Misleading Headline Award

An Albuquerque, NM news station aired a report following up on a massive adoption drive earlier this month where local shelters waived adoption fees on dogs.  This is the headline they posted on the station’s website:

Free dogs being returned to Albuquerque animal shelter

Only those who take the time to actually watch the video report will realize that in fact, the adoption drive was a huge success:  374 dogs were adopted out and shelter populations were reduced immensely.  The normal return rate for the Albuquerque shelters is 11% but returns from the free adoption drive have been only 5% – less than half the usual rate.

This was not by accident.  Shelter staff and volunteers helped adopters find good matches to fit their lifestyles at the event.  Volunteers have been making follow up calls to adopters to aid in troubleshooting the common challenges faced during the adjustment period after a new pet joins the family.  And Petco offered support in the form of a free one hour training class to everyone who adopted that weekend.

But rather than choosing a headline to highlight the hard work and great success achieved with this adoption drive, the station posted a misleading headline which gives readers the false impression that free adoptions don’t work.  They do work.  And there is already enough baseless opposition to them without irresponsible media headlines adding to the misconception.

So since KOB didn’t say it, I will:  Well done, Albuquerque.  Thank you staff and vols for working hard to empty out your kennels responsibly and humanely.  More, please.

19 thoughts on “Misleading Headline Award

  1. Really hope this works out but I’m skeptical. The true test is to follow up and see where these dogs are 6 months to a year from now. A dog should be wanted and loved, not considered to be a great deal like a pair of shoes on clearance. And impulse pet are usually a bad bargain for the animal.

    1. This isn’t the first free/low cost adoption event ever held. It’s a widely used practice, in real shelters that are focused on saving lives and getting pets to good homes. There’s a track record–and that record is that if the same screening and matching procedures are used as in standard fee adoptions, these events have the same or sometimes better success record.

      Lowered or waived fee doesn’t mean impulse pet, not when you use hood procedures. It just means using marketing techniques that are well-tested and proven to work–something many pet killing facilities are loathe to do, lest pets be worse off in a decent but not perfect home than–dead.

      1. After researching, I see my fears were wrong. I suppose I was looking at it the same as the free animals you see in the paper and in craigslist for example that do not meet such good ends. I had not considered screenings, best match works and such. So I apologize for communicating from a place of fear.

  2. I love this.. except.. from an article i read it said if the “volunteers” didn’t “feel” you were a good fit when you took your pet they would send an ACO to your HOME to “check on you” and the pet.. nope I would never take a pet knowing someone was coming to my home to ‘check on me”. Either give me the pet willingly or not at all..The article said ACO’s would be going out actually to the home.. not volunteers calling.. so which is it.. does anyone know?

    1. Alice- What are you trying to hide where you would not allow someone to make sure that the animal is in safe place with someone who is not a psycho? I do home visits on the dogs I adopt out. The house does not have to perfect, and I would actually prefer that the home is not totally pristine as I don’t want an adopter freaking out when a puppy has an accident on the rug or chews on the couch. I don’t care if there are dishes in the sink or an empty pizza box on the table. What I care about when I do a home visit is making sure that the person is not involved in animal fighting, that they do not have feces all over their floor and that they did not lie on their application and they actually live where they say they do. It’s a shame that you would pass up the chance to adopt a needy animal because you are not willing to let someone come inside your home for two minutes just to ensure that your application was truthful. For you to let a minor inconvenience get in the way of saving a shelter pet shows that you probably don’t care too much about animals in the first place, so I guess that animal is better off without you.

      1. I agree with the reasons for a home check. In my hose there always a cup/glass in the sink. I have two kennel crates set up, but have had six crates in my living room at one time, toys, bones and dog blankets are usually on the floor. It’s not about house keeping or if Martha Stewart decorated your place.

      2. While I don’t object to home inspections per se, I’m not willing to allow unannounced visits by people I don’t know either. Thing is, I have significant physical impairments, I’m now caring for a very frail elderly relative, and in the past people *have* tried to bluff their way in with false identification of various types. So I’m understandably wary, and it has squat to do with having anything to hide.

        So – either the inspections are scheduled for a time when my husband’s home, or they don’t happen. And yes, this was among the reasons why, last time I was ready to adopt, I chose to do so through a local vet who does rescue rather than one of the local shelters.

  3. Maybe if we contact the station they will give a second, more positive, correction. If you click above on “the stations website” (in blue, above), then scroll to bottom right and click on “Correction Needed? I see a typo or error in the story” you can send an e-mail to them (webmaster@kob.com -subject:error in story:Free dogs being returned to Albuquerque). Here is what I just sent: “YEA! The headline! How negative and misleading. Otherwise, it was a good article. I just wonder how many failed to read it due to the headline (and now have the wrong impression!).”
    I second Shirley above: Well done, Albuquerque! Keep up the good work. You are an inspiration to other shelters!
    Yes, Shirley, some of us DO know who you are and respect and admire you for all you do. Well done, to YOU too! ~~~Ron

  4. Yes, nice effort – when you can get it. The City of ABQ and their shelter director have no REAL intention of going No Kill. After 12 months of trying (and trying and trying) to get them to commit to No Kill, New Mexico Pets Alive! began Albuquerque Pets Alive! after gaining the knowledge from Austin Pets Alive! to begin duplicating their programming and filling the gaps for at-risk pets in ABQ shelters. We’d love the city to use their $10 million annual Animal Welfare Dept. budget to save the approximately 9,000 animals each year they are now killing or warehousing with no comprehensive off-site adoption programming for them. As Nathan said, we need a Plan B and the City of ABQ has none. When solutions are offered, they are ignored or excuse after excuse is given by the shelter director as to why they “can’t”. So, we’re going to turn those ‘cants into cans’ for at-risk pets in ABQ shelters. Those animals deserve nothing less. I’ll admit, occasional and unprecedented efforts are nice though for those animals it helps. Since they take in over 400 animals per week, the ones there this week and the next aren’t likely to be so lucky unless they have a Plan B. Make me eat my words, Barbara Bruin. I would be the happiest girl in the world!

    1. Yes, there are and will continue to be many issues at ABQ. But bear in mind that Melissa is a newcomer with no experience. While many support her dreams, we have no magic wand here. Only by making and maintaining small wins will things change. Winograd’s approach is reasonable but requires certain resources to be in place, and it would be better to focus on developing them rather than grandiose plans that few will support.

  5. “People who adopt pets at free adoption events value their pets exactly as much as those who paid a fee, and they also return them to the shelter or rescue group at exactly the same rate, or even a little less*.

    …Free pet adoptions are not aimed at people who otherwise couldn’t afford a pet, and that’s not primarily who they attract. Just as Nordstrom holds special sales only for its best and, presumably, wealthiest customers, just as car dealers and appliance stores and luxury hotels have special promotions, shelters and rescue groups who do free adoptions know that the “free” part is a marketing strategy, not a hand-out.

    Free and special price promotions are designed to be attention grabbers. They also serve to focus people on pet adoption not in a “someday when I get around to it” kind of way, but in a “better go this weekend because it’s exciting, fun, and I’ll save money!” kind of way.

    And just as wealthy people look forward to the Nordstrom annual sale because it’s an event, because it makes them feel special, and because they enjoy the idea of saving money, pet adopters respond the exact same way.

    We absolutely have to lose our fear of using the language and practices of retail to promote shelter pets. Of course a pet is not a car or an appliance. Pets are living creatures who deserve the utmost respect and care. They also deserve loving homes, and if utilizing the well-worn psychological pathways mapped out for us by retail-focused marketing research helps us get them there, and there is no data to support our fear that free and low-cost adoptions are less successful than full-price ones, how can we justify opposing them?

    We can’t.”

    – Christie Keith, http://www.doggedblog.com/doggedblog/2012/09/what-opponents-of-free-pet-adoptions-dont-get.html

    * Links to data on pet adoptions available on above site.

  6. Aall the people whose undies are in a bundie over, gasp!, “free pets” are forgetting the really important point: There are 374 dogs who are not now currently in an Albuquerque dumpster.

  7. This is wonderful! Thanks to all of those in New Mexico who helped and adopted these animals. We need this in more states. But yes, I wish the headline wasnt so misleading.

  8. I used to be really critical of doing free adoptions. Then, when I tried it within my own rescue, I couldn’t believe how adopters actually wrote donation checks for way more than what I would have charged for an adoption fee. Now, I even include some “freebees” for my special needs cats like free cat litter, a free plastic carrier, etc. It really works.

  9. Previously, ABQ didn’t have a fully consistant and standard interview for potential adopters. A group of volunteers produced and refined one. For the Free Fido event, ABQ decided to use the forms for every case. A core group of volunteers manage many of the adoptions, and these experienced adoption people who work with the dogs did their best to be consistent and thorough. No, not as much as some rescues who adopt out dogs singly, for here we had hundreds of adoptions in just a few days. As for returns, many of them are carefully watching this experiment to see what happens and how it can be done better. Some rescues have critized the “free” part, but I’ve told them how it was done and will be keeping them informed of the results.

    No, I have no “turf” to defend here and there is much more to be done at ABQ and they are only one of the shelters and rescues I work with here and many others in the past, so I have a comparative view of what is being done elsewhere.

  10. Has anyone called them on it?? Maybe they don’t have English as a first language and put the headline sentence in their native language.

    Mainstream media seems to be becoming stupid- heard a reporter last night say something that made NO sense. One of those WHAT?????

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