“Our goal is to end the euthanasia of dogs and cats in America that are healthy and treatable. To do that we have to place 2.7 million more dogs and cats this year than we did in the previous year: that means 4 more adoptions per week per animal organization in the United States. We think that’s a very doable challenge.” — Rich Avanzino, President of Maddie’s Fund
This is the third and final installment of the three-part series exploring the Shelter Pet Project, a joint effort of the Ad Council, Maddie’s Fund, and the Humane Society of the United States to end the euthanasia of healthy animals.
In Part 1, I covered the first phase of the Shelter Pet Project, which produced and distributed a series of videos aimed at changing the perception of shelter pets as being inferior. The message: Human problems lead to pets being sent to shelters, not problems with the animals.
In Part 2, I discussed how the project came under the aegis of the Ad Council, and the importance — really, the awesomeness — of getting the Ad Council involved in this cause.
I conclude this series with the latest series of videos, and a discussion of the role that the shelters and the American public need to play in order for the campaign to succeed.
I thought it would be fitting to end on a day that a group of pet bloggers are highlighting other worthy campaigns and causes in the Blog the Change for Animals blog hop. Earlier this week, in the Pet Blogger Challenge, a number of them told us about their hopes for the future of their blogs. Here they talk about their hopes for the future of animals — and the inspirational things that many wonderful people and organizations are doing to bring that future to fruition.
The first series of ads how animals often end up in shelters; here you take a different tack, showing animals in homes observing humans. Could you explain the different messages?
The newest creations, like the first ones, are clever; they just shift perspective. We talk about the quirks in animal behavior, but looking through the eyes of the dogs and cats out there, it’s clear we’re sort of odd ourselves. I think that when people see the newest commercials there’s going to be a smile on their face and maybe an awareness that this bond that provides us with such love and joy comes with the mutual understanding that we’re different species but that just makes things interesting.
My expectation is that over the years we will have a variety of different messages, because there’s no one size fits all, but all have the central theme that shelters and rescues are the best place to go, that these animals make wonderful companions, and that a person is the best thing in a shelter pet’s life. We want you to be that person and adopt.
What role do the shelters themselves play in the campaign?
Part of the overall effort is to make shelters destination points. If people encounter smells and noise and poor customer service at shelters that’s counterproductive.
We need to put pressure on the institutions and the agencies and the animal organizations to get their act together. If we drive traffic to the shelters and the rescues organizations and they don’t accept the new public interest with open arms or don’t return the phone calls to people who’ve seen a pet on PetFinder or seen it on the search engine for the Shelter Pet Project, then we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. Sure we have to drive the traffic, but after the traffic gets to their doorsteps, potential adopters have got to be welcomed, brought into the fold. The shelters and rescues have to be there to facilitate that last step in the lifesaving effort.
How do you see that coming to pass?
In many ways. We need to build shelters in more desirable places, not near dumps. The politicians and general public haven’t gotten outraged over the inadequate performance of the institutions that are supposed to protect animals when they don’t work. That’s understandable. A lot of politicians do what their constituents want. We need to make it clear that animals can alleviate other societal problems, help us overcome our maladies, drug addition, depression, etc.
When animals are no longer considered disposable commodities, when we’re not killing 2.7 million dogs and cats and every life is precious and dear and as important to us as our kids are, then you will see them moving up on the priority scale. Animals should be at the top of the list alphabetically, but they’re usually at the bottom when it comes to distributing tax dollars.
The American people say pets are family members on four legs; 60% of us are animal lovers. When asked would we rather be stranded on an island with a two-legged or four-legged being, 60% of pet owners say they’d rather be with their dog or cat. We just haven’t done enough to convince them that the shelter pet is every bit as loving, as joyful and as important in your life as purebreds.
Our hearts as a people are strong and compassionate. We have to work with that instinct within the American people to make for better conditions for animals. I think that will lead to more contributions, to more volunteers, more foster care — and reducing the cost to the taxpayers of killing.
It’s got to be a trickle up, grass roots movement. I don’t see it being forced from the top down. I think the institutions, whether municipal governments or boards of directors, are going to rally when they see people demanding these things.
Are you optimistic for the future?
Oh yes. We as a nation killed 24 million dogs and cats 40 years ago. It’s now down to 3.4 million. In the midst of a recession, we increased the number of animals who got saved last year. We’ve gone from a 27% market share of shelter pets in households to a 29% share in these awful economic conditions, just in the last two years. We reduced euthanasia by 10% in the worst economic conditions of our time in our nation.
There’s great hope on the horizon. All we need is four more adoptions per agency per week. It’s very doable.