Caitlin UltimoPet Parenting / Pet Stories

Innovative Pet Adoption Events

More than 7 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters every year. It’s hard for rescue organizations to find homes for all of them—not to mention the money it takes to pay for their care. So they’ve had to get super creative! Check out these clever (and successful) pet adoption events they’ve held, and feel free to bring them to the attention of your local shelter. 

Cat Friday: For the last six years, the ASPCA Adoption Center has waived the fees to take home a kitten or cat on the day after Thanksgiving. “We encourage adopters to skip the long lines at the stores and open their homes to a new family member,” says Joey Teixeria, senior manager of customer relations and communications. “There’s a nice story tie-in in with ‘Black Friday’and it always ends up being one of our biggest pet adoption days of the year.”

40 Over 40: “We often face challenges getting our larger dogs adopted, especially in urban areas like New York City, with a lot of apartment dwellers,” says Teixeria. “So we have to come up with creative ways to adopt out the larger breeds.” One of the most successful pet adoption initiatives: a “40 over 40” promotional event, where the adoption fee is reduced to $40 for any dog weighing more than 40 pounds. “If you are going to have a special adoption event, make sure that you have enough staff and volunteers for the day,” he advises. “Our special pet adoption events usually pull in three to four times the number of adopters, so for us it’s all hands on deck. Planning is also really important.”

Cat Café: Several years ago, the municipal shelter in Oakland, California, was having a hard time finding homes for all of its abandoned cats. “It put to sleep more than 40% of the cats,” says Ann Dunn, who volunteered for the shelter at the time. “A lot of cats don’t do well in a shelter with barking dogs, and can seem unfriendly to visitors because they’re scared.” In 2011, Ann started a rescue, Cat Town, specifically for these vulnerable cats. And three years later, she launched Cat Café, a place where patrons can sip their lattes alongside 15 to 20 cats who are allowed to roam freely. “We bring in the cats on Sunday night, let them get used to their surroundings on Monday and Tuesday, and open for business the rest of the week,” says Dunn. Customers can go online to book an hour at the cat café for $10; they also pay for whatever drinks or food they buy. In the early days, Dunn’s team handled the food service aspect themselves, but have since partnered with a vendor so they can focus solely on the animals. “We’ve found homes for 600 hard-to-adopt cats since it started,” she says. “And now the municipal shelter puts to sleep less than 15% of its cats.”

Strut Your Mutt: Every fall, Best Friends Animal Society hosts fundraising events for any shelter in 14 cities. You simply sign up your pooch for a fundraising walk (lengths vary, but it’s usually no more than a 5K), get sponsors by sharing on your social media accounts, and then enjoy the day, which often also includes a fair with adoptable animals. If you don’t live in one of those cities, the group provides the infrastructure for any shelter to host an online fundraiser. “Some shelters use this to raise their money for the entire year,” says Eric Rayvid, director of public relations. You can find a list of participating cites as well as details about the online fundraising (which will likely begin in June) at bestfriends.org/events/strut-your-mutt .

Rescue Runway: Last October, a partnership of artists hosted a ‘70s-themed doggie fashion show that supported the Humane Society of Indianapolis. “The event raised $16,000 for us,” says MaryAnna Ferris, advancement manager. “The adoptable animals weren’t in the fashion show, but they were at the event mingling.” The pet models belonged to the members of the public who purchased VIP tickets to the event, which also included a silent and live auction plus vendor booths. Lesson learned: It’s valuable to have a community partner to help raise awareness and money for pet adoption.

Yoga Cats: Last spring, Denver Animal Protection was hoping to bring more attention to the cats and kittens at the shelter. The shelter came up with the genius idea to host a multi-week yoga class where the friendly felines could romp around during the class. “Each yoga cat class is taught by a volunteer yoga instructor,” explains Madeleine Binsfrahm, senior development officer. “Prior to the yoga cat class, we set up kittens and cats in the shelter’s community room. We give them cat toys, litter boxes and water. Attendees then arrive and set up their mats and start class. We typically offer a beginner’s style yoga so the class is accessible to a wider number of people.” Not only has the yoga cat series raised money for the shelter (attendees pay $10 per class), but several cats have been adopted as a result.

Pet adoption events don’t have to fit a traditional style, sometimes thinking outside the box is all it takes to get the word out—and better yet, help a pet find their forever home.

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