Animals – dogs, cats, rabbits, and horses – are taken in by animal shelters and rescues every day. Often times they come from unfortunate situations. Sometimes they come from amazing homes and families but uncontrollable circumstances arise forcing the family to give the animal up. No matter what their history consists of – they are sure to find comfort and safety in the shelter or rescue. Animal shelters and rescues work hard to find forever homes for these animals. One of the keys to raising awareness and interest in the animals available for adoption is successful marketing.

Marketing
Animal shelters and rescues utilize several marketing strategies to increase organization awareness and capture the attention of potential adopters. Common methods used by successful animal shelters and rescues include:

  • Adoption events
  • Online advertisements
  • Social media posts
  • Fundraisers
  • Open house events
  • Website page highlighting the animals

Getting potential adopters in the door (or on your website) is the first step in any of these techniques. How do you spark their interest? How do you make them fall in love and want to adopt one of your animals? The secret is writing a profile or bio about the animal they can’t ignore.

A bio they can’t refuse
You might not consider yourself a creative writer, but you need to. Utilize these five techniques to write create animal bios that work.

  1. Pull at their heart strings. Grabbing their attention starts with their hearts. In the first few sentences focus on those feelings. When you look at the animal – what do you see in their eyes or facial expression? Excitement, desire for a home, seriousness? Talk about that in your opening remarks. Use this example to guide you: “Roxy is looking for an energetic, fun-loving active family.” Or “Max needs a calm and peaceful home to spend his days relaxing.”
  2. Be honest. Honesty is vital. Make sure your description truly meets the needs of the animal and attracts the right family by telling them the truth.
  3. List the facts (even the negative ones). List facts about the animal – weight, color, and breed. Provide a history including where they came from, likes, needs, and dislikes.
  4. Include a call to action. Tell the potential adopter what steps to take next. Contact your animal shelter, talk to a volunteer, or fill out a volunteer application. They need to know what their next step is and are more likely to take action in the moment.
  5. Include a photo. Always include a photo of the animal – especially if you are listing the bio on the Internet. Pictures provide readers with a “face” and increase their desire to want to meet the animal in person.  Online posts with pictures are more likely to be read and shared by followers. The more individuals that see available animals – the better chance they have of being adopted.

Boost your marketing efforts with better animal bios and profiles. Make it impossible for potential adopters to say no by utilizing these five tips.

The most important service an animal shelter or rescue provides their local communities is matching animals with the perfect forever home and family. Sometimes adopting families are not readily available. And sometimes the animals need to be reintroduced to loving home and family. Both of these require time – time to find the perfect family and time for the animal to readjust to a safe and comfortable life. Animal shelters and rescues rely on foster homes to provide the animal in need with the care and environment they need.

It is important for the animal shelter or rescue to recruit caring and loving foster parents capable of providing this care. Where do you start? How do you know they will make amazing foster parents? Use this checklist to select the best foster parents.

What to do

  • Require a foster home application.
  • Conduct an in-person or over the phone interview.
  • Visit the home.
  • Require a foster agreement.
  • Conduct a background check.
  • Conduct a foster parent orientation and training.

Questions to ask

  • How long can they commit to fostering?
  • How many hours do they spend away from their home daily?
  • Where do they live?
  • What does their property consist of? Is there a yard? Is there a fence?
  • What do they think proper care consists of?
  • Are the financially able to provide for the animal?
  • How will they handle any potential trips out of town?
  • Who lives in their home? What are their ages?
  • Do they have any additional animals?
  • Do they have knowledge of proper animal care?
  • Do they have experience caring for animals?
  • Are they willing to allow potential adopters visit their home?
  • Why do they want to be a foster parent?
  • How will they handle the animal leaving after growing attached?

These are vital questions to gain a better understanding of the potential environment for the animals. You want to match the animal with a home that best suits their needs.
Recruiting great foster parents increases your long-term retention and gives more opportunity to help animals in need.

Introducing a new dog or cat into your animal shelter is a vital yet stressful step in the path to successful adoption. Vital, because it’s the only way to gain a better understanding of the animal’s personality, traits, and behaviors. Stressful, because animals’ behavior is unpredictable – especially when their past leads them to be fearful of people and other animals. If you have volunteers new to the animal welfare world or volunteers who struggle in the initial phases of new animal socialization, now is the time to create an animal socialization plan. An animal socialization plan is a guide for volunteers to better understand animal behaviors. It doesn’t address every possible occurrence – it does provide steps volunteers can take during crucial moments.
The Steps

  1. Initial Introduction. Choose experienced volunteers who don’t get nervous in stressful moments for the animal introductions. Cats and dogs have different temperaments and unique methods for successful introductions.

    Cats
    Introduce cats to other cats in an open area with a few hiding spots set up. Make sure the cat you introduce the new cat to is well-behaved. Give the cat time to explore and feel comfortable in the room. Bring the other cat in after the cat is comfortable. Interact and play with this cat to increase your new furry friend’s trust. Cats cannot be rushed to meet and be friends – it takes time and commitment.

    Dogs
    Initial dog-to-dog introductions require both dogs to be on a leash that allows freedom of movement. They need to feel like they can explore at their own pace. Keep dogs 10 feet apart and give them a chance to sniff one another without touching.

    If any of the animals show signs of aggression, remove the animals from the meetings for the day.

  2. Assess body language. Body language speaks volumes when analyzing dogs and cats in different situations. Pay attention to their body language to gain an understanding of how they are handling and reacting to the situation. Aggressive or uncomfortable body language to look for includes:
    •    Hissing or growling
    •    Raised hair
    •    Stiff body
    •    Bare teeth
    •    Get low (getting ready to attack)
    Lunging at one another
    In these moments, separate the animals and try again the following day.
  3.  Group introductions. After the dogs or cats successfully interact with others in a one-on-one situation, move them to group introductions.

    Cats
    Add more cats to the first room. Watch to see how the cat reacts. Do they run and hide? Play? Attack? As long as all of the animals are behaving well, watch them for varied lengths of time. Increase the lengths of time daily until they can be trusted 100% of the time with the other cats.

    Dogs
    Take dogs into group settings on a leash. Give the dog time to sniff around and then drop the leash, letting them roam freely. Pay attention to their initial reactions and responses to the other dogs. Repeat this daily at increased lengths of time until they can be left on their own.

  4. Human interaction. Throughout the entire introduction process, keep track of how the animals respond to human interaction, new volunteers, male versus female volunteers. Make note of any potential human socialization dangers.

Your ultimate goal is to adopt the animals to their forever homes. The best way to accomplish that is to properly introduce and socialize all animals with other animals, volunteers, and your shelter setting.

Halloween is the second largest consumer holiday in the United States. Even though many nonprofit animal welfare organizations consider Christmas to be the best time to launch fundraising campaigns, Halloween is actually better. 30% more consumers entered promotion campaigns at Halloween than at during the Christmas season. Why? Your supporters aren’t feeling the financial stress of the expensive holiday season – yet.

Advantages
Consider these four advantages before skipping Halloween this year.

  1. Increased donations.
    Launching your fundraising campaign months before the holiday craziness boosts your overall donations. Your animal welfare organization supporters haven’t maxed out their budget buying gifts and are more willing to donate.
  2. Less competition.
    Shhh! Halloween fundraising success is still relatively new and many nonprofit animal shelters and rescues still overlook it as a prime fundraising time. Less competition means your campaign or fundraisers are more likely to capture supporters’ attention. Often times, supporters become overwhelmed and inundated with donation requests in November and December, they ignore or politely decline all requests.
  3. More volunteer involvement.
    Volunteers keep you up and running every day. Without their commitment and time, many animal shelters and rescues are forced to close their doors. Many volunteers have out of control schedules with extra family events and holiday preparation in December. Launching a big fundraising campaign at Halloween increases their ability to help.
  4. Innovative ideas.
    Chances are your past major fundraising drives revolved around the spirit of giving in December. You probably copied the same fundraiser from year to year. Focusing on Halloween this year gives you a NEW list of fundraising ideas. Your long-term supporters will be happy for the change.

Fundraising ideas
Do you avoid Halloween fundraising because you don’t want to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch? Schedule a meeting with your fundraising committee to review these # ideas and pick one to start with.

  • Partner with a local pumpkin patch or fall fest. Contact local organizations and see if they are willing to host fundraising days for your animal welfare organization. Request a portion of the ticket sales be donated to you. In addition, set up a table the day of to collect donations and hand out information.
  • It’s all about the treats. Invite supporters to your location encouraging them to bring “treats” (food, toys, blankets, bowls, etc.) for your animals.
  • Sponsor a costume ball. Invite your community to a costume party. Sell tickets in advance and then offer dinner, raffles, and costume prizes the night of the event.
  • Launch a social media contest. Encourage your online followers to participate in a Halloween-themed contest. Invite participants to submit pictures of their Halloween decorations, carved pumpkins or pets in costume. Publish them online and request donations. Every five dollars = one vote. Award your winners with online recognition and prize.
  • Trick or treat for adopters. Promote adoptions in the month of October by offering a special gift to adopting families. They can pick either a ‘trick’ (training DVD or CD) or a ‘treat’ to take home with their new loved one.
  • “Mommy and me” costume contest. Host a costume contest for pets and their parents! Encourage participants to dress as famous duos or family members.

There is success in Halloween fundraising drives and events. Don’t less this time of year pass your animal welfare organization by. Brainstorm innovative fundraising ideas or use one of these to increase your donations this fall.

Foster parents are a vital part of your volunteer organization. They provide a safe haven and care for animals in need. Most animal shelters or animal rescues utilize volunteer handbooks. These handbooks identify how the volunteer program works and typically include a section dedicated to foster parent volunteers.
Foster parents have a unique set of responsibilities. Address these responsibilities in a manual created specifically for your foster parents. Make sure you include these 5 key components.

  1. Welcome Letter. Include a letter welcoming the new foster home to your animal rescue group. Include statistics illustrating how many animals you help, the number of foster homes in your network, and why they are important.
  2. Frequently Asked Questions. Address FAQ’s in the front of the manual. These address common concerns for foster parents immediately. Where do the foster animals come from? Can I foster a dog with a full-time job or with no fence? How long does each animal need care? How do I adopt my foster dog? These are just a few samples – include the questions you hear most often.
  3. Requirements. Address requirements up front. What steps do fosters need to take to “dog proof” their home? What supplies do they need to purchase? What activities are not acceptable for the animals?
  4. Expectations. What activities do you expect the foster to perform daily, weekly, and monthly? Walking/exercises, training, socializing, grooming expectations, and adoption family appointments need to be outlined in this section.
  5. Policies and Procedures. Animals are unpredictable. Address what steps fosters need to take in certain situations. Who do they contact if the animal bites them, bites somebody else, shows signs of aggression, or gets sick or injured? Outline when veterinary services need contacted and how the foster parent can help at home.

Creating a strong network of foster homes is the key to successful adoptions. Manage expectations and requirements upfront with a foster manual.

Animals in shelters typically come from a background of abuse and neglect. Sometimes these animals have little or no social skills with other animals or humans. Similar to humans, social skills with humans or other animals are vital.

What is socialization?

Socialization teaches dogs to interact with humans and other animals in a friendly manner. Those responsible for socializing dogs use different tactics and methods. Placing dogs in foster homes and forever homes requires they have certain socialization skills. The skills required depend on the makeup of those homes. Do the homes have children, other dogs, or other pets? How does the dog respond to children, males, females, and other animals?

Often times, animal shelters know little about the dogs in their care. Especially when the dogs are found abandoned. In these situations, how do you know what type of environment they will thrive in? The best shelters perform aggression testing to determine what social skills are in place and which need to be worked on.

Proper socialization decreases the dog’s stress and the chance of lashing out. Shelter dogs need to be introduced to socializing differently than a 3-week old puppy. Follow these steps for socializing your shelter dogs:

  1. Choose the right volunteer. Choose volunteers who are calm by nature. Anxiousness is easily detected by the dogs. If the volunteer is anxious or quick to yank on the leash, the dogs get scared.
  2. Introduce them to other shelter dogs. During the initial meetings keep both dogs on a loose leash. This gives the dogs chance to move freely to check out the surrounding environment. Keep the dogs about 8 feet apart to avoid a face to face meeting which many dogs don’t enjoy.
  3. Pay attention. Take notice of how the dogs react to one another. Look for signs of discomfort – stiff body, bared teeth, or growling. Maintain distance between the dogs in these situations or stop for the day if they don’t calm down.
  4. Introduce them to a group setting. After the dogs do well in the one on one introduction, they can be introduced to a group setting. Have the volunteer take the dog into a group environment on a leash. Drop the leash inside – give them chance to explore while still having a method to manage them. Take them off the leash after 20-30 minutes of good behavior. Continue to watch them for another 20- 30 minutes to make sure they remain calm.
  5. Slowly move them full-time to the group setting. Move new dogs into the group setting in stages. Let them stay for a few hours adding time every day until you work up to a full day with the other dogs.

Animal shelters and rescues have the weight of the helpless animal population on their shoulders.  They find ways and methods to accomplish their significant missions and visions with minimal funding and resources. Animal shelters and rescues rely heavily on the support of donors who provide needed items as well as financial donations.  The last thing they need to add to their daily worries is the risk of a cyber attack that compromises their donor’s confidential information. According to a recent study released by The Global State of Information Security, security incidents increased by 38% and theft of “hard” information rose by 56% in 2015 when compared to 2014.  With the threat of cyber attacks on the rise, it is a real concern for many nonprofit animal shelters and rescues. Implement a cyber security program to protect your donors and your animal shelter or rescue.

Here are eight items to include in your program:

  1. Backup your data. Create a backup of information stored on your computers and server daily. Hackers have the power to compromise your electronic information, making it inaccessible. A backup provides you with an up to date list of your donors and their contact information, simplifying the notification process (a little at least).
  2. Secure physical data. Store physical donor files and confidential information in a locked, fireproof filing cabinet. Allow access to this information on an as-needed basis.  The fewer hands that physically touch the files, the smaller chance they can be misplaced.
  3. Limit the information you collect. A great rule of thumb to implement immediately is “if you don’t need it, don’t ask for it.” The less data you collect from donors, the less information a hacker gains during a breach.
  4. Purge unneeded information. If you have years of donor information stored in a back room at your animal shelter or on discs, it may be time to purge it. Keep only information you need. Often times, older files are stored and forgotten about. Holding onto donor files and information increases your chance of suffering from a breach.
  5. Update computers and software. Update computers and software programs on a consistent basis. Companies release updates and patches to help protect their customers from data breaches.  If updates are left unattended, your risk for a breach increases.  If you are not technology savvy, hire a local IT company to help keep your system up to date and secure.
  6. Use encryption. Use a data or donor collection service that encrypts the information your donors enter. Encryption encodes the information making it only accessible by those authorized to view it.
  7. Train your volunteer staff. Volunteers are a significant help to animal shelters and rescues. They can also be a great risk.  If your volunteer team is not internet or computer intelligent, they may unknowingly download malware or spyware.  Educate them on what is an acceptable use of the organization’s computers and emails.  Make it mandatory that downloads are not acceptable and should be approved by the director.  Phishing schemes are a common hacker specialty. Train your team on these to protect your shelter or rescue.
  8. Purchase cyber liability insurance. Cyber liability insurance is beneficial if it is purchased prior to a cyber breach or theft.  Cyber liability insurance protects your nonprofit animal shelter at the time of the breach by paying defense and settlement costs. The best cyber insurance policies take care of the state required notifications, which can be a long and treacherous task.

Cyber breaches are a serious threat to nonprofits like animal shelters and rescues.  The unfortunate news is hackers are becoming more creative in their schemes, making it difficult for companies to keep information secure.  Implement a cyber security program outlined here to protect your nonprofit animal shelter or rescue.

 

Animal Shelters and rescues attend adoption events as exhibitors to help raise mission awareness and increase adoptions.  Events range from a small open house to a larger event with multiple animal shelters and rescues.  Deciding to attend an event comes with risks. Plan in advance to minimize these risks. Train your volunteer team on how their actions can help protect your animal shelter or rescue. Here are five things your animal shelter needs to know before attending a special event:

  1. Does the event align with your mission? Look at the mission or goal of the event.  Does their goal align with your mission? If the two do not align, the event is not in your best interest.  Attending an event that does not promote your mission, leaves you open to negative publicity or loss of a positive reputation.
  2. Read the contract. Most event organizers require you to comply with rules and an agreement to become an exhibitor. Make sure you read the contract or agreement to determine if you can meet these requirements. Common event guidelines include set-up and tear down times, proof of insurance, vaccine requirements for animals, and expectations for how you present yourself during the event. If you are unable to meet the requirements outlined in the agreement do not register as an exhibitor.  You risk a negative impact to your animal shelter or rescue if you attend and do not follow the guidelines.
  3. What can go wrong? Prior to attending an event, make a list of all the potential risks. Risks include animals getting loose, volunteers not showing, animals injuring attendees or volunteers.  Once you have a list of possibilities, create a proactive plan that identifies how you will minimize the potential for these.  For example, one significant risk is an animal jumping on an attendee and scratching that individual.  A plan to keep that from occurring includes making sure volunteers are assisting the attendees while talking to, petting and playing with the animals.
  4. Choose the right animals. Choosing the right animals to take is a key in minimizing the risk of injury to attendees. Your goal is to increase adoptions by attending the event.  Animals that have just recently entered your care may not be a good fit.  Choose animals that can handle social situations and interaction with strangers.  Animals that are skittish or easily scared have unpredictable behaviors and should remain at the shelter or in their foster home during events.
  5. Choose the right volunteer team. Volunteers who attend the event need to be knowledgeable of your animal shelter or rescue, your mission and how to present themselves during an event. If you choose to send new volunteers, make sure you pair them with an experienced volunteer that understands adoption event logistics and your expectations.

Adoption and special events are a powerful way to educate and involve your community with your shelter.  Follow these steps before attending an event to create a positive experience for all involved.

 

As the winter fades away and the temperatures rise, we naturally spend more time outdoors. Spring is a glorious time of year, but for allergy sufferers, it can be an extremely irritating season.  You may not realize it, but your dog and cat can suffer from seasonal allergies as well. You don’t need to be an animal health expert to figure out if your pet has allergies. Here are a few things to consider to help alleviate your pet’s symptoms.

How to tell if your pet has allergies

As the trees start to bloom, they release pollen into the air. These tiny airborne particles can cause your dog’s eyes to itch, but you’ll most likely notice your pooch scratching a lot. Their skin becomes very itchy and they’ll scratch, bite, and rub themselves against hard surfaces to find some sort of relief. You might also notice hot spots on your dog. According to an animal health expert, a hot spot is noticeably red and there can be bleeding and hair loss around a small area of skin.

How to help your pet cope with allergies

Environmental allergies are almost impossible to avoid for dogs who need to go outside to do their business. For cats, it’s quite simple – keep them indoors. To help alleviate your dog’s allergy symptoms, bath them frequently. The more they scratch, the more inflamed and tender the skin will become. Regular baths throughout the spring and summer months can help sooth their dry, itchy skin.

How to help prevent allergies

It may not be possible to prevent all seasonal allergies, but you can help prevent the symptoms.

  • Clean your pet’s bedding frequently and vacuum and clean the floors regularly.
  • Use non-toxic cleaners. Household cleaners with harsh chemicals can irritate their skin even more.
  • Animal health is a priority. Keep your pet healthy by visiting the vet yearly for their regular checkup. Allergies are an immune system response, so it’s important to keep your pet’s immune system strong.
  • An anti-inflammatory diet or raw food diet may also help alleviate allergy symptoms.

Valentine’s Day is a special holiday that celebrates love. This special day is not just for humans either. In fact, this holiday is for celebrating the love you have for your pets too. Spoiling them with new toys and tasty treats along with lots of tender care to celebrate love with them is necessary, but there are some safety tips you should keep in mind.
1) Avoids Treats that are Poisonous to Your Pets
Spoiling your pets with people food is not always best to do on Valentine’s Day to show your love and appreciation towards them. In fact, some human foods are poisonous to pets. For instances, chocolates are harmful to cats and dogs, the seeds of apples and pears are poisonous to rabbits along with mushrooms, avocados and cherries, people food can pollute fish tanks and birds should never be offered rhubarb, eggplant, onions or olives. Only feed your pet, pet foods.
2) Stay Away from Valentine’s Day Costumes
Dressing up your pet for Valentine’s Day may be cute, but costumes should never be forced onto your pet. Doing so could cause injury. Costumes with tiny buttons, love arrows and other gadgets sticking out of them should also be avoided. Oh, and that includes cherub wings. While you are pet may look cute in them, during playtime they can be caught in things and cause injury.
3) Always Put Chocolate Boxes Up and Away
If someone you love gives you a box of chocolates or some sort of candy that contains an artificial sweetener it is best to put your treats out of your pets reach. Not doing so could cause them to get curious and get into your treats causing poisoning in your pal. Be kind to your pets this Valentine’s Day and put your treats out of reach.
4) Flowers are a No, No
Flowers are lovely, but they should never be given to your pet to play with on Valentine’s Day. In fact, some could be poisonous to your pet while flowers such as rose have thorns that could cause possible harm or serious injury, which require immediate vet care.
5) Pets as Gifts
Giving a pet as a Valentine’s Day gift is a sweet gesture, but they should never be given to love ones who cannot take care of them properly. Remember, pets are beings too that need lots of tender love and care.