****UPDATE: February 5, 2017****
In December 2016, Petfinder added “mixed breed” as a primary identifier for the dogs listed on their site. Because of this excellent news, our dogs are once again listed on Petfinder.
If you’ve spent any time on our site or hung out with us on social media, you know that we stress the individuality of dogs. You also know that it’s impossible to identify a dog’s breed based on visual identification. That’s why we steer clear of labeling the dogs who come into our shelter. We don’t know the pedigree of the overwhelming majority of them. There’s no way we can honestly select a breed label.
But there’s a lot of software out there that requires us to do just that, including the software Petfinder uses.
That led us to make the decision to pull our dogs from Petfinder’s website.
We know this is a huge step and probably startles some of you. But, it’s a crucial part of our mission that we rethink the labels and language we use to speak about dogs. We had to walk the walk.
We do recognize that not all organizations can separate themselves from Petfinder. It’s a goliath in available pet listings. It’s how most people hear about a shelter or rescue’s available dogs.
But you do have other options. Here’s what we’re doing to make sure people know about our dogs:
We came up with a cute slogan that will stick in people’s minds – Adopt Your BFF at AFF. We advertise it with on the ground marketing in the form of business cards, adoption flyers (which we send out to local businesses), and we have an ad at the local drive-in movie theater, for which we receive a discount because we are a non-profit. We are also looking into radio and newspaper ads.
We know not everyone has the funds for theater or radio advertising, but you can produce flyers and cards on the cheap. The trick is to pass them out! Get your volunteers involved in your marketing. Create a “street team” that will promote your shelter in your surrounding communities.
Ramp Up Your Social Media
You may have noticed that we’ve been featuring our available dogs on our Instagram and Facebook more often these days. With the internet, you have a captive audience of millions of people. With the right photos and the right captions, your dogs could literally fly out of their kennels and into their new homes. (Okay, not literally, but still…)
Get Your Dogs Out in Public
The best way to get people to know about your available dogs is to get people to meet your available dogs. There are a lot of dog friendly establishments and events in every town or city. We’ve created one listing the establishments and one listing the upcoming events so that our staff knows where and when to take our dogs out to make some new friends – and hopefully find a family.
Engage Your Volunteers
We already mentioned the idea of street teams, but your volunteers likely have a wealth of ideas. Get your volunteers together for brainstorming sessions on new ways to market your dogs. You’ll be surprised what a lot of great minds can come up with.
This new marketing push is already working for us. Not only have we not seen any decline in applications coming in, we are receiving more than expected!
We know pulling our dogs from Petfinder was a big decision, but it was the right one for us. We hope that as more shelters drop breed labels, they’ll also consider taking the same step if it’s the right one for their dogs. We also hope that Petfinder will find a solution to this issue and rework their software so that it doesn’t force people to label their dogs.