We can’t influence everybody and thankfully, we don’t need to in order to achieve a no kill nation. The numbers tell us that we only need to get a portion of undecided pet seekers to adopt their pets from shelters in order to increase demand to the point where killing adoptable pets would simply be bad business for shelters. So let’s look at whose behavior we can influence.
People who go to pet stores – We have two opportunities to create change here. One is to get pet stores to change from selling puppy and kitten mill stock to selling shelter pets. The other is to look at the reasons why people choose to go to a pet store – many of which can be summed up in one word: convenience.
There is no hassle in buying a pet from a pet store. The store is likely open for business on evenings and weekends. It’s probably in a readily accessible location, perhaps even within a mall where you are already shopping. You pick out the pet you want, pay your money and you take your new pet home with you immediately. What can we learn from this?
- Shelters need to be open when working people can visit.
- Location, location, location.
- Shelters need to streamline their adoption process to strike an effective balance between reasonable screening/matching and allowing adopters to have the pet of their choice.
- Shelters should have as many pets as possible neutered, vaccinated and ready to go.
The bottom line: When our community shelters keep inconvenient hours, are poorly located, take pride in refusing adopters, and/or require a waiting period between adoption and taking the pet home, they are driving adopters to pet stores (or other sources). The goal is to get more adopters in the door, not drive them away. Once they are in the door, I think we should do anything within reason to keep them!
Another group we can influence is people who buy from breeders. There are some who are buying from good breeders for reasons with which we can not compete (seeking a particular bloodline, etc.). But there are others who are buying from not-so-good breeders for reasons to which we can offer alternatives. These might include any of the previously mentioned reasons people buy from pet stores.
In addition, some people are under the false presumption that purebred dogs from private breeders are healthier in mind and body than shelter dogs, even if those shelter dogs are purebred. One area where we have influence is how we market our shelter pets. Are we trying to sell them based upon their sad stories of neglect or abuse? Are we trying to sell them based upon a threat that they will be killed if not adopted by a certain date?
Think about the impression this creates in the minds of those seeking pets. They may see shelter pets as damaged goods, broken in spirit and/or body, having so little value as to be arbitrarily killed due to a date on the calendar. They may view them as unwanted, unloved and unworthy. All because of the way we told the pet’s story. I’m not saying we should lie or withhold a pet’s known history but in some cases, the history is not known and it’s simply assumed the pet was abused. Often the sad part of the story is the only part conveyed to adopters.
There are lots of good things to tell about every animal. Why would this animal make a great pet? What is unique or fun about this pet? How would someone’s life be better for adopting this pet? Don’t forget to talk about the good things!
Again, we don’t have to force every pet owner on the planet to adopt from a shelter in order to bump shelter adoptions up enough to force an end to killing. We just need to influence some more undecided people than we are now. It can be done. We can adopt our way out of killing. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.