Find out how your animal shelter can do amazing!
We’ve proven that it’s possible to adopt your way to No Kill. We firmly believe that thinking like a retailer makes that happen. Multnomah County Animal Services in the Portland, Oregon area understands. Like any retailer, they offer seasonal coupons to encourage the adoption of their homeless pets. This coupon, timed to coincide with Oktoberfest, was widely distributed: We discovered it at the local library.
Think like a retailer, and that increases your adoption rate. Keep on increasing your market share, and your shelter will save lives like never before.
Find out more!
It all started five years ago today. On June 10, 2010, we began our campaign to bring the open-admission Rockwall, Texas animal shelter into the 21st century. At that time, it was a decidedly old-school municipal facility. During the first half of 2010, only 48% of the pets entering the Rockwall shelter got out alive.
In June 2010, the term “No Kill” was a “no go” in the state of Texas.
We chose a simple path: We marketed the shelter pets like crazy. We started a web site, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed and a blog that focused solely on promoting the shelter pets. And we began weekly off-site adoptions at the Rockwall Petco on June 18, 2010 that haven’t stopped since.
To our surprise, it worked! By April 2011, just ten months after we started, the save rate at the Rockwall shelter had skyrocketed to 86%. And during that time, the Austin and Seagoville shelters had achieved No Kill. By August 2011, the Rockwall city council voted unanimously to make our shelter No Kill. The save rate jumped to 97% right after the council’s vote and has remained at or near that level ever since.
Legacy Humane Society, who now manages the Rockwall shelter, posted another 97% save rate during May 2015.
Here’s the moral of the story: If we can do it, you can too. We were two ignorant volunteers who refused to take no for an answer. We worked hard to find solutions instead of wallowing in excuses. And we were extremely fortunate to be joined by fellow volunteers who agreed with our mission, volunteers like Margo Neilsen, Barbara Seed, Kay Hancock, Sasha Stubblefield, Robin Welch and Stephanie Russell who came on board nearly five years ago.
After we banded together to form Rockwall Pets, we worked to make two separate shelters No Kill. Then we spun off Rockwall Pets last summer and formed No Kill Solutions to help move other shelters into the No Kill column.
The result? On June 10, 2010, there were zero No Kill municipal shelters in Texas. Today there are about 16, including the smaller shelters who don’t have much documentation. In 2010, there were fewer than 50 No Kill municipal shelters in the United States. Today there are 300 or more. There’s also quite an impressive array of shelters which are now saving at least 80% or more of the pets in their care. And there’s plenty of help out there for the remaining shelters, from the No Kill Advocacy Center to Best Friends Animal Society.
To this day, everyone at No Kill Solutions is a volunteer. We’re middle class volunteers who have to work full-time to make a living. We may not be wealthy, but we’re certainly passionate! If we can achieve No Kill, paid shelter staff can do it too. And if we can do it, any volunteer in America can do it. We’ve made a lot of progress in five years. There’s no doubt in our minds that we will achieve No Kill nationwide in our lifetimes. Here’s to another glorious five years!
Find out more!
See a list of No Kill communities in the United States at Saving90.org.
Read our No Kill Playbook compiled by Best Friends.
See one of our most recent seminars, “Taking Different Paths to No Kill,” produced by Maddie’s Institute.
Maddie’s Institute did a wonderful job in recording and assembling these presentations. You can see any of the presentations at the 2015 American Pets Alive! No Kill Conference by starting here.
We’re very honored to be featured in the “Inspiring People” section of the May/June 2015 issue of Best Friends Magazine. Thank you to Denise LeBeau for her extraordinary writing skills and to Kelli Harmon, the magazine’s senior writer and news editor. Need your own copy? It’s easy to subscribe, and your donation helps to Save Them All!
We work in an emotional industry. When dealing with dogs, cats and other domesticated animals, it’s difficult to prevent our emotions from overriding our decision making. Yet that puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to the reasoned, deliberate approach taken by most city councils, county commissioners and other governing bodies.
But if we want to be effective No Kill advocates, we must use our brains as well as our hearts. Developing a plan and working that plan, as any business will tell you, will lead to greater results.
Two separate scenarios occurred this week that perfectly illustrate the right way and the wrong way to use our brain power. One of our heroes, Dr. Emily Weiss of the ASPCA, illustrated the perfect way to use your brain to save more lives. In her recent blog post, Dr. Weiss points out that shelters don’t always have to be a depository for all domesticated animals. There are some animals who should never end up in shelters, like dogs whose families can’t afford expensive medical procedures.
Her blog tells the story of a dog who was brought to the Arizona Humane Society by his distraught mother, who couldn’t afford the $2,900 surgery he needed to save his life. And before you judge, consider this scenario: If his mother worked a minimum wage job in Arizona, it would take 100% of her income for over 45 days of work to pay for his surgery. Most of us couldn’t afford to sacrifice every bit of our earnings for over two months of work – nine weeks – no matter how much we loved our pets.
We know of many shelters which would have thoughtlessly taken the dog and killed it, refusing to spend any money to help the dog and/or assuming that no one would come forward to adopt him or pay for his surgery. Nevertheless, the folks at Arizona Humane Society did the right thing: They gave the dog the lifesaving operation he needed – and threw in a complimentary neuter – and then handed him back to his grateful mother.
As Dr. Weiss said, “Arizona Humane sheltered Jax by not sheltering Jax.”
On the same day the blog by Dr. Weiss appeared, Kelli Eaves reported a problem that illustrates the other end of the spectrum. Kelli and her team of volunteers with Friends of Arlington (Texas) Animal Services have put their open admission municipal shelter on the cusp of achieving No Kill by doing amazing things with TNR. Yet the city’s animal control officers continue to bring ear-tipped cats, who were caught in field traps, to the shelter. These cats are obviously members of a managed TNR colony and don’t belong in the shelter on a mandated 72-hour stray hold.
Take it from us when we say we’re confident no one is going to step forward to claim these cats at the shelter.
The cats absolutely do not belong at the shelter, but the officers in the field aren’t using their brains. They’re blindly following outdated protocol. The proper thing to do is open the trap door and allow the cat to rejoin its colony. It’s a waste of time, taxpayers money and shelter space to bring these cats to the shelter.
So the next time you find yourself overcome with emotion at the plight of homeless pets, remind yourself to reflect on the situation. There’s often nothing to be gained by doing the same thing over and over. Develop a plan and work that plan. You’ll be happy with the results, your community will appreciate your efforts and you’ll be saving lives like never before. Your brain can be as useful as your heart.
Have you seen the March/April 2015 edition of Best Friends Magazine? (It’s easy to subscribe here.) Best Friends CEO Gregory Castle has another brilliant column about the dramatic increase in lifesaving brought about by people like you.
Since we’re still in the thick of our campaign to save the lives of 9,000 homeless animals who are killed in our shelters every day, it’s easy to forget that around 46,000 were killed each day thirty years ago. “A vast improvement, though still a tragedy,” Gregory writes.
His magazine column centers on our rapid acceptance of technological advancements. He remembers his wonder at turning his smart phone on its side to see the screen change from vertical to landscape view. That’s a ho-hum experience these days. But it’s easy to forget that computers and smartphones had a fair number of naysayers when they were first introduced.
He believes we’re on that same trajectory with the shelter industry. Thanks to your hard work and the work of thousands like you, we’re changing the paradigm at our open admission municipal shelters.
Take a look back. We’ve come a long way and we’re gaining speed. We’re quickly approaching the day when every healthy or treatable shelter pet can look forward to a happy and productive life. In his most recent column, Gregory says it best: “Just as there were people who said TV wouldn’t last, now there are people who claim it’s impossible to Save Them All. They’re wrong.”
Why do we believe in thinking like a retailer? When it comes to saving the lives of homeless pets, we can accomplish many goals by increasing our market share. There are roughly two million healthy and treatable pets dying in our shelters each year, according to the ASPCA. And there are approximately two million puppies being churned out every year by puppy mills, according to Elizabeth Oreck of Best Friends Animal Society.
Since there are about 30 million people looking to add a pet to their families each year, according to the No Kill Advocacy Center, increasing our market share will result not only in finding a home for every healthy and treatable animal who enters our shelters, but we eliminate the market for puppy mills, forcing them out of business.
It’s easy to train yourself to begin thinking like a retailer. If you want to increase your market share, take a look at a simple resource like the Small Business Marketing Kit for Dummies. It stresses that you need to accomplish three things in order to gain more market share:
1. Get to know your direct competition.
That work has already been done for us by PetSmart Charities. Their survey found that about one-fourth of adopters get their new pet from a friend or family member. Other sources are puppy mills, backyard breeders and even stray animals picked up off the street. In short, our share of the total market is just above 20%. There’s clearly room for improvement.
2. Find out why your customers buy from competing businesses over yours.
Once again, PetSmart Charities has done the analysis for us. According to their survey, people don’t adopt from shelters because they felt the shelter didn’t have the right type of animal (probably lousy marketing on the shelter’s part), “you never know what you’re going to get with a shelter animal” (lousy marketing again), the adoption process is overly difficult, shelters are depressing, inconvenient location, inconvenient opening hours, poor customer service, and on and on. Once again, there’s clearly room for improvement.
If you’ve ever seen one of our presentations at a local, regional or national conference, you’ve seen us share many ideas on increasing your market share. It’s not rocket science. Shelters must realize that they’re in a competitive market. By overcoming all the obstacles you’ve seen in the second section above, you’ll be on your way to adopting more pets, saving more lives, increasing your market share and shutting down puppy mills.
It all boils down to this: Do you or your shelter have the desire and the willingness to get it done? Start increasing your market share today!
According to ASPCA data, about 2.7 million pets were killed in American shelters last year. With 7.6 million animals entering shelters annually, that means our national save rate is 64%. In other words, your local shelter must be saving at least 64% of all the animals in its care just to be mediocre.
If your shelter is below average, you may be looking for a place to begin your improvement project. This photo from Houston, Texas offers a clue:
There’s no reason puppies and kittens should die in our shelters. Have you ever met anyone who didn’t think a puppy or kitten was cute? These youngsters are the most readily adoptable pets. If puppies and kittens are being killed in your local shelter, someone isn’t trying hard enough. Even the youngest and most fragile puppies and kittens are easy fosters. Let’s face it, everyone loves puppies and kittens!
Don’t forget that you’re in a competitive market. Pet stores, puppy mills, backyard breeders and your neighbors down the street all have puppies for sale or to give away. Market your shelter puppies and kittens like crazy, because you offer the better value. If your local shelter is professional and responsible, your shelter puppies and kittens are fully vaccinated, spayed/neutered and microchipped. Potential adopters love the extra care you put into your puppies and kittens, so make sure your community knows about your wonderful animals.
If your shelter is merely average or even horribly below average, adopting puppies and kittens is a great place to start. You’ll find that you’re saving more lives (really cute ones too!), and soon you’ll be ready to move up the ladder to more challenging adoptions.
Don’t accept mediocrity. Don’t accept indifference. Don’t accept killing. And don’t accept anything less than a save rate of 64% of all the animals that enter your shelter (a number that’s growing steadily every year). After all, a mediocre shelter is only 26 percentage points from achieving a 90% save rate and above. You’re closer to No Kill than you think.
Want to get started toward an above average shelter? Look at those adorable faces. They deserve a happy life!
The excitement was infectious at the 2015 American Pets Alive No Kill Conference. As you can see in this video, everyone was more than ready to make something happen to save the lives of healthy and treatable pets in animal shelters.
Thank you to Dr. Ellen Jefferson, Ann Lindholm and everyone at American Pets Alive for the best conference yet.
During the past century, Americans have changed the way we feel about our pets. Animals have gone from our barnyards to our back yards and into our bedrooms, yet the business model of shelters never changed. It’s time to bring animal sheltering into the 21st century. It’s time to bring our shelters into alignment with our values. You gotta get up.
Did you know Americans spent more on our pets last year ($58.5 billion) than we spent on movies, music and video games…combined? Did you know that 75% of Americans don’t want our tax dollars to be used to kill pets in animal shelters? Discover all this and more during our “Taking Different Paths to No Kill” presentation at the American Pets Alive No Kill Conference in Austin, Texas. Find out if any spots are still available at the conference web site. We’ll see you in Austin this weekend!