Traditionally, shelters have perceived pets at foster homes differently from those inside their kennels, noted Maddie’s Fund, a family foundation founded in 1994. Foster care pets are usually not at risk of euthanasia for time, space, or behaviors associated with kennel stress, deeming them to be ”safe.” Before, shelters have saved their marketing antics for pets in their kennels while animals in foster care were on the back burner or not marketed to potential owners. Hence, there are times when foster pets live in homes for months or even years without any plans of getting them adopted.
This could be frustrating and difficult for foster caregivers, and it could also mean that foster capacity will be used up by these animals, leaving no space for new pets. Unfortunately, such cases still occur in pet foster care today. No matter how much a shelter exerts immense effort into marketing its foster pets, there is always someone who will ensure that the pet is seen, heard, or socialized with other community members. Who knows? That person could be you.
Survey On Community Pet Adoption Partnerships (2016)
Maddie’s Institute, a program of Maddie’s Fund, conducted a survey to find out which practices were successful in shortening the length of stay or prevented pets from entering the shelter entirely. When asked to indicate the extent to which foster caregivers are allowed to be involved in the adoption process at your organization, 38% of dog and cat organizations, 48% of dog only organizations, and 37% of cat only organizations said they were “highly involved.”
8% of dog and cat organizations, 4% of dog only organizations, and 8% of cat only organizations said they were “hardly involved” in the adoption process. Respondents from municipal animal services (58%) and animal shelters or rescues without a municipal contract (56%) were more likely to report that foster caregivers “very frequently” or “frequently” choose to be involved in the adoption process at their organization.
Meanwhile, the figure was only 36% for animal shelters or rescues with a municipal contract. When asked how often are foster animals physically returned to the organization for the adoption process, organizations with a physical facility that caters to serve both dogs and cats (65%) said they were “always or almost always” in the adoption process. For dog only and cat only organizations, the numbers were 41% and 70%, respectively.
When asked to describe the respondents’ organization’s policies on foster caregiver involvement in the adoption process, 84% of cat only organizations said that both foster caregivers and organization are working on the adoption process, but only the latter makes the final decision. The numbers were 65% and 73% for organizations that serve both dogs and cats and organizations that serve only dogs, respectively.
However, only 15% of dog and cat organizations, 11% of dog only organizations, and 9% of cat only organizations let the foster caregivers be given complete control over the adoption process with support (versus 13%, 7% of 4% of those who cited the non-involvement of foster caregivers in the adoption process).
When asked if foster caregivers are allowed to care for the foster animal until it is adopted, 94% of those from dog and cat organizations, 98% from dog only organizations, and 96% from cat only organizations said “yes.” The respondents were also allowed to find potential adopters (97%, 87%, 95%), to meet with potential adopters (84%, 93%, 87%), approve adoption applications (30%, 39%, 27%), and finalize the adoption (21%, 52%, and 32%).
Traditional Marketing Versus Lifesaving Marketing
Traditional marketing follows the “rules” and is done via biography. It has stop signs such as “no cats,” “must be the only dog,” and more. This focuses more on general animal care social media posts, foods to avoid on special occasions, funny pet videos, etc, which is not related to the organization’s mission of adoption. Social media and other communications are done by shelter staff.
On the other hand, lifesaving marketing involves thoughtful rule-breaking, highlighting a pet’s adorable quirk or a story about its interaction with other pets or people. Lifesaving marketing uses the words “you,” us”, and “we.” Messages are fun and engaging while staying relevant to the organization’s mission. This type of marketing highlights volunteer-and foster-driven messaging to create innovative content.
How to Market A Foster Pet?
Make the pet a local celebrity. Once you have made it into a “celebrity,” it is more likely that a family will find and adopt it through word of mouth. Moreover, the more people know about the foster pet through videos, stores, pictures, and more, the more they will be enthusiastic in helping you find its forever home. Engagement and enthusiasm will also spark conversations about your shelter, as well as the plight of long-stay animals. Pet marketing should focus on forging an emotional connection between your supporters and the pet, as this connection motivates people to share your post, advocate for the pet, or adopt it.
Don’t use “stop language” like “not potty trained” or “chews furniture,” as these are more used for adoption counseling rather than marketing. What if your pet has behavioral problems? You have to cast the widest net possible and attend to inquiries until you find the perfect family for your pet. Full disclosure about your pet should be provided during the adoption counseling process. Be sure to create a foster email account (or use your shelter’s email if possible) so that you won’t have to give away your personal email to potential adopters.
If you want your dog to be adopted, you can also post flyers at a local dog park as most have a bulletin for flyers, suggested Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, an organization dedicated to finding new loving homes for dogs. But you can also post them on veterinary offices, pet supply stores, and more. Flyers should have your contact details. Take your pet for a walk in a place where there is a lot of foot traffic to help people get to know it. You can have someone like a staff member or a friend accompany you to act as your pet’s “spokesperson.”
Don’t give up if your pet is not adopted by a family! Trust the process and keep marketing your pet. Remember take a break if you are burnt out. Marketing your pet can be draining but in time, a forever family will decide to take your pet home.