Social animals

It takes a network to get pets adopted

By Dorothy Grinolds

With more than 20,000 animals coming through our doors each year, Animal Humane Society needs to use every tool at our disposal to match up pets with adopters.

In this day and age, that means engaging not just the hearts, hands and minds of the community to help animals, but engaging their newsfeeds – and their TV sets -- as well.

AHS’s website may be our most prominent and important marketing tool, a place where thousands of people see their next pet for the first time. Increasingly, though, both new and “old” media are being used to introduce animals to prospective adopters, especially those animals that might need a special showcase.

Here we look at some recent stories about how animals looking for a second chance found their new loving homes through social media and the airwaves.

Elvis

When Elvis arrived at AHS last October, he was like any puppy – playful, active and attention-seeking. But Elvis had a few challenges to face before finding a home.

Our veterinary staff discovered Elvis was suffering from Sarcoptic Mange, a disease caused by small mites on the animal’s skin, which if left untreated results in itchiness, hair loss and even infection. Elvis received extensive treatment from the vets, and because this type of mange is highly contagious to other dogs, Elvis had to be isolated for a large portion of the time.

So we convinced Elvis to pose for a photo and we posted his story on our Facebook page. After 594 likes, 314 shares and three days, Elvis was adopted by a family who saw him on Facebook. They already had a pit bull/terrier mix at home and decided Elvis would make the perfect companion.

AHS joined the world of likes and shares back in 2008 and since then we’ve gained more than 30,000 fans who share in and help us promote the work we do for animals every day.

Through the use of our social media channels, we are able to engage with supporters in a variety of ways: to promote our lifesaving programs and services, gain new supporters who will donate time and money to help animals, and share the stories that take place at each of our five locations.

We are fortunate to have a supportive community of people who believe that adoption is the best way to add a companion animal to their family. The length of stay for animals on our adoption floors averages only 10 days.

Occasionally however, there are animals – like Elvis – who need an extra push; animals who are passed over by potential adopters, senior animals, or those with special medical needs.

Tinkerbell

Tinkerbell found a new home just a few hours after her adopters saw her video (which you can see at www.animalhumanesociety.org/tinkerbell) on our Facebook page. She was just two months old when she came to us a stray with a shattered hind leg. After surgery and lots of love from our staff, she was as sweet and playful as ever. So we shot some footage of Tinkerbell playing, created a simple video and encouraged our supporters on social media to share our post.

Dabit

Dabit’s wishes came true when his new person John saw his sweet face and read his wish list on our Facebook page last December. A 6-year-old lab mix, Dabit had been waiting longer than the average dog for a home and was now what we refer to as a “forget-me-not.” When they met, it was as if it was meant to be. A total of 184 people shared Dabit’s wish list and helped us find Dabit a home. File that under #madeourday.

Bear

Everyone at AHS, and our Facebook friends, love to hear how pets are doing after they’ve been adopted. That’s the concept behind Success Story Saturdays, when we let our adopters take center stage and provide updates about their new companions. For example, Holly told us about Bear, a 13-year-old lab who came to us after his owner passed away. Senior pets aren’t always people’s first choice when adopting, but Holly saw something in Bear she couldn’t pass up, and a month after adopting him, we passed along her report on our Facebook page: “He was so depressed when we first got him and now his tail never stops wagging! I just adore this old boy! Please don’t forget the senior dogs!”

Sharing these success stories has helped us spread the word about the benefits of adoption. Each adoption is a happy beginning and brings thousands of likes and hundreds of shares, not to mention a lot of smiles.

As valuable as social media is these days, we also take advantage of good old-fashioned news media through a partnership with WCCO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis. Every Friday on the noon news, WCCO features a “Pet of the Week” segment, where we introduce viewers to an adoptable animal live on the air.

Barney

Barney, a senior Chinese Shar-Pei mix, was found in early December, roaming free in subzero temperatures. A Good Samaritan brought him home, and made an appointment to bring him to AHS. It appeared Barney had been through a lot recently and was in need of some TLC. Our vet staff prepared Barney for adoption, and because older dogs often take longer to find homes, he was featured on WCCO. That day, Jean was at home watching TV and saw Barney’s appearance. She and her husband Dave had said goodbye to their family dog earlier in the year, and were ready to start looking for a new furry family member. Jean told Dave about the sweet dog she saw on the news, and they adopted Barney that evening.

We’re happy to report that Barney, now named Bosco, is doing great in his new home. As he discovers he is in a warm and safe home, his personality is shining. He’s enjoying exploring the outdoors when temperatures allow, and he’s getting along great with the three other dogs in the family.

For the past four years, Carrie Libera, AHS public relations associate, has taken dozens of dogs on the WCCO Pet of the Week segment. “It’s such a pleasure getting to choose a lucky dog each week, knowing that their perfect match may be tuning into the news that day,” Libera said. “Many times when we return to the shelter, the phones are ringing off the hook with interested adopters – and sometimes there is someone already on the way.”

The segment has a loyal following, with people telling us they watch the Friday news just to see the Pet of the Week. “The best part is when I get updates from viewers that have adopted,” Libera said. “Sometimes I get to meet them that day, other times they come back for a visit. I’ve even received Christmas cards from dogs that I’ve taken on TV. It’s a special thing to be a part of and we’re grateful for the opportunity.”

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