Myths and Realities of Reduced Fee Adoptions

myths and realities of reduced fee adoptionsHappy July, CHS Supporters!

First, if you haven’t seen all the buzz on our Facebook wall lately, please accept a huge THANK YOU from all of us at Calgary Humane Society for the AWESOME support of our emergency adoption event. Over 200 adoptions in a week? Unreal! We cannot wait to share some of the happy tails and updates with you as we get them.

This leads to a great question that came to us last week! A few of you wrote to ask us if reduced adoption fees lead to a larger number of animals returned. We thought this was such a great question we wanted to feature it on our blog! So today, we bring you some myths and realities of reduced fee adoptions:

What inspired your reduced fee adoption events?

The very first reduced fee adoption event at Calgary Humane Society was our “Pawjama Midnight Madness” event. It started as an idea put forward by a staff member when we had several hundred more cats than the building could comfortably hold. The idea was simple “why not have a party, stay open until midnight, tell everyone we need their help, offer a reduced adoption rate and see if people show up?” To say it was a success would be putting it mildly…

I worked in adoptions at the time and looking at the difference between our adoption events now compared with back then is night and day. Back when we first planned Pawjama, we thought it would be great if 20 people showed up to adopt a cat. A staff member made a cat-shaped cake (and a litter box cake) and we bought a few bags of snacks and some pop for the party. We borrowed a popcorn machine from a local business and the kids club made us some cute posters to help out. As adoption staffers we arrived in our finest animal-themed pajamas, prepared to work an extra long shift, and we started the day off with an iced cappuchino toast (the first of many caffeinated drinks to come).

Then the people started to arrive… and they never stopped showing up. Our adoptions team hit the ground running and didn’t stop until the event was over. Dozens of families showed up to look at cats while dozens more caring Calgarians brought truck loads of donations to help us with our feline overflow. We even had a group of young men who drove in all the way from BC to bring us some beautiful hand-made cat condos!

The event was electric – an air of excitement and chaos filled the entire shelter as we used every square inch we could find to set up cat visits. Halfway through the night it was announced that the special pricing would be extended through the weekend because cats were being adopted faster than they could be moved up to the adoptions floor. 62 cats went home that night, and dozens more followed the next day. The adoptions staff finally cleared out of the shelter at around 1:30 in the morning… both exhausted and energized (and due back to work at 10AM!).

Since then, we have found our adoption events to be a great way to bring both adopters and community members to the shelter for a day of fun and excitement. For us, our adoption events are about more than just sending animals home, they are also about connecting with animal-loving Calgarians and giving them a chance to meet our team, learn more about the shelter and check out how they can get involved in animal welfare.

Do returns to shelter go up after adoption events?

We are SO proud to be part of a city where so many citizens want the best for our animals. The very fact that our community would ask us this question speaks to how invested Calgarians are in making sure that every pet is well cared for.

We have been doing “reduced fee” adoption events for just over five years now and we have carefully monitored our return to shelter rates and looked for our animals appearing on sites like Kijiji. So far we have not seen any significant increases after our adoption events. At this point we are pretty confident in our five year track record, but if that were to change we would, of course, examine whether or not the adoption events were something we wanted to continue with.

Why don’t your returns go up after adoption events?

Great question! The answer probably has many contributing factors, but in our opinion one of the most important keys to success with our adoption events has been that we don’t change our adoption criteria or alter our adoption process.

Even during adoption events all of our adopters still have to engage in a rigorous screening process prior to even visiting with the animal, let alone adopting. Our adoptions staff are well trained in interviewing potential adopters and determining if the animal the adopter is considering is going to be a good match for that adopter. Part of that process does assess for the potential adopter’s ability to financially care for the animal. Every single individual on our adoptions staff is given the authority to decline any adoption they do not feel is in the best interest of the animal – even during adoption events. In the event we have to decline an adoption, we try to work with families to find a pet that might be a better fit.

At the end of the day, CHS staff and volunteers do not want animals returning to the shelter. Every single one of our staff members is committed to ensuring that every animal goes to a caring home.  Our adoptions staff become personally invested into every adoption they do, and want nothing more than to see that adoption succeed. In our experience, the reduced fee adoption events are incredibly successful in placing animals into loving homes.

Are animals ever returned to Calgary Humane Society?

At Calgary Humane Society we are very proud to say that our return to shelter rate is very low. Of the thousands of adoptions we do each year, only a small handful of animals come back to our facility. We see our very low rate of adoption returns as a testament to the stringent nature of our adoption protocol and we also feel it speaks to the success we have had in increasing awareness of animal welfare concerns in our community. Calgary is definitely a community of animal lovers and it really shows in the number of people who choose to adopt from us as well as the incredible financial support and volunteer commitments we see from Calgary’s caring citizens.

At Calgary Humane Society we watch our return to shelter rates pretty closely and we track all kinds of information including the reason for return. We believe that tracking the reasons animals are returned allows us to put safeguards and solutions in place before the animal leaves the shelter the first time. Some things that contribute to returns (like huge economic downturns or the unexpected death of an owner) are out of our control but others (such as a lack of time for training or a lack of knowledge about the pet) are things we can address prior to the adoption.

On the rare occasion an animal is returned to shelter, we take the time to understand exactly why the animal returned to shelter and we look for ways to improve our processes. If we discover a new piece of information we did not know before we add that information to the animal’s file and, if needed, change our adoption criteria to ensure the best possible future match.

We hope this answers all the questions you had about our reduced-fee adoption events, but if it doesn’t, we would love to hear from you! Share your questions on our Facebook page and we will do our best to find the answers!