nation?  Or are we inadvertently discouraging potential adopters/foster homes/crossposters by using this kind of language?  Are we actually justifying the killing of healthy/treatable pets in shelters when we use terms like these?

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62 Comments

  1. Cj

     /  January 28, 2011

    “His days are numbered” or “His time is up.” = He’s in a kill shelter and hasn’t been chosen by the public yet – he just doesn’t show well in a scary, noisy place that may not work to show off his best attributes. These words don’t sound like a turn-off to me, and I read them often. I cringe only because I know the rescues may not have room for him.

    I don’t see the first messages about “too young” or “too beautiful” (thank goodess). I agree that those words carry the veiled messages that older/not cute animals don’t have the same right to life. I think the rescues I know understand that and choose not to use those words.

    Reply
  2. Morgana

     /  January 28, 2011

    I totally agree, and I personally HATE messages like this one, even though I always read all the alerts I get. We concentrate on the ‘old and ugly, battered and torn’, but to say that an animal is too young and pretty to die DOES denigrate the others…

    Reply
  3. I think most of these posts are written by pet rescuers to other rescues. Young and beautiful — meaning that they hope the rescue reading this message will consider this dog because it is highly adoptable and it will move fast.

    Limited time is used all the time to sell everything from toothpaste to luxury cars — they have sales because the time limit factor makes people take action.

    I think we as pet rescuers need to start trying to work with the media more and try to contact people outside of the little pet rescue circle in order to save more shelter pets.

    And you are right if we are speaking with the general public we need to be very careful about how we talk about these animals in need. Most people are interested in finding a nice companion animal not a rescue case that might be more than they can handle.

    Reply
  4. Thank you for sharing your different interpretations. I’m so glad to hear them. I find it impossible to get past the idea that it is in any way acceptable to say any pet’s “time is up”. But reading the thoughts of others has at least given me a greater perspective.

    Reply
  5. Amen Sister! Although, truth be told, I find myself on that path way more often than I’d like to admit.
    I try to remember my deep-down belief that there is a person on this planet for each and every one of us, and each and every creature.
    I work very hard to be transparent and honest with every potential adopter. I tell it like it is, and I maybe even go overboard with the negative stuff! (If they’re interested enough to contact me, then the whole truth is the next step.) An adopter who hears the worst case scenario BEFORE they adopt has a much better chance of success…(or they’ll not adopt!)
    But death threats and time-based PR hype just make me angry and turn me off.
    I tell every adopter, several times, that I will gladly take back the dog AT ANY TIME. (This is written in the adoption contract more than once too!)
    Part of my “introductory speech” to interested adopters is to explain that every animal is different with every person, and that just because a relinquisher says one thing about a dog, that doesn’t mean that dog is “stuck” in that behavior. I also tell them that we ALL learn every day. Every dog is learning every day and it is the ADOPTER’S CHOICE what their dog learns once they take it home.
    I also honestly point out that it’s easier to adopt a dog that has already learned the stuff that you’d like to reinforce, but it’s more rewarding to work with an animal to change behavior and “customize” the relationship to fit your family.
    Key point is that if you don’t reinforce good behavior, it can easily fade away, and if you unknowingly reinforce negative behaviors, they grow!
    I think these too pretty, too young postings are a way that we reinforce OURSELVES, and I don’t think it actually helps the animal or the adopter.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

       /  January 29, 2011

      I like that you’re honest. When someone inquires about their behavior, I will happily give the good with the bad. Though, I admit, I sandwich the bad between all the layers of good to keep it a positive experience. If anything gives that “eermmph” red flag face to the potential adopter, we usually discuss it at a greater length to see if it’s anything they would be willing to handle. I don’t see why some people are so opposed to this, though. Adopting the dog out is only half the battle. Ensuring that it STAYS out is key.

      Reply
      • Erica

         /  January 30, 2011

        I love your last statements –

        “Adopting the dog out is only half the battle. Ensuring that it STAYS out is the key.”

        ANd it appears that many of us know this and act accordingly – like sharing the good with the bad & giving them options of things that can help! Glad to see that others see things that same way and work towards making sure this is the goal. Unforunately too many places are in such a hurry to get the dogs out that they don’t take the time required to make sure it is a good fit and that the new “owner” knows what options are out there to help them.

  6. Erica

     /  January 28, 2011

    I personally would rather see a thorough bio of the animal in question rather than the too young, too beautiful, days are numbered. Truth be told we have an entire country full of ‘too young”, “too beautiful”, and “numbered days” animals in their care each and every day. They all deserve a chance at life – including the old, ugly, days numbered ones. While I get it that some cases are more critical in need of being rescued – there has to be a better way of working it. If they stick to the facts – when the animals was surrendered/located/picked up (dates) – as well as potential euth date, any vet information from an exam listing what testing has been done with results (meds they put the animal on or things that will be an ongoing issue), behavior problems that are known or have been observed (both from the person who surrendered or what has been observed while at the shelter/rescue), if the animal gets along with other dogs/cats/kids/men/women….any and all information about the animal in question would be better than to keep pushing that urgent too young/beautiful/days are numbered. It would also make more sense to tell what has been done to correct medical issues (or what still needs done) – and same for behavioral issues.

    The best way to find a home for an animal is being transparent. If someone knows everything about the animal they will be able to tell for sure that the animal fits the family’s lifestyle. Instead we end up with people jumping through hoops to try and save this specific animal without knowing everything about it – which could quite possibly result in the animal ending up right back where they started.

    It all goes back to education – and educating people on everything about each animal that is available for adoption will narrow down the list and quite possibly make it easier for them to get adopted into a forever home because people will know what they are getting into up front. Otherwise – we end up with people running on emotion and doing whatever they can to save said animal…and in some cases it isn’t a good fit but the person trying to save the young/beautiful/day numbered dog doesn’t know everything that there is to know about it.

    On top of that it DOES put across the image that young, beautiful animals are more deserving of being save rather than older/’uglier’ ones. The fact remains that some people prefer young good looking animals, while others want older animals – and besides that beauty is different for each person. I have friends who just absolutely adore their dog and think it is the most beautiful creature on four legs – and I think the dog is kind of spooky looking and just plain ugly. It all boils down to opinion – and that is something we should avoid while trying to place animals. Just the facts ma’am.

    Reply
  7. pitbull friend

     /  January 28, 2011

    Some fantastic points here – Erica is so right about disclosing as much as we can. Problem so often is that the people who are listing the animal don’t know much. I have very much enjoyed my niche work as a temp foster for a shelter. I take dogs who no one knows anything about into my home for a week or two. By the time they leave, my dogs have housetrained them, they’ve gotten some basic manners down (like not counter-surfing), and we know whether they are good with dogs, cats, and children, plus a few details about their personality (energy level, interest in toys, etc.). I then do a thorough write-up with a cute picture of the dog lolling on the couch, hanging out with other dogs, etc.

    Many times, dogs who have been sitting at the shelter for months get adopted just a few days after I return them. People want DETAILS! I wish more shelters would have dog-experienced volunteers do this – I feel like it’s the biggest contribution I can make to saving lives.

    Reply
    • Erica

       /  January 28, 2011

      I think it is great that you do this – I wish more shelters had people willing to do this kind of work. Especially as I have found a direct correlation between having as much info about the animal as you can and being adtoped at a quicker rate.

      Reply
      • pitbull friend

         /  January 30, 2011

        I hope that someone reading this will start asking their local shelter to do this. A terrible shelter that I volunteered at did do a couple of good things, and this was one of them. When I went to another shelter, I asked THEM whether I could do the same thing for them. A lot of people know about shelters & a lot of people know about fostering, but I think this concept of “evaluation fostering” is relatively unknown. Folks, please spread the idea! It works!

  8. hwylo

     /  January 28, 2011

    Words have power! Absolutely!
    I dislike these e-mails too. Often it seems to me they employ a form of jargon, in order that everyone will get the picture fast! If you’re writing about 20 dogs that “fit” the description of the one above, you are also possibly going to write it without being able to give it a lot of thought. What it reveals to me is that this sort of thinking is not only easy to write, but that the sub-text is easy for everyone to understand. Which means to me that a lot of people are accepting the frame (at least subconsciously) that old dogs are ugly, that they don’t (or are not entitled to) much time. Re-framing the rescue request in a positive light would I think help. How come an older dog is not described as dignified or wise in a lot of these kind of e-mails? I think a dog’s bio is important too and should never be left out, but it is sometimes difficult to get a readers attention with “just the facts.”

    Reply
  9. To flesh things out a bit:
    When a kill shelter says “his time is up so we’re going to kill him”, we protest because we believe that the pet has a right to life, regardless of an arbitrary date on the calendar.
    When someone is making a plea for the dog and says “his time is up (and so the shelter is going to kill him)”, we do not protest because we feel the person is trying to help.
    What I’m questioning is, should we – the ones opposed to the killing of healthy/treatable shelter pets – be co-opting their language? If we speak in their terms, such as “his time is up”, does that become, perhaps subconsciously, ingrained in our collective psyche as an acceptable term? Are we tacitly approving of the idea that because a kill shelter says it’s time for this pet to die, his time is up?
    Thus, my title – Who are we helping? Is it possible that we are unintentionally helping kill shelters when we bring their objectionable language into our world of advocacy?

    Reply
    • vida

       /  January 28, 2011

      I think we protest the kill shelter because they are planning to kill the dog whose” time is up”.
      The rescue is informing us of this fact, why would we protest that?
      I understand what you are saying but the rescuers are attempting to convey a sense of the urgency they feel. To get someone to step up and help. People who are watching someone drown don’t parse their language when yelling for help.

      Reply
  10. Maria

     /  January 28, 2011

    You spend too much time reading into things….analyzing everything wastes time. in my experience that kind of post gets the rescues on his case, so good for the poster and i hope people continue to post that way because those of us in rescue KNOW what wording means and KNOW how much time the dogs have….no sugar coating…leave that for the donuts.

    Reply
    • Erica

       /  January 28, 2011

      Yes – the rescues get it – but when we have people reposting these “urgent” dogs we also need to be able to relay the information to the general public as well. I know many people who will instantly shut down when “shelter/rescue” speak is being used because too many people believe that they are being forced into action, sometimes against their better judgment.

      Reply
  11. I agree wholeheartedly with Erica. I do photography for local rescues who have animals who are less than “classically” pretty, handsome, or cute. The ones with injuries, or scars, or missing eyes, badly healed legs, missing limbs, or strange quirks. And I take a lot of pictures of “old” dogs. The folks walking the shelters have good hearts…but are usually lousy photographers. Bio’s should be honest, and can be and still convey the dignity and beauty of the “unusual” and “unique” pet needing a home. Older pets can make magnificent companions…and so can the “unique”…some of my favorite rescues have been those that will never look like any other.

    I donate my time, as time permits, for this purpose. Usually for rescue websites…

    Every animal is beautiful and has great dignity and personality. Old, young, broken, bent, blind, deaf, or otherwise. Roughly 20 million American homes are looking for a new companion each year…there are 3.6 million worthy creatures needing a home at shelters. Go find a “personality” that fits YOUR home! If one out of five Americans would consider a rescue or shelter pet for their next companion…we could eliminate the need for shelters for anything other than lost dogs, or those needing quarantine.

    Reply
  12. michele goldberg

     /  January 28, 2011

    yeah, i get it and it is a valid point… however with 3-5 million animals killed every year in shelters rescuers are doing their best to save as many as possible and i’m afraid, due to our american culture, it is easiest to save those “most adoptable.” wouldn’t you rather save 10 easily adoptable that 2-3 ones that will stay in foster care for months. we have to compete with the pet stores and the puppies.

    personally, i’d like to just take the seniors. they are the best anyway!

    Reply
    • Erica

       /  January 29, 2011

      I know a lot of people that also prefer the “seniors” – they want an older dog that has already been through the house training & out of the chew up my house puppy stage.

      I get what you are saying about saving 10 vs 2…but if handled correctly we could see a change in how this is done from the ground up (so to speak). Not everyone is looking for a pup or a certain breed…many people are trying to find a companion regardless of the age.

      If we worked on marketing with info about the dog – we could even go so far as to give some traits of the “breed” to further educate people as to if this breed of dog will fit into their lifestyle. I see so many people that say they will nly take puppies, because let’s face it they are adorable, BUT the same people don’t want to invest the time & energy into housebreaking and going through the puppy stage. So many people don’t think about the time committment needed for the puppies and younger dogs.

      The question is – are we looking to rescues to save the animals or are we trying to place these animals in forever homes? Because when these ‘urgent’ requests go out they are posted literally everywhere and that means people outside of rescues are also looking at them. So people, similar to yourself, looking for older dogs may not find one if we only focus on the cute little babies and younger animals.

      How this is handled can ultimately impact ALL animals in shelters IF those of us who do rescue choose to look at this from a different point of view. This can have a trickle effect where the shelters adopt a similar way ot marketing these animals that could have a positive impact on increasing shelter adoptions – AT THE SHELTER – instead of rescues having to do the majority of the leg work to save the animals. It could be the beginning of a way to help them obtain No Kill status without ever realizing that’s where this is going. It begins with marketing & showcasing these animals to better match them with a family – which can help keep those same animals from finding their way back into a shelter…it could open the door to promoting education. A flyer with info on an animal and info about traits shared by that (are those – for mixed) breeds to see if it matches up with the family’s lifestyle and can lead to adding info for free/low cost spay & neuter events/locations, free/low cost vaccination clinics, and free/low cost behavioral training classes.

      While we have shelters that work actively with rescues – we also have shelters that refuse to work with rescues. This could be a way to get our feet into the door by offering to develop info packets for each animal – free work that they don’t have to be bothered with – and slowly add to it. I am willing to bet this could do a lot to slowly move a shelter (even one firmly against it) towards no kill with none the wiser.

      Sorry – didn’t mean to go on and one this just got my mind going – the ideas abound!

      Reply
  13. Oh, I wanted to add, to NOT underestimate the POWER of the word “unique”. Online sellers use it all the time…rare, unique…etc.

    This is a threat…a sweet one…but a threat nonetheless…
    “His time is up. He’s too young and too beautiful to put down. Somebody please step up and adopt him. His days are numbered.”
    This works on guilt alone. If he dies, well…you could have helped.

    Instead, how about…”Available…a VERY individual and unique black and white, 50lb, three legged clown into your home? He appears to a exotic combination of Boxer and Shepherd, with an outgoing, but well-mannered personality. Great with other pets, but needs an active “adult” home. Can anyone help before Friday?”

    Make them unusual, make them funny, but you have to MARKET the animals. You have to get people IN the front door…once you do that, chances are a dog will walk out WITH THEM…but you have to get them there first. Playing on emotions is effective with some, but a complete turnoff to much of the population. Marketing, marketing, marketing…???

    Reply
    • Erica

       /  January 29, 2011

      See in MY eyes that is what we are trying to do with these animals – we are MARKETING them…in many cases to the general public by rescues – and in many cases the rescuers don’t even have all the info needed. While I understand that in many of these cases the rescues must do the pulling – we do have those cases where someone lives nearby and can go to the shelter themselves to check around – but what about people who live a few states away and can’t drop everything to go check them out? They are relying on the info that is being passed around and then contacting the rescues (or shelter) for more info.

      When I see these posts I think a few things:
      1) this animal is about to be killed
      2) rescue is full and needs someone to take it
      3) all we have to go on is the “cute” picture and “URGENT CALL _____” to find out more

      IF we are interested in actually placing these animals then IF we in rescue used more of the facts I very strongly think this would help. How many times have you come across an “urgent” animal and went “OOH, he’s so cute!” and then just went on to the next one because we don’t have any other info to go on other than it is whatever breed and a picture and the urgent request? Or put in a call to “___” only to ask questions and then have to wait around for a return call with the requested information.

      I have found when working on my rescue dogs that I am placing (granted these are not ‘urgent-about-to-be-killed’ dogs…) I try to include as much information about the dog. I want someone to relate to the animal in question and form a bond with it, before they even see it in person.

      And let’s face it – those who are trying to get dogs out of shelters….there are literally hundreds of ‘urgent’ animals every day/week that need pulled. For those rescues that are 501(c)3 and can actually pull these dogs — do YOU have time to respond to interested parties and give them all the information they need to make an educated decision on the fly about having that dog pulled or not? Because I have to tell you when I was helping a 501(c)3 rescue that they would send out ‘urgents’ for the day/week and SO MUCH TIME is wrapped up in responding to e-mails & phone calls about those ‘urgents’…then have to call the contact at the shelter to find out more info and then either call or e-mail the person back with the info. It ends up wasting a LOT of time doing back and forth. Especially if you have a rescue that is full looking at pulling dogs – they want to know what they are getting into in many situations BEFORE they agree to take the dog because they could be almost full to capacity.

      As for building relationships with shelters and fearing that changing the wording of these urgent requests will upset the shelter…I say if these shelters did a better job promoting the dog (goes right back to marketing) that we probably wouldn’t need so many of these ‘urgent’ requests flying around. But if your goal is to get as many of them pulled as quickly as you can I think the use of the written word makes ALL the difference. Of course the animal urgently needs to be pulled to keep it from being killed…but to continue to use their verbage is not required. That why I said stick to the facts – including the date to be killed. (We could always just say Euthanasia date______ without ticking anyone off.)

      Provide information on how the animal ended up there, date that it showed up at the shelter, and when it’s kill date is – along with a neat little write up about the good, bad & ugly about the animal in question. Sticking to facts in that manner is not going to tick the shelter off. And I think it beats putting how beautiful or young an animal is along with the “urgent” request. Plus there will be less time spent going back and forth with people over information about said animal. Your time is precious and the less of it you spend doing the back and forth e-mails and phone calls the easier YOUR job is going to be.

      Verjean – I think it’s great that you spend some of your ‘free’ time taking pictures for the animals that help show them in a better light. I wish all shelters had a person willing to do this type of volunteer work because some shelter pics can be very bad and don’t show the true personality of the animal – just your basic grab a quick shot in the cage and boom off you go.

      I know many people don’t like to think of animals as ‘things’ but we can’t stress enough how important it is to market the animals in order to find them a forever home. It is VERY important that we look at this in a manner of how it affects the general public. Can you imagine the impact it would have to make a little “info packet” on each animal in the shelters care – pictures, bio, all needed info literally right there at your finger tips? I am willing to bet it would make showing potential adopters around the shelter to find a new friend that much easier because they will have the information right there – in many cases with the animal – some cases will be online – but we do in essence need to market these animals to get them out of the shelter.

      I have been in shelters before where I will ask about a specific animal and then wait around for them to either find someone who knows that animal well enough to answer the questions, or to locate a file on the animal to give me the infromation I am asking for. It takes extra time away from things they could be doing and, in some cases, makes me question how much they truly know about these animals – other than they need homes.

      I vividly recall one shelter that had a small paid staff (only 2 there at that time) and everyone else there were volunteers. Since the volunteers aren’t there daily (in many cases) they can’t just rattle off info. The poor volunteers were standing in line waiting their turn to ask the paid staffer what they needed to know about the animal to answer each potential adopters questions. It took a lot of time and in some cases the potential adopters got tired of waiting and left. In fact, I counted 5 people/families walk out after waiting more than 15 minutes to get info they wanted to know – there were potentially 5+ animals that lost their chance at being moved to a forever home when those people walked away. And I am pretty sure that due to what happened they probably won’t be back anytime soon to find another animal there – it’s easier to get on Craigslist and find an animal where the people actually take the time to do a full write-up on the good, bad & ugly of each animal that they are rehoming.

      It would be far easier to have a quick little form – even a fill in the blank form would work – attached to each cage where the potential adopters could access information on their own and if they find themselves still interested in finding out more about the animal then they can have a volunteer/staffer help them. It saves everybody time in the long run.

      You could even have a wall for info with flyers about each animal that the people can take with them if they want to go home and talk it over with their family or think about it for a day or two. If there is a flyer that can go with them – they can also use it to compare that animal to any others they are interested in – AND it would be a constant reminder of both the animal and the shelter. Added benefit – if they know someone looking for an animal and they find one that looks promising they can pass the flyer along to that person. Which, in turn brings one more person to the shelter to check out the animals.

      IF our goal is to stop the needless killing then using stuff like this (thinking outside the box) can be used at the shelter level – which in turn can help rescues promote the urgents because those flyers can also be faxed straight to the rescue. It’s a win-win for everyone. In fact it may even help so that we have less “urgent” requests if we begin this at the shelter level and continue it through the rescues.

      With already over taxed shelters & rescues anything we can do like this will save everyone time & be easier to promote the animals.

      Reply
  14. Meg

     /  January 28, 2011

    I do agree yet don’t – I don’t work for a rescue yet follow one closely, it’s an unfortunate fact that rescues don’t have room for all of them, so sometimes they will post the dogs they can’t take, so I’ll repost, I find myself using the word beautiful alot – that is for any dog puppy, older, scarred, scabbed and that’s because to me they are beautiful each and everyone in their own right has beauty about them – I can see what you mean I think with parts of it, it depends on how you use those words. Although I would like to ask – what would a better alternative be other than “time is up”? A simple put to sleep? Or killed? – I’m not trying to be a smart ass! however would genuinly like some ideas on that one. I find I use that to let ppl know that if they are interested it is urgent, if they go next week the dog will no longer be there. also when it comes to a detailed description I completely agree – however I leave a note on my repost to say check out the fb page or website or to contact the rescuer.

    Reply
    • I wish I had all the answers Meg, but I don’t. And I am not being a smartass either. ; )

      The thought that jumps to mind straight off is this: place the blame where it belongs and use the language WE WANT – not the language kill shelters use as an excuse for killing.

      How about “Xtown Animal Shelter will needlessly kill this healthy, friendly dog on January 28 if he hasn’t made it out of there before then.”

      I like the “3 legged clown” write-up Verjean did. That put a positive and fun image in my mind right away. In fact, even though i know it was a fictional example, I find myself wanting to adopt that dog!

      Reply
      • Mary

         /  January 28, 2011

        Like it or not, rescuers must have good working relationships with kill-shelters in order to get the animals out. Posting
        “Xtown Animal Shelter will needlessly kill this healthy, friendly dog on January 28 if he hasn’t made it out of there before then.” would definitely not be in the best interest of getting animals out. More than once I’ve seen shelters ban rescuers because they found them hard to work with or critical of shelter policies.
        The lives of animals depend on rescuers kissing a** in many cases.

      • Good point Mary. Anyone have thoughts on this point?

      • I hear you Mary! (About that *kissing up* requirement.)
        Meg, could you revert to just the facts for a listing? This dog is slated to die on February 1st. (Be truthful, but don’t rub salt in the wound with extra verbiage that digs or slams the killers.)

        *Time is Up* is not accurate! Our animal control will actually hold an animal longer if someone expresses an interest in them. That may not buy the pet forever, but *interest* can spread! *Time is Up* doesn’t spread…for me it’s a total turn off because I’ve been the one to express interest only to find out that they killed the animal I was interested in.
        Details about the individual animal is what works for me. Photos ARE worth a thousand words!
        My favorite listing was the one that suggested I put on my Sunday Best and hurry down before the dog walked out with a Trophy Adopter! (Would it work if the facility isn’t open on Sundays?!)

      • Erica

         /  January 30, 2011

        I think it IS possible to word it without offending the shelter. We can still post “URGENT” at the top of the post – but give details about the dog along with the URGENT would help a LOT. I know that rescuers know the “language” and why it is used as such….but I keep going back to the fact that many, MANY times the rescues are full and looking to find someone to either foster or adopt said dog and as such we need more info than just URGENT – We can list which shelter the animal is at and the date that animal will be put down if not spoken for. Too many times I see “URGENT – this dog will be put down SOON if not pulled from XYZ shelter.”

        That’s when we get into the problem of the back & forth running around trying to find a place for the dog. More info and better pics would go a long way to help. I worry that when we read URGENT posts that people who are interested ARE worried that if they express an interest that quite possibly the dog will either be placed before they get all the info they want – or even be killed prior to them being able to get the info to make a decision.

  15. Brie

     /  January 28, 2011

    My short two cents is that when dealing with the public, people tend to respond more to positive language and wording – a call to action to do something good – than to the negativity. People who are open to adoption and rescue don’t need much prompting to do the right thing. A few details to convince them that the animal would be a good fit, even if they need some special help, goes further than the doom and gloom approach. I know people who change the channel immediately upon hearing Sarah McLachlan’s voice. They just don’t respond to that method.

    Reply
  16. Barb

     /  January 28, 2011

    Wow…besides the wordsmithing and analysis of intent and impact of words, is anyone doing anything to see that this dog gets adopted?

    Reply
  17. Vickie

     /  January 28, 2011

    Maybe it depends on the audience. If that message was about a Whippet, Saluki or Borzoi, and went out to the relevant internet breed Lists, the urgency of it would get local contacts for those breed’s well-funded and well-organized local or national Rescue organizations to spring the dog from a kill shelter. Whether he was young, beautiful and easily adoptable or not.

    Reply
  18. Nah. You are reaching for a level of communication that is too restrictive. What these messages do is like all “advertising”: emphasize the best sales points for the ‘product’. I’ve seen hundreds of “old dog” messages that emphasize other qualities like “gentleness”. Object to “Time is up”? Omitting the information that the dog has only a limited time in the shelter is like removing incentive to make the adoption happen in time; in the background there is always lurking the threat of death to these animals. Would you rather have silence about all this? Your objections are making the perfect the enemy of the good. Yeah, in a perfect world it would be a PC message that didn’t hit your ‘buttons’. Just remember many of these messages are written by fairly unsophisticated volunteers who are hurried, unskilled in writing, but who desperately want to save these at risk little persons. Imagine if all those messages you object to disappeared. You think that would be a positive step? Imagine the silence. And imagine the increase in shelter killing if those messages you dislike were indeed gone. Reread Maria and Brie’s comments, plz.

    Reply
    • Erica

       /  January 30, 2011

      It isn’t a question of removing the killing aspect- but rather rewording it. We can still use words like “urgent” and the date the dog is slated for euth without eliminating the urgency. I understand that some of these are written by people with limited abilities, but the rescues that repost could also reword. OR we could work on finding volunteers with mroe ability in writing to actually do these – they could even do it from the comfort of their own home. We need to make sure the message reaches more people – not just rescuers, because let’s face it many time the messages are being spread far and wide and we need to be able to reach a bigger audience rather than just the rescues. So that needs to be taken into account as well.

      Reply
  19. Jamie Horton

     /  January 28, 2011

    I would rather see something along the lines of “being needlessly slaughtered by uncaring shelter managers” because that’s what I think every time I see those. I get multiple encounters everyday through email and facebook and it drives me crazy. Every single time I want to ask, “what has been done by the shelter to improve adoptions and save this animal’s life?”

    As far as the language goes I know it has become short hand for people in the rescue scene talking one to another. But I also think it can be argued that as long as we don’t actively fight against the language of killing (i.e. time is up) we can get complacent against the act of killing. What does “his time is up” mean? To me it means that the dog or cat was failed by his owner and then even more so by the shelter system. They choose not to use the effective programs that would prevent him from having an arbitrary death date.

    Reply
    • Yes Jaime – “actively fight against the language of killing”. Well done. Who defines how we are going to network pets in kill shelters – the killers or the rescuers? I vote the rescuers. So maybe we could do that. If we reject their excuses for killing (such as “his time is up”), we could also reject repeating those excuses in pleas to save the pets. Deny kill shelters the power to determine our language.

      Reply
      • You say: “Deny kill shelters the power to determine our language.”

        And that sounds strong and good and right! But…
        Some consider the *will die tomorrow if you don’t save him* verbiage to be almost a hostage situation. Who is holding this animal hostage? Is it the kill facility? Is it the rescue who is full and can’t/won’t/isn’t allowed to pull the animal into safety? Or are we trying to hold the public hostage?
        If I deny kill shelters the power to determine my language, does that mean I have to stop swearing? Cuz I swear, I can’t!
        Are we not supposed to bargain with terrorists? Are we hostage negotiators?

      • Jeanne

         /  January 29, 2011

        “Time is up” is shelter talk. I wouldn’t use that in a post. I would write a description that came out of whatever connection I felt to that dog and keep it simple, clear and factual. I would say the dog is in a high-kill shelter and is urgent to convey the message that rescuers and adopters shouldn’t fool around but should move quickly to get the dog out. I usually try to tell the dog’s story, sometimes from the dog’s imagined point of view. I’ve noticed that when I connect, people who read the post do, too.

      • Erica

         /  January 30, 2011

        Jeanne – I completely agree!

  20. John

     /  January 29, 2011

    I think you make a very good point (as usual). In light of recent events, I’ve also been thinking about words that seem a little too…understated. I recoiled a bit at “start over with a clean slate” as an even “nicer” version of “mass euthanization”. In war, they used to use euphemisms such as “scorched earth” or “destroying the village in order to save it”, and we know how much more expert the military has become at euphemising since those earlier times. It seems ironic whenever those supposedly concerned with animal welfare can outdo the military in this regard.

    Reply
  21. How about offering “discounts” on the dogs with imminent kill dates, but without saying the (literal) deadline is the reason:

    “Sundance is available at 10% off our usual fee through February 5th.” “We can’t begin to guess what breeds are in Potluck’s background, so she is offered at a 10% discount.” “Sparky is pretty barky in our environment, so we’ll take 10% off the fee for a home where he can be helped to develop his “indoor voice.”” “We had to shave Moppet down to her undies when she came to us, so we’re taking 10% off for the lucky family that gets to find out what her coat is really like.”

    How I wish every shelter could have a “going out of business” sale because the four dogs they have right now are the only homeless dogs in a 100 mile radius.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

       /  January 29, 2011

      I’m wary of discounts due to the tendency of someone wanting that animal simply for its reduced price. Dogs and cats need to be placed in a home that is right for them by people who are able to adequately care for them. Discounts are win-lose to me.

      Can’t afford to own a pet? Talk to a local animal organization about fostering, instead. Many are willing to help fund the care for the animal if it means saving its life.

      Reply
      • Elizabeth, that sounds very rational, but when you start examining what little data there is on this, it seems it’s not true. (That happens a lot, in all kinds of areas of research!)

        For instance, Maddie’s Fund did a huge two-day adoptathon in two counties in the San Francisco Bay Area last year (disclaimer: I do some freelance work for Maddie’s Fund, and did the social media for the adoptathon.) ALL the adoptions were free — over 2000 of them in two days, from shelters, animal control facilities, and rescue groups alike.

        All adoptions were screened in the same way the agency or organization always screened them.

        And the return rate was not affected.

        Other communities (Washoe County, Nevada, for one) have experimented with “BOGO” and free/discounted adoptions, and found the same thing: Same high quality of adoptions. No change in bounce rate. Sometimes the bounce rate is actually LOWER.

        Why is that? I’ve thought about it, and I think it’s lots of reasons. For example, why do rich people buy things on sale? Because it’s SMART. Sure, you’re going to buy a new refrigerator, but when you see there’s a sale at Store X, you might choose Store X over Store Y, where there is no sale, all other things being, if not equal, then close to it.

        Just because someone is keeping an eye on their budget and taking advantage of a bargain doesn’t mean they are a bad home. In fact, they may very well be a BETTER home than the person who doesn’t stop to consider economic realities and finds him or herself swamped and overwhelmed down the road.

        Another thing that seemed to be happening is that the families who adopted for free spent that money on supplies for their new pets. They were EXCITED to be able to do that. So while the person might have had X number of dollars to spend on adopting a pet, the fact that their initial upfront cost was less was a definite incentive for them to adopt that pet THEN, or make the decision to go ahead and adopt at all.

        As for the “can’t afford a pet?” litmus test, I’ve thought a lot about this, too, and I think it’s crap. I’m sorry to be so dismissive, but hear me out.

        If a family is loving and otherwise a good match for the pet, but poor, that pet could very well have a fantastic life, never have a serious health issue, and be incredibly happy as the member of a loving family.

        Sure, the cat might develop a health problem down the road and the family won’t be able to treat it. The dog might break his leg and they won’t be able to afford the surgery to fix it. That MIGHT happen. But you know, it probably won’t.

        Even if it does, if the option is perpetuating a system of killing for lack of shelter space? To not only kill THAT animal rather than take a chance on a poor person, but to continue to perpetuate a system that’s based on the idea that being owned by a poor person is a fate worse than death? That’s a failure on SO many levels… especially considering that chances are those pets WILL NEVER GET SERIOUSLY ILL IN THE FIRST PLACE!

        So we deny that pet and maybe lots of others a home, possibly even deny them their lives, and we deny poor families a chance to own pets, and we deny the kids of poor families the joy of growing up with pets as well as the proven health and social benefits of growing up with pets, AND we also potentially lose a generation of kids who grew up with, and love, and identify with, pets — the next generation of shelter volunteers, adopters, rescuers, shelter donors, foster homes.

        Even if the adopted pet does get an expensive treatable illness, that can happen to anyone. Lots of people who used to have plenty of money, savings and credit now have none of those things. Some poor people go to extraordinary measures to find resources to care for a pet they love. Some communities have programs to help the pets of poor people. Some adoption programs even offer such care as a means to increase animal lifesaving in their communities.

        A means test on animal adoption is, IMO, a complete disaster. If there is love and if the family is otherwise a good fit for the pet and vice versa, it’s best to take a chance on life. And work on building your community’s safety net of pet-friendly housing, temporary foster care, assistance with veterinary expenses and pet food banks in case it’s needed down the road.

      • Elizabeth

         /  January 30, 2011

        First and foremost, there is a significant difference between offering an entire selection of animals on sale and offering only the ones in immediate danger. My comment on discounts was in relation to the previous comment, which discussed selective discounts. My post was meant to be taken in that context, because that’s the discount that was proposed. My apologies for not clarifying.

        With the scenario you provided, every animal was available at a reduced (free) cost. In these situations, the chances of an owner finding a discounted dog that suits them is far greater. What I was referring to was selective discounts to attract more attention to a small number of the available dogs. In this case, it’s NOT just looking for a refrigerator at one store versus the other. It’s a case of looking at a fridge that better fits your family’s needs and then considering another one at the same store that won’t work in the long run just because it’s way cheaper.

        Another note of importance is that my particular shelters do not have screening processes in place. Unless an individual has been barred by a judge from owning an animal at that time, he or she may adopt as many animals as is wished. A shelter with a good screening process in place will have a better chance of retaining adoptions that a shelter that gives any dog to any person, no matter how misfitting the home. So two shelters, one with an application process and one with out, may have drastic return rates during a discount season. You may no for sure better than I do, as I don’t have any good examples on hand, but I can’t tell you how many times I have personally seen people coming in at one of the shelters I help at and request to look at one of the cheap dogs (at this shelters, dogs previously fixed or vaccinated are cheaper than the other dogs) and opting for it just because it’s cheaper, even though they mentioned wanting a dog with a different temperament. I can recommend against an adoption, but I cannot stop it. Many of them do come back months later due to a myriad of excuses. Or, the dog is confiscated because the owner wasn’t taking good care of it.

        As to the second argument, there is a difference between someone not being able to afford abnormal health expenses and those who cannot afford to own a pet. If you would please direct yourself to my previous post, I said “can’t afford to own a pet” and I never intended to imply that someone with a low income is any less capable of owning a pet than someone who makes a lot but spends too much. I’m not sure why you jumped to that conclusion; nevertheless, I will go into more detail about my own opinion.

        While I myself own three pets that I can adequately care for, I would not be able to afford if one of mine gets in a serious accident requiring thousands of dollars worth of bills (one of my cats has chronic UTIs and requires special diet, extra care, etc). I am considered one of the “working poor”y, but am able to afford pets because I save and I avoid frivolous bills that nobody really needs. I got my cats fixed before they turned 6 months old and they always get their vaccinations. My dog was my boyfriends and was grown before she came into my life. Otherwise, she would have been fixed before 6 months, as well. I make sure my animals have identification. I make sure they have shelter, food, water, toys, medications, and whatever other things they need to live a typical life. If I can’t do this, I shouldn’t own the number of animals that I have.

        All the same, if someone can’t afford, say, my shelters’ initial fee ($75), which includes a rabies shot and sterilization surgery, then will they be able to provide food, adequate housing, future vaccinations, simple medications, etc.? Vaccinations are a state requirement and should be given as required by law. Sterilization surgery is a preventative measure against more animals flooding an already overcrowded system and shouldn’t be considered “optional” simply because it’s out of someone’s price range.

        If a family can’t afford to care for themselves, then the same applies to their pets. That being said, if someone is in debt up to their eyeballs, then they probably can’t care for either. It doesn’t matter a person’s income or their status in life. If you can afford it, you can afford it. If you can’t, you can’t.

        Nobody has to be deprived the chance of having a pet in their household, and nobody should not become a pet lover because they can’t afford to OWN an animal. This is why I suggested foster care. I know a few groups in my region that provide food and medication to foster families who can’t afford to donate these supplies themselves. Someone can have company of a pet and grow up loving and caring for animals without having one that they can’t afford. And, foster care gets animals out of the overcrowded shelters until a forever home is found, so an animal is not put down JUST because someone who is too poor to own an animal does not get to adopt it.

        I would not rather an animal die than go to a “poor” person’s home. I would rather a family who can’t afford to keep an animal take measures to foster, with help, animals that would otherwise be put down and leave the animal OWNING to someone who can afford it. If that’s stupid, then so be it.

      • Elizabeth wrote:
        “All the same, if someone can’t afford, say, my shelters’ initial fee ($75), which includes a rabies shot and sterilization surgery, then will they be able to provide food, adequate housing, future vaccinations, simple medications, etc.?”

        I think you are leaving out a key consideration – that is, when a family pet is in need, we do what it takes to fulfill that need. There are limits of course but as far as the basics you mention here, an owner is going to figure out how to come up with those things for a pet. And this may be the same owner who doesn’t have the $75 up front cash to adopt from your shelter. Or maybe they have the $75 but that’s it for the time being. Imagine how great it would be to tell that adopter “Hang on to your $75, this pet’s adoption fee is waived today.” That frees up the $75 to spend on shots, food, whatever.

        There is a difference in people’s minds, and rightly so I think, between coming up with $75 to adopt a shelter pet and finding $75 to pay for our dear Buffy’s vet visit. When you are poor, you think in terms of essentials. While a poor person may WANT to adopt from a shelter, the $75 fee is not an “essential” in the budget. However, if Buffy – our family pet – needs something that costs $75 in order to maintain her health and well-being – that is an essential. See what I’m saying?

      • Elizabeth

         /  January 30, 2011

        Yesbiscuit,

        Yes, and well said. In retrospect, my differing viewpoint on this seems to come from the way I view adoption fees. I think of them not as actual fees but as the surgery and vaccinations (and even the couple of days worth of food) they supply. Necessities, in my eye. This might simply be because the only shelters I deal with on a regular basis keep the fees to a minimum. If I were to work with, say, my area’s Boston Terrier rescue more often — there the cost of adoption also includes some recovery of the fosters’ daily expenses — I imagine I would see things quite differently.

      • Mary

         /  January 30, 2011

        Aside from the issue of means-testing applicants, I think there are two important issues to consider regarding adoption discounts.
        First, who is going to pay for this? Now, if a taxpayer-funded county shelter discounts adoptions to avoid killing animals, good for them. But donor-funded rescue groups don’t necessarily have that option available.
        Our rescue charges a $100 adoption fee. Our average vet expense to get a dog ready for adoption is $200. So we are already losing $100 on every adoption, not including food & wormers, which money must be made up from donations. We can’t afford to lose any more than that and stay in business.
        Secondly, on any day in this area you can go to your local grocery store and find puppies or kittens being given away for free. People will tell you they need to “get rid of them”, implying the animals have no worth.
        As I see it, no-cost adoptions only serve to further devalue public perception of shelter animals.
        As an aside, I once knew a guy who was a very successful Realtor that specialized in commercial properties. If he had a listing that wasn’t producing offers, he’d raise the price. The more valuable people thought the property was, the more interest he got.

    • Erica

       /  January 30, 2011

      I think, especially when dealing with shelters that area going to put animals down – that it makes perfect sense to lower the adoption fee…it will help move the animal in question out the door a LOT quicker.

      My family is by no means well off – and every animal we have is/was a foster to begin with – strays that we found wandering the street, orphaned kittens that needed hand reared, rescues from a fight operation….I have been able to utilize free/low cost services for spay/neuter, vaccinations, etc. When we’ve encountered health issues that need vet care we either find a low cost vet or sell something that we have and pay for the service. I’ve found that while I couldn’t afford to pay for the animal – I have enough money to provide for their needs without a problem. IF I had to pay for the animal then being able to afford supplies, initially would’ve been pretty darn difficult. Luckily – I live in an area that does have services that are available to low income families that I can use when needed to help out. That is where education is key when placing animals. It is fairly easy to do a quick internet search in your area of free & low cost animal resources that can go home with the animal (as a flyer) that the new owner will then have the info literally at their fingertips – this can help them and keep them from having to return the animal in teh event that money gets too tight to provide the care for the animal.

      Maybe shelters need to look at those animals that tend to be overlooked – black cats/dogs, older animals, special needs animals – and offer a special deal on those animals. Of course – you’ll still want to spend ample time speaking with potential adopters to make sure they understand the needs of the animal and can provide for that animal (screening) – but dont’ discount the amount of education that you can provide that can ultimately help in the long run.

      When you can walk down the street and pick up a stray for free – you especially find cats/kittens all over the place for free – the shelters are competing with that in order to palce animals. Depending on the area the shelter is located in and the margin of unemployment/cost of living – many times you will find a direct co-relation between the shelter euth rates vs adoption rates.

      I have heard too many people argue that if someone can’t afford to pay for the animal then they can’t afford to pay for the care fo the animal and this is just not the case. Sure you will find some that fit “the bill” but that is not the norm that I have seen. Especially in this day & age. We have people making a 6 figure salary – with a house full of animals only to lose their job and at that point they decide their animals are expendable….they don’t want to change their standard of living and would rather lose their dog than stop buying their champagne. Sad, but true.

      Reply
  22. I haven’t read the other comments yet, but I’ll say this: Both the research done for the Ad Council’s Shelter Pet Project (disclaimer: I do their social media) and by PetSmart Charities found that concerns that shelter pets are “damaged goods” or that shelter experiences suck/are depressing are why people who are open to adoption don’t follow through on it.

    THESE KINDS OF MESSAGES PERPETUATE THOSE FEARS.

    Yes, they work on those of us with the “rescuer” mindset a lot of the time — but they also contribute to our overhwelm and our burn-out, AND let’s face it: Don’t most rescuers already have as many pets as they can have?

    Fact is, these messages are self-defeating when used as anything more than very, very rarely. If you’re going to play the “EMERGENCY!” card, you have to do it with an eye to how often YOU have played the card already, and also how often it’s being played by others that your audience is also being exposed to. Otherwise it just doesn’t WORK, and even backfires.

    If I could change one single thing in how our movement approaches the issue of promoting adoptions, this would be it. Be positive, be funny, find something amazing and special about the pet, focus on that. Now and then splash in a bit of heart-strings-tugging if it feels right, but even with that, be very careful not to play into the very sterotypes and prejudices that are causing well-intentioned people to get their pets somewhere else.

    I mean, put yourself in the shoes of a mom or dad looking for a loving family companion. Sure, there are those who walk around happy they saved a kitty or dog from death; they’re the minority. Most want a positive adoption experience, a happy feeling inside when they think about their pet’s life, and to know that the cat or dog who will be sleeping on the foot of their child’s bed isn’t going to have post-traumatic stress disorder.

    WE CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS!

    Reply
    • Mary

       /  January 30, 2011

      I completely agree that we should be writing better pet descriptions. But how?
      Speaking for myself, I can deal with parvo puppies, but I’m not a creative writer, don’t have a flair for writing positive or funny descriptions. (Matter of fact, after spending 30 years in the legal field, all my writing looks like legal pleadings.)
      Some of you in the writing business could do a lot of good by starting some sort of site with mock-up descriptions, sort of a swipe file (like SOFII) for inspiration, that could be used as a starting point for those of us who are creatively-challenged posters.

      Reply
      • I’m doing a presentation on this as HSUS Animal Care Expo in Orlando in May, as part of Maddie’s Fund’s day-long session on “Getting to No-Kill.” I’m also going to touch on it a little as part of my session on getting more publicity for your shelter or rescue group at the No-Kill Conference in Washington DC in July, AND… and this one’s free and requires no travel… I have an article called “How to Rock Your Pet Adoption Listings” here, with some additional discussion in the comments: http://www.petconnection.com/blog/2010/09/03/can-you-rock-this-puppyhow-to-rock-your-pet-adoption-listings/

      • Mary

         /  January 30, 2011

        That’s a great blog post, but what I’d actually like to have is a site with actual verbiage references. For instance, I think in this post somewhere there was a snippet about “we shaved him down to his britches”. I coudn’t have come up with that clever line on my best day. I’d love to swipe that phrase when the right dog comes along, but I’ll never remember where I saw it. It would be nice to have one site to go to where descriptive snippets or phrases were all in one place for rescuers to browse & borrow.

  23. Karen Fishler

     /  January 29, 2011

    Just a one-off, maybe, but there was an interesting adoption that took place recently, in ONE DAY, because of a posting by Scouting New York, a blog by a film location scout in NYC. The dog came to be called Bridge Puppy, because she was rescued from the Williamsburg Bridge (the bridge where Sonny Rollins practiced years ago during a hiatus from performing).

    Bottom line: though the poster was a bit clumsy in some respects and was a total amateur at dog adoption, he told a fabulous story with concrete detail (like the bit about the nachos) and individualized the dog. He also included great photos. The critical thing of course was that, though there was urgency and concern, there was no panic and no actual deadline — this was an adoption out of someone’s home and not out of a shelter.

    The follow-up has one of the best dog pictures I’ve ever seen.

    Original posting, Jan. 13th (read this first, then go back up to top of page and click on “She found a new home!”):

    http://www.scoutingny.com/?p=3358

    Follow-up, Jan. 18th:

    http://www.scoutingny.com/?p=3403

    Reply
    • Erica

       /  January 30, 2011

      I think stories like this are the ones that does the best to promote an adoption of ANY animal. Thank you for sharing this with us!

      Reply
      • Karen Fishler

         /  January 30, 2011

        Yes, I thought it was amazing! The initial blog post generated more than 500 responses, including numerous requests to adopt the dog. (That is, these folks were not offering to take the dog off Scout’s hands, but rather putting forth their qualifications in hopes that they would have the privilege of adopting her.) And it was clear that he was receiving additional requests via email.

        It was ironic and very sad to me that, in both Scout’s follow-up post and the responses to it, there were links to “This dog will die tomorrow if you don’t adopt today” websites and Facebook pages. I felt my stomach clench in anxiety/guilt/fear just seeing the links, and I couldn’t bear to click on any of them, which of course made me feel even worse.

      • Erica

         /  February 1, 2011

        You would think with such a great story and so many people putting forth their qualifications that we would be able to “find” animals to match their qualifications in shelters/rescues. If we have 500+ people stepping up to help 1 animal…then that tells me we have 500+ people looking to save an animal with some sob type story to go along with it. Maybe those ‘requests’ could be forwarded to a local shelter and/or someone could go through them and say ‘While the animal you are interested in does have a forever home now….we have the following animals that we found that sound like they would be a GREAT match with you!’ That could promote moving animals from shelters & rescues to homes.

        I too cringe at the “urgent – will die tomorrow” posts…but thinking postively IF we used the story to help find homes for other animals imagine how many would find their way out of cages and into people’s hearts!

  24. @Mary: “…Our rescue charges a $100 adoption fee. Our average vet expense to get a dog ready for adoption is $200. So we are already losing $100 on every adoption, not including food & wormers, which money must be made up from donations. We can’t afford to lose any more than that and stay in business.”

    If any of the dogs I wrote “discount promos” for is the typical black, large, hard-to-move dog that seems to never find someone who will take them out the *front* door, how much will it cost to feed that dog until it’s time to give up and make space for one that’s “more adoptable?” And what will it cost to send that dog out the back door? I would rather take the 90 bucks than hold out for the $100.

    Reply
  25. @Mary: You wrote:

    “…Our rescue charges a $100 adoption fee. Our average vet expense to get a dog ready for adoption is $200. So we are already losing $100 on every adoption, not including food & wormers, which money must be made up from donations. We can’t afford to lose any more than that and stay in business.”

    This is an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT ISSUE than using price as a marketing tool. The issue was raised that it “cheapens” and “demeans” shelter pets to adopt them for free or at a discount, and risks putting them in homes that can’t afford to care for them, with people who won’t value them, etc etc etc; This is a messaging/perception issue.

    How you run your organization’s finances is something else entirely, although as Elaine said, the two can overlap in a practical sense.

    But an organization being dependent on the revenue from adoption fees is not about means-testing adopters or discriminating against low income families; it’s about your revenue model.

    Reply
    • Erica

       /  February 1, 2011

      I guess in my mind we’re in the rescue “business” to find homes and I personally would rather lose money and find a home for an animal – than keep the animal around longer and keep caring for it while knowing that there is someone who could love it forever.

      Reply
  26. Oh, WOW! Here is a video from the Winnipeg Humane Society promoting their current “overstock” of cats and kittens. Wish I’d thought of this…

    Guess I need to post this to today’s Open Thread too, so more people see it. And then I’m gonna watch it again, just because it’s fun!

    Reply
  27. I find words like these to be the functional equivalent of a depressing and guilt-ridden spot on TV by one of the alphabet soup groups. The negativity is resounding. I’d rather read a first person bio from the animal’s perspective or something upbeat. I just think people respond to that better. And when we talk about death being on the horizon if someone doesn’t step up to stop it, that makes it akin to a “well, it will be your fault if you don’t act” message. Not a fan. After a while, people just tune out rather than becoming engaged. IMO.

    Reply
  28. “Who Are We Helping?” The pets with little time left to live in a ‘shelter’ in need of reform. With respect, folks need to understand that we all have a role to play in transforming the US to a no kill nation, and it will not be the same. Some spend all their time advocating for a no kill nation and that is their calling. Others spend all their time networking animals on kill lists that have little time and that is their unique calling. Some do both. Each animal post is a mini marketing campaign for that animal only; it should not be analyzed that only ‘cute and young’ animals are deserving of a home. The http://facebook.com/pawstexas page is a regular hub for networking urgent pets in need; there, you’ll often find posts for deserving older pets that are in need of a loving home to live out their final days. In the networking community, we believe all pets are in need of a home. We also believe many ‘shelters’ are in great need of reform and that we need to continue to work towards becoming a no kill nation. Champion the fact that volunteers are giving of their time to photograph and network a pet in need of a safe place to land. I often state that animal rescue is an imperfect science wrought with challenges. When people post the urgency facing animals on kill lists, it is a call to action. In advertising, we know “emotion” sales. This is a blog post I wrote about a Texas kill ‘shelter’ year and how their sense of urgency saved a lot of innocent pet lives – and the lessons learned from their scramble: http://pawsitivelytexas.com/five-lessons-learned-from-the-fort-worth-animal-shelter-scramble/ It is my hope no kill leaders/advocates will understand that there are many roles we each have and we are a stronger ally for the animals when we stop criticizing the work of others.

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  29. What I hate most about these posts is the emotionAl blackmail, as though it is always OUR fault the animal is going to be killed if we don’t step up and adopt it. I have 7 cats in my house now, 3 of which are not really mine but who are here because otherwise they would be killed. As a single woman with a full time job and an aging sick mother, I now have enough cats living with me that I can scarcely enjoy them and give them the attention each deserves. I can’t have more, I shouldn’t have as many as I do.but I am supposed to feel like the bad guy if I don’t step forward to adopt animals shelters are about to kill — not the staff who are paid to save them. It is emotional blackmail. And yes, these appeals justify the killing implicitly, by legitimizing the killing as the only alternative, as though it were an inevitable and inescapable conclusion that cAnt be helped.

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