Back in 2011, we asked ourselves how we could really make a positive impact on the lives of shelter pets. A lot of organizations were raising awareness about the problem of pet homelessness, and countless people across the country were already doing something about it, but what could be done differently? What was missing?
After a lot of observation and thinking, we chose to focus on one major insight: According to the 2010 Purina Pet Acquisition Study, many people don't consider adopting from a shelter when acquiring a new pet because they believe shelter pets are somehow damaged or, even worse, dangerous. In exploring this problem, we realized that a lot of communication aimed at helping shelter pets was actually perpetuating this negative image. Many ads portray their situation as dire, their physical condition as damaged and shelters as dirty, prison-like places.
We work with world-class shelters all the time. We know that most shelters are caring, comfortable places for pets, and shelter pets waiting for homes are just as lovable as any. That's why we decided to begin a journey to change the perceptions of shelter pets. It's a long, ongoing effort, but we made some big steps in 2012. Here's a recap:
Bowl by Bowl
We started by creating a fun and easy Facebook game designed to help feed shelter pets while giving them the recognition they deserve. From August 2011 through December 2012, we approached a new subject in pet welfare each month and created quizzes to help our growing Facebook community learn something new. For every quiz our fans completed, we donated a bowl of food to a shelter - a total of more than 370,000 bowls donated from August 2011 through December 2012. We were able to cover a lot of ground, from talking about the real reasons why pets are relinquished to shelters to sharing ways that shelter pets can help children in a classroom setting.
Why We Rescue
While we are proud of what Bowl by Bowl accomplished, we think there is also an opportunity to get off our own turf and partner with other people doing amazing things around pets. We discovered Theron Humphrey and his awesome dog Maddie, and learned about his journalistic project This Wild Idea. We immediately loved his work (and Maddie, of course). Not only is Theron a talented photographer, he's also dedicated to telling new and original stories about people (and pets) who don't always get a voice in society. We asked him to come up with an idea to help us change perceptions of shelter pets, and he created Why We Rescue, a multimedia project featuring candid interviews with people in New York City whose lives have been changed by shelter pets. For 2013, we decided to up the ante by turning Why We Rescue into a major cross-country expedition. We're helping Theron and Maddie travel across all 50 states and share dozens of amazing, heartfelt pet adoption stories throughout the year.
To shine a light on even more extraordinary pets, we've partnered with GOOD to create the GOOD Pets hub. Along with stories about how pets are a powerful source of goodness in our everyday lives, the hub will highlight stories about innovation and positive thinking in the worlds of pet ownership, shelters and beyond.
In addition to the projects and partnerships above, we've also been working with partner shelters across the country, providing everything from food donations to information and training materials to help them provide the best possible care for pets awaiting adoption. The more we've gotten to know people in the shelter community, the more we've been inspired to join them in exploring new ways to highlight what makes shelter pets so great.
We've already got a lot planned for continuing to change the perceptions of shelter pets this year. Stay tuned!
photo credit: Nanette Martin/Shelter Me Photography