When Are Pets Adopted From Shelters Rather Than Pet Stores or Breeders?

How do prospective pet owners decide where to adopt their pets? What are their perceptions of animal shelters? What are their reasons for adopting? How do pet owners decide where to have a pet spayed or neutered? How should shelters or rescues communicate with prospective pet owners to motivate them to visit your shelter to find just the right pet?

PetSmart Charities recently published the findings of a research study they sponsored on the drivers and barriers for adoption and spay/neuter. Ipsos Marketing conducted an online survey of 2,000 pet owners and those recently adopting a pet. Read the complete report, the Webinar slides, or view a webinar at the bottom of this page about the findings.

Read the full report for a better understanding of these issues. Once you understand both positive and negative perceptions of animal shelters, spay/neuter, and why potential pet parents adopt a pet, you can adjust your communications with the public to increase pet adoptions. This study has recommendations at the end to provide guidance in this regard. Following are a few key points from this study. Direct quotes from the study are in italics.

Page 18 explains the reasons pet owners acquired pets from each source (shelters, pet stores, breeders, family/friends, etc). Wanting to save an animal is by far the top reason for adoption, taking in a stray, and taking/acquiring from a friend/family member. Seeing an animal’s picture online is also notable for Pet Adoption Organizations.

Perceptions Toward Pet Acquisition Sources on Page 22: Overall, pet adoption organizations/shelters have the most positive perceptions compared to these other sources.

Reasons Did Not Adopt on Page 15 says the top two reasons relate to wanting a specific breed or type.

A key finding of this study is found under Communication Strategies on Page 50:

“Adopting a pet saves a life and gives you a lifelong companion” and “Adopted pets can be some of the best companion animals” are rated the most motivating statements to use pet adoption services. Messages with negative/depressing tones are less motivating, focusing on positive such as ‘adoption saves a life’ is preferred to ‘Euthanasia is the No.1 killer of healthy pets in the U.S.’ although they both communicate the same message that adopting will prevent a dog/cat from being euthanized.

Page 30 indicates a price/cost barrier for spay/neuter, with the maximum to spend on a dog being $144 and the maximum for a cat $109. Also see page 52 Spay & Neuter: Communication StrategiesCommunication Strategies:

The top motivators among those that have not spay/neutered their dog or cat include:
-“Spaying/neutering reduces the number of homeless and unwanted dogs born every year” was rated the highest in terms of motivation to have the procedure, again re-enforcing the need for education on the issue and the impact not having the procedure has on our society.
-Communicating the experience and medical knowledge of the clinics that perform the service will help to alleviate concerns and build trust that these clinics are well trained and equipped to do this procedure.

Perceptions of Spay / Neuter Organizations Page 36 –“Dog/cat owners place a higher level of trust into private veterinary hospitals with taking care of their pet. However, two-thirds believe the procedure would be expensive. Lower costs are advantage of the Humane Society and low-cost spay/neuter clinics.

The main form of local news is television (page 48) with the Internet being used by younger respondents than their older counterparts. Develop an alliance with a local TV reporter to publicize special situations such as severe animal abuse, financial crisis, etc. Very often the public comes forward to solve the problem even in these economic times.

These are just a few of the findings of this excellent study. Spend time reading the whole study and use the key findings to tailor your communication to prospective pet owners.

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