Saving one animal will not save the world, but can mean the world to one animal.
Plan of Action <You do these things!>
Create a flyer. Include a photo and descriptive, interesting and complete narrative description of the animal's personality, age, color, temperament, endearing qualities, traits and history. Stories sell. Also, use good, clear, well-lit, close-up photos. Take a lot and use the best. Include on your flyer:
- Why you are giving up the animal or why the animal needs a new home. If "not the right fit, what exactly does that mean. Elaborate. If moving, tell why your animal cannot come along; if a fear biter might say needs adult home with understanding cat or dog savvy person;
- Whether the animal gets along with other animals (cats/dogs) and children as best can gauge;
- Provide details about personality to endear to adopters (the littlest anecdotes get them, such as does he attack your toes when you are sleeping under the covers? Curl up next to your head at night? Wait for you right outside your shower in the morning? Sit on your newspaper when you are trying to read it? Greet strangers with a purr when they visit?) As many endearing small things as you can include will help to distinguish your animal from all the others seeking homes;
- Share about your perfect adopter for your animal(s) and elaborate. Understand, this is a fluid thing, but designed to help the reader understand what qualities in a household might work best. If the animal is fearful for instance, young kids would not be a good idea. If very active, a home with another young cat or dog might help burn off some energy. If super mellow and LOVES people, maybe an older person or couple. That kind of thing. Selling is telling a story, so narrate!
- Definitely put effort into creating the flyer. You are working to pitch your animal(s) to potential adopters and also potentially to animal placement/rescue organizations who might view, help and/or circulate, or know or find someone who might be a perfect fit. Make it creative and entertaining so that bored office workers will circulate widely. Great project for a high schoolers.
- Along with links above right on this website, also see this particularly excellent one here: http://bestfriends.org/nomorehomelesspets/pdf/adoptionblurbs.pdf
Circulate the flyer far and wide to all your own and others' (colleagues, friend, spouse, ex spouses, relatives, neighbors) email contacts, requesting recipients to circulate widely. Perhaps join (can always exit later) egroups for your neighborhood, parenting, environmental, political (whatever!), and explore electronic bulletin boards which you can access through your business, school, professional, church, sport, club or hobby connections.
- Post on Craigs List (CL). http://craigslist.com You can reach potential adopters as well as animal rescuers who visit Craigs List (CL) to check for animals in need of assistance or are connected with rescue groups. Go to your area, then to Community and under there, post in Pets section.
- Research using Petfinder. Locate animals similar to yours (search by zip code and species) on Pet-finder (http://petfinder.com). Identify local organizations rehoming animals similar to yours. Email a flyer to fosterers, offering to donate the fee to their org. if a referral results in a successful placement.
Placement tips | Phone Interview. This is the most crucial aspect. Interview anyone who contacts you at some length (20-30 minutes minimum) prior to inviting them to meet your animal. Consider meeting people in a convenient, midpoin, public place. Talking points for screening interview are found at: http://4asap.org/Adoption_Questionnaire.htm. (Print and keep forms handy.) During the call, tell potential adopters that a rescue organization is assisting and will be in touch too. Being investigated by more than just you is not what people with nefarious intent want, expect or will endure. Get references and call the landlord and vet references prior to the home visit.
- Visit the home of any adopter. If someone comes to you first to meet your animal, still insist on bringing the animal to their home, or doing a pre-adoption home visit (better) before releasing your animal. I've been doing home visits for my local humane society since the late 80s. If inside DC area, I'll do or I'll locate someone to perform a home visit for you. If out of DC area, I'll still find someone to do a pre-adoption home visit. This is the most essential component of finding a responsible adopter.
- Never let someone just walk away with your animal. A man in NYC used to bring a child with him to entice people to give him animals; another said his grandmother wanted a dog, but was too old to come in person and lived too far away to be visited. Those animals were never seen again. In the DC area, an older professional woman answered free to good home ads. She was an animal rights person who ws afraid of animals falling into bad hands, so she would pretend to adopt animals advertised in the newspaper and take them directly to various area shelters to be put down. I know this from local shelter contacts. She once became angry because they wouldn't euthanize a cat on the spot.
- A home visit and reference (landlord and veterinary) checks help, but a home visit is the most off-putting to someone intending to harm an animal. Bunchers (who sell animals to laboratories) will pay nominal fees, so do not just rely on charging an adoption fee to protect your animal. If uncomfortable taking money for your animal, donate the fee go to an animal charity. Ask for cash. A PetsMart manager told me of a woman who repeatedly wrote bad checks to get cats from an adoption agency showing cats in the store. A fee demonstrates the potential adopter has resources to care for an animal and shows commitment and a willingness to invest in the animal.
- Call me-- Joanna Harkin 202-331-1330 to help screening potential adopters and to brainstorm with you about an marketing or to discuss a particular candidate to adopt your aniomal. I am glad to interview by phone or through a home visit anyone in the greater DC area, and I have rescue colleagues who will help out this way too. Remember, safety first. Protect your animal above all.
- Phase 3: Be persistent. Most companion animals are rehomed through what is referred to as the family and friends network. Invest the time and effort to create an attractive flyer, and, as always with marketing, repetition is key along with perserverance. Do not give up. When it comes to marketing, persistence and repetition are essential. Just as houses wind up getting sold, and people who are out of work eventually find jobs, there is another new and good home for every animal who needs a home, but it may take a while, and require effort. Be willing to put in as much time and effort as needed. In 1999 the Wall St. Journal told of a guidance counselor who gets everyone from a distressed high school in the Bronx who wants to go to college into college. Your animal needs you. Keep going!
- Consider doing a website with photos. Googlepages websites such as this one are free, easy to do and a good, creative project for a teenager. Don't just ask people if they want your animal. Show them, and ask them to forward your post. Circulate the website to others and ask them to forward it too.
- Locate your medical paperwork for your animal and/or get it from your vet OR take to vet for check up/vacinne updating. Post a flyer at the vet, and alert the vet staff as to your animal's need for a home. Even if you bring to an open-admission animal shelter, up-to-date medical work increases the chances an adopter or rescue organization will accept your animal for their program.
- Arrange for interim housing. For cats this should be a last resort, because cats sometimes stop eating, and don't always transition well. Loss of appetite in a cat can lead to fatty liver disease, particularly for fuller figured cats. Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is attributed to a common corona virus which remains latent until activated by stress, and cats are susceptible to respiratory infections when kenneled with other cats. Keep cat in his/her home as long as possible, even if it means paying a sitter to go in and caretake. Your cat or cats will show better too from his/her familiar environment.
- Understand the first home you find may not work out or be acceptable to your animal, and when a cat (more so than a dog) is not happy he may exhibit behavior such as clawing furniture, biting, excessive vocalization or inappropriate urination, and be sent back. See this as a temporary setback. Do not call it quits if that happens. If selling your house or car or job hunting, you would persevere.
Animal Shelters are preferable to bad alternatives. For some animals, placement into a new home is not a kindness to the animal who is geriatric, perhaps with some dementia, or with medical or behavioral issues. A kitten once had her pelvis broken when the adopter's boyfriend found his shoes ruined by the cat's urine. The boyfriend threw the cat against the wall in a rage. If your cat is sick or with destructive habits or behavior, be honest about what's really in your animal's best interest, and realistic about passing that animal along to an unsuspecting person who may not be prepared emotionally or financially to deal with it.
- A donation never hurts any animal's prospects either at a shelter or to encourage a rescue organization to find room for "just one more." I once did a home visit for a city shelter for a geratric cat, and when expressed surprise, was told for the kind of donation that came with the cat, they could find a home for almost any cat. Everything on here can be done by a high school student, but if you lack time and have the money, consider bribing a rescue organization to help, perhaps offering to be the foster home. Money is one of the best time and work savers extant. People clearing out companion animals because a relative has died so often seem (to me) to lack perspective. At the end of the day, what's a thousand or two thousand dollars less in an estate or a person's net worth if with it one can assure a good home for a beloved family pet or pets?
- Research shelters, sanctuaries and rescue organizations. There are good (and bad) open-admission, municipal, private shelters and (mostly private) sanctuaries. Some offer lifetime care for animals, and almost all require monthly support or a one-time fee or both. Perform due diligence. Evaluate and assess. A well run shelter which gets too many animals and winds up putting most of their cats to sleep is not a good choice. Research all the shelters within a radius of as much as a hundred miles. Be willing to go out of county or out of state based on what you find out. It is not the same as putting a child into school where one is restricted to ones school district. Some shelters never turn away an animal, and are now telling people what the animal's chances are of being placed for adoption ... and putting animals on waiting lists. One local shelter says 98% of animals are adopted, but neglects revealing that 30% are deemed unable to be adopted out sometimes using such strict criteria that no normal cat or dog would pass muster. You really have to go beyond the hype with some shelters and talk to people in the rescue community who are in the know. Reach those people by reaching out to foster people found on Petfinder, or asking questions on Craigs List in the Pets section.
Contact me for placement advice and/or counsel. Each situation is unique. I can often help callers think through options with a phone conversation or two. I am ready to collaborate and share some other resources not listed here. Call me (202-331-1330) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Out of pocket costs might be tax deductible. if authorized in advance by an IRS-recognized charity. If the animal you are helping is not owned by you, and you are spending funds to help rehome a needy, unowned animal (for example, to pay for sterilization, vaccinations, supplies, advertising, and or boarding or kenneling), contact me for details about deducting those costs which must be authorized in advance by the organization.
Background of Joanna Harkin (June 1, 2008 on CNN: http://tinyurl.com/3zz3h9)
- Volunteer for the Washington Humane Society as a home visitor for cat adoptions (1987 to present).
- Founder and executive director, Alliance for Stray Animals and People (website: http://4asap.org), a 501(c)(3) primarily animal charity (formed 1998; Washington DC); on board of Coalition of Feral Cat Caretakers, Inc. and Companion Animal Rescue Exchange (CARE), both Maryland organizations. Collaborative relationship with two other cat rescue charities, and colleagial relationship with many more. ASAP's cat adoption program is about to spin off to a new group: Yesterday's Kittens of MD.
- Cat adoptions manager, PetsMart, Alexandria, Virginia, in-store adoption center (1999-2004); Petco, Washington, DC (1998-2002).
- Helped relocate/rehome 200+ cats from Lorton Prison (Lorton, VA; 1998-2000).
- Relocated 50 cats loose after their home was bulldozed (Springfield, VA; Fall 2005).
- Relocated, transferred t0 other organizations 80 cats from a shelter with 200 cats being forced to close (Crisfield, MD; Spring 2006).
- Helped woman who brought several dogs to DC area from the south boarding them at great personal expense. Paved the way for her to receive a grant. (November 2006)
- Facilitated nine Labrador puppies being offered to customers in a Wal-Mart in Pocomoke, MD being transferred to Humane Society of Calvert County in Maryland (Winter 2007).
- Helped relocate 25 feral cats in southern New Jersey being fed by a postal delivery person ordered by police to remove cats left behind by elderly woman (April 2007).
- After helping cats for many years, my home is reserved for cats who are geriatric, harder to rehome or who were originally adopted through me. I am, however, willing to collaborate with anyone to help rehome animals using some of these above resources and others.