A new way for shelters to get dogs adopted

Photo above: Always Adopt volunteers getting ready for the Super Dog Adoption Day.

By Dr. Parker T. Barker

This week I want to share with you a new way that my friend, Louise Anderson Nicolosi is getting more than 300 dogs adopted at a single event that she runs. Aunt Louise, as I call her, lives in Rhode Island and about four years ago she became obsessed with an idea she got while attending a conference hosted by Best Friends, an amazing animal rescue in Utah.

Getting ready to me future adoptersSo Louise conscripted two of her good friends who both had marketing and operations backgrounds and off they went to put together a new way to get a lot of great dogs into their furever households in a very short timeframe.

AlwaysAdopt.com was born from a determination to maximize the efforts of local shelters in getting applicants approved and the dogs marketed to the world of possible adopters. The first Super Dog Adoption Day was held at a large horse farm Aunt Louise just stopped in to see if she could find the owner. The wonderful owner gave Louise the farm for a day in May and off we went.

Louise’s vision was to aggregate about 15 shelters to all put their dogs up for adoption at the same time, at the same event, where she would recruit and train the volunteers, handle the site organization, do the marketing and PR, and staff the event. The goal was to get about 60-75 dogs at the event and there would be no crates as each dog would have their own “ambassador” and there would be “a ton” of people who were interested in adopting them. There would be onsite trainers to work with potential adopters and a Vet to make sure all the dogs were in good health.

On that fateful day, as my Mom stood at the top of the driveway wondering if anybody would actually come to this event everyone had worked so hard on? More than 150 dogs were available for adoption and 1,000 potential adopters came to meet the pups. Twice a year these events happen. And twice a year some lucky dogs get their chance at a safe and happy future.

This past Saturday, the 7th Super Dog Adoption Day was held at a wonderful facility that is a large nursery until October 31st and then turns into a magic location where 350 dogs came to meet their new families. More than 150 volunteers were there with an equal numbers of helpers from the various rescues who represent the pups. Multiple trainers and Vets were also on hand to make sure everything they could do to get the right dog to the right people happened.

The single biggest change that has taken place over these last couple of years is that there is now a common application that all the rescues have to agree to in order to participate – kind of like what the colleges did a few years back with their “common app”. There were 460 applications for this past event and Louise’s screeners approved 360 of their applications – that’s checking references, personal interviews, and home checks. These lucky people who are approved get to come into the adoption area ahead of the general public so they can wander and meet the dogs that are available before the hordes arrive.

The marketing that gets the attention of all these potential adopters is a combination of three elements: a huge roadside sign announcing the event, local posters throughout the area, and funny or poignant enhanced commentary from some of the dogs themselves along with their picture on Facebook. I translate what the pups want to say and type it up for Facebook. Some of these guys are really funny. And others have just amazing stories about how they got to their rescues.

Imagine 350 dogs in a room and not a bark from anybody. They know this is their big shot. Some will have four or five applications apiece and it will be up to their rescue to determine which family is the best fit for the dog. Most rescues have about a 10% return rate where a family might find the dog they chose might not get along with their cat or likes to chew designer shoes. At Louise’s events, the return rate is less than 1%, if that.

So the point of all this is to encourage you to share this story with your friends in rescue. We should also all be trying all kinds of ways to get these well deserving dogs into their furever homes. If you could see the faces of these guys when they head home with their new families and know they are safe. It makes all the hard work so worth it. If you would like to learn more about this amazing organization go to www.AlwaysAdopt.com.

Photos by J. Nicolosi Photography.

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