Animal welfare organizations would like to believe there is a home for every adoptable animal. With over 5 million unwanted pets being euthanized a year, the trick is how to get the prospective pet owners together with the animals. A pet adoption event is a great idea but for it to be successful, careful planning must take place.
1. Advance planning. At our local humane society, planning starts a year in advance. One person is directed to head the event and then others are picked to coordinate everything from publicity to door prizes. Planning meetings are scheduled which become closer together as the event date approaches.
2. The date. Sometimes, too late people learn that the chosen date for an event conflicts with an important sporting event, holiday weekend, or bad weather. Summer is a good time for a pet adoption event for several reasons. The weather is likely to be favorable; people are looking for outside activities, and summer is a good time for a new pet to get settled in with a family. That's not to say that other dates won't work as well. Our shelter held a very successful Valentine's Day "find your love" party in which match.com type bios were written for each animal. The party, held indoors at the shelter, had mixer type activities for humans as well, and as a result, not only animals found their new love, but some humans did, too.
3. Find a place. Many popular park and mall locations need to be arranged for way in advance. Select a place with ample parking, areas for dog walking (ideally with grass), shelter in case of rain, and lots of room for animals and humans alike. Arrange for insurance and any permits needed. Mixing a lot of animals with humans is not without its risks. Get your insurance in place and your procedures in mind to minimize risk.
4. Plan activities. This is a great time to have a pet fair as well. Everyone enjoys pet owner look alike contests, best trick, longest tail, etc. Often the best prospective pet owners are those who already have a pet so have fun activities that encourage them to attend. Hopefully, they will be tempted to add another individual to their households.
5. Get notables involved. This is a sure fire way to guarantee success for your event. In our state, the governor is a dog lover. He happily promotes animal welfare because his own dog is a rescue animal. Encourage local officials, celebrities to take a starring role in the event. A walk around the park by the well-known person's side will add adoption potential to any dog. A local singer or actor or business owner who cuddles a dog or cat onstage and talks about its personality is better than any print ad in the paper.
6. Get businesses and schools involved. Ask businesses to donate door prizes and post event signs. Give presentations about responsible pet ownership in schools (we have an education person who does this full time). Ask the children to make posters and to attend the event.
7. Get press coverage. Go to local radio and television stations and ask their news people and DJ's to be guest emcees at the event. Ask for advance interviews on radio and television be sure to bring an adoptable animal with you. Have one of your volunteers write up copy to submit to the newspaper. It may be edited but if it's written well to begin with, you'll have a better chance of it being printed.
8. Select your animals wisely. Pet adoption events are noisy and timid animals (and often cats) don't show their best side. Pick your most outgoing personalities and bring photos of bios of others at the shelter. Some pet adoption events adopt animals on the spot. I think it's a better idea to do the paperwork including collecting the fee but to have the animal picked up the next day at the shelter after it has undergone its final health check, etc. This helps to prevent impulse buyers from making a decision that they and the animal regret.
Now go out and connect animals and people!