As the manager of Purina ONE's shelter pet program, Pamela Hill
has an interesting task on her hands. How can she use the scale and
talents of a large brand to help more shelter pets find homes? It
all came together when she realized that helping homeless pets
wasn't about just feeding them, but about changing public
How did you get interested in pet welfare?
I was working as a pet behavior scientist for Purina and I've
been interested for awhile in the welfare of dogs and cats. Prior
to working at Purina, I was at the Wolf Sanctuary in St. Louis.
Before then I was working in the non-profit industry and I'd been
working with people a lot. I had worked with college students and
refugees and homeless women and children and I decided that the
next venture was to work with animals.
Is it common for people to enter the world of pet
welfare after spending time doing social work?
I think it's common in pet welfare to find people who've been
involved in pet welfare for a number of years. They're so
dedicated. They're lifers and I admire them so much. A lot of
shelter professionals come from the corporate world, execs, bankers
and other types. They decide to do something to use their talent
and skill for the world, on something they're really passionate
Is there a common thread between people in the pet
I think they're the kind of people who see injustice and need to
be part of correcting it. The kind of people who want to fight for
an underdog, not simply in spirit, but by incorporating that desire
into their active, every day lives. They have an extra drive when
it comes to helping the helpless. They're animal lovers and they
want to stand up for helpless creatures.
What's an average day like for you now as the Manager of
the Purina ONE shelter program?
An average day for me is spent communicating or visiting with
shelter partners, and working on program materials. Right now a lot
of my time is being spent on creating a program and strategy for
changing negative perceptions of shelter pets that are keeping
people from adopting them
How do you think the marketing world can help the pet
For a pet food company like Purina, they complement each other.
They help us just as much as we help them. At Purina ONE we have
committed ourselves to effecting long-term, sustainable, positive
change for shelter pets. Through our partnership with shelters, we
get insights on how we can do that. Together we are creating a
program that is beneficial to our company, the shelter, the shelter
pets and our community. We're in awe of shelters' daily dedication
to homeless pets and we think they're brilliant.
What about helping shelters with their
What we know from research is that a lot of people who are
acquiring pets think that shelter pets must have something wrong
with them, so they're not adopting them. That's easy to understand
because shelter pets are portrayed in many communications as pets
that are victimized, traumatized and damaged. There's a tonality
about shelter pets in general that's bleak and pessimistic.
We see opportunity on a national scale with mass media and on a
local scale with shelter communications to change that tonality to
be brighter, more positive and more accurate. Some shelters have a
marketing budget, but most don't. So that's a skill we have that
can be used to help shelter pets. And shelters have asked us to do
How do you want to change the pet welfare
Our goal is to change the perceptions that people who are
acquiring pets have, the perception that shelter pets might not
make great companions. We want more people to consider adoption by
showing them that their worries are frequently unfounded. That many
shelter pets are really friendly, affectionate and attractive, and
they make awesome family companions.