Animal Shelter Adoptions: How To Increase Community Investment

by Mary Haight on November 26, 2011

First impressions are lasting, and the one impression your community gets of animal shelter adoptions isn’t always positive.  Dogs areAnimal shelter adoptions barking, jumping, pacing, hiding in corners  – not behaviors leading to warm and fuzzy ideas of adoption.  Shelters have long needed help providing better physical, emotional and mental support and living conditions for the dogs and cats they hold.  It’s not just about throwing money at the problem or implementing some grand financially out of reach program, it’s about organizing shelter operations to ensure successful animal shelter adoptions.

As in the Guidelines for Standards of Care for Animal Shelters document, life enhancements that lead to manners and a healthy mental attitude – toys, walks to eliminate outside cages, stuffed Kongs – are an essential part of what shelters need to add to their caretaking regimen.  It’s  these types of activities that help keep dogs calm and show well when potential adopters are looking for a dog  that would be a good fit in their home.  I interviewed for Animal Cafe the President of a program that’s been around for around 12 years.  It sets animal shelter adoptions on an upward trend, and makes other positive improvements to the shelter environment.  The program was designed to work  on a shoestring.

Animal Shelter Adoptions Depend on Behavior

Open Paw, a non-profit organization, offers shelters a simple way to adjust their daily routine that results in a quiet shelter by teaching dogs that  every new encounter with humans brings rewards. When people come to adopt, the dogs come to the front of the cage and sell themselves with their engaging presentation.  This quality of life change for everyone in the shelter is taught fairly quickly and volunteers, staff and even visitors  are involved in the transformation. ( Check out the four level program for increasing animal shelter adoptions that spans podcasts 1 and 2.)

Changing behavior is a matter of setting up constant learning opportunities during day-to-day activities, says Kelly Gorman Dunbar, President of Open Paw.  Loose leash walking, manners, quiet time in kennels with a stuffed Kong all lead to a well-adjusted, receptive, adoptable dog.

Shelters have an opportunity to become an educational resource for the community, especially through volunteers – providing advice on how to problem solve, reinforce training, and keeping the bond between the dog or cat and the family strong.  Open Paw program implementation includes taking dogs on local field trips to parks and cafes!  The dogs get the opportunity to be exposed to new situations, meet new people and other dogs, and learn to accept new experiences.  It’s a great conversation starter for volunteers to gain community support for animal shelter adoptions.

Any shelter can implement the Open Paw program.  Starting small is a far less daunting undertaking, and you’ll see the difference in no time.  There’s a Yahoo forum available for support where participants and those interested in the program can ask questions and exchange information and ideas.  Help spread the word.  Listen to this two-part podcast discussion with Kelly Gorman Dunbar and visit Open Paw for more.

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