Shelters and Pet Stores Work Together

Theres a cooperative effort to increase the number of animal adoptions in many communities.

Not so long ago, many doggies and kitties in pet shop windows came from puppy and kitten mills – places where dogs and cats are bred repeatedly to supply pet stores with a steady stream of animals.

With too few inspectors responsible for too many sites, veterinary care, sanitation, and socialization with humans are often minimal. Animals bred at kitten mills and bought at pet stores are more likely to suffer from medical and behavioral problems; worse, these sales keep puppy and kitten mills in business.

Today, many pet stores are choosing a more humane route. By partnering with animal shelters rather than selling animals, these pet stores make it possible for people seeking a pet to simply adopt one at their facilities.

A Growing Trend
Nathan Winograd, director of the Tompkins County SPCA in Ithaca, NY, says the trend toward off-site adoptions is growing – at small local pet stores, larger chain stores, and elsewhere. Winograd calls it a triple-win situation – for the animals, the pet stores, and the people who adopt. The dogs and cats get the loving homes they deserve. The pet stores get customers who purchase food and supplies for their new pets right there, says Winograd.

And pet owners get a well-socialized, healthy animal that has been neutered, vaccinated, and examined by a veterinarian – its all included in the adoption fee, which is often the same price theyd pay just to purchase a dog or cat, explains Winograd. In addition, they may be saving a life.

Winograd says the San Francisco SPCA, where he was former director of operations, was the first to bring animals out into the community instead of vice versa, beginning in 1982. Often shelters are closed on holidays, weekends, and evenings – the only times some families are free to come, he notes. At the Tompkins County SPCA, we head for the malls and Farmers Market on weekends. We have a Home for the Holidays adoption campaign in December, and a Make a Love Connection campaign around Valentines Day. We give people more opportunities to adopt, and we discover more adopters. Our greater visibility leads to greater support – financial and otherwise – from the community, he reports.

One myth were disproving is that there arent enough homes for all the animals surrendered. When shelters work proactively to bring the animals out where people live, work, and play, more homes become available, says Winograd.

No Fear of Impulse Adoptions
A second myth is that non-shelter sites encourage impulse adoptions. But since our screening procedures are the same everywhere, animals adopted off-site are no more likely to be returned than others, notes Winograd. Such myths shouldnt simply be accepted as fact – especially when lives are at stake.

Winograd says PETsMART, which decided not to sell cats and dogs back in 1994, was the first major national retailer to do so. The company created PETsMART Charities Adoption Centers, donating in-store space to local shelters, and allowing them to keep the adoption fees.

PETsMARTs strategy has worked. In 2002, Elsie, a young retriever mix, became the millionth pet adopted from a PETsMART center. The Bradford family of Kentucky stopped at their local PETsMART store one evening, and spotted Elsie, who was up for adoption by the Lexington Humane Society. After taking her for a walk, they knew she was the dog for them. In celebration, Elsie won a lifetime of free grooming, training, and dog food.

It took eight years to reach this millionth milestone, but with Adoption Centers now partnering with 2,300 local animal welfare groups in 580 PETsMART stores, the next million pets may find homes much sooner.

PETCO offers similar in-store adoption space, plus adoption gift booklets containing savings on pet supplies, including free food, for anyone who has adopted a new pet. In addition, PETCO has teamed up with to create an online pet adoption center. Here, potential adopters can explore a database of hundreds of adoptable pets, available both locally and nationwide.

Off-site adoptions – plus spaying and neutering every animal prior to adoption – have enabled us to become a no-kill shelter, says Winograd. People often dont come to shelters because it makes them sad, he adds. By getting animals out of the shelter and into the community, we hope everyone finds the pet of their dreams.