The key to helping shelter pets find homes isn't about pity -- it's about changing perceptions.
Purina ONE has always been passionate about helping shelter pets. We started by doing what seemed natural - feeding them. In 2008, we created a nationwide network of a few of the shelters we admired, and have since fed the pets that pass through their doors. With this help, they have more resources to focus on medical care and saving more pets. Since its humble beginning, our network has grown to 20 shelters.
But we wanted to go beyond food - we wanted to solve a problem. What wasn't working in the shelter world, and why?
After reflecting on our experiences, we realized that they didn't match up at all with what we were seeing in the media. For us, shelters bring to mind images of healthy, good quality pets and devoted animal experts. But all we were seeing were images of sad, malnourished pets sitting in dingy cages, with urgent messaging that made the cause seem hopeless. This kind of message sells shelter pets and shelters short, and makes people feel more helpless than inspired.
We decided that we needed to do more than feed pets - we needed to educate potential adopters, and highlight the innovative programs we were seeing around us.
We didn't want to approach this from behind a curtain, creating positive stories about ideal scenarios and then broadcasting them to the world. We wanted to start from the ground-level, by going into shelters, talking to the people taking care of pets every day, and telling real stories. Beyond that, we wanted to get our consumers involved - how could we work with people who want to make a difference?
Bowl by Bowl
Our answer was Bowl by Bowl, a fun and easy Facebook game we 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 they took, we donated a bowl of food to a shelter until we reached our monthly donation goal.
One of the best aspects of Bowl by Bowl was that it allowed us to expand beyond our shelter network and feed even more pets. Each month we chose a new shelter to donate to, set a donation goal, and challenged our community to help us reach it.
When we reached milestones in our donation program, we unlocked a Kicker, a new shelter support effort that went beyond food. Kickers included donating high-quality cameras to shelters, sending professional photographer Nanette Martin to snap pictures of all the pets at the Virginia Beach SPCA, and producing tutorial videos designed to help shelter staff and pet owners alike capture dogs and cats in their best light.
Bowl by Bowl helped us pursue our pet welfare goals in 3 ways - giving, educating and changing perceptions.
Beyond Bowl by Bowl
We're always seeking to improve the way we approach pet welfare by trying new ideas and seeing what has the most impact. Visit us regularly to see our new discoveries and stories of real shelter pets whose lives have been changed.