An Appointment That Can Save Lives

As an open-admission organization, the Animal Humane Society shelters in Minneapolis/St. Paul take in all pets that come through their doors. Recently, the organization realized it could do more for animals if it engaged owners before they decided to surrender a pet. The AHS developed the Bound for Home initiative, requiring appointments when an owner wants to surrender their pet.  And that one simple change has made all the difference.

One goal of this new approach was prevention. How could they keep more animals happy in their homes instead of being turned over to the AHS? It turns out that the most common reasons pets are surrendered have less to do with behavior, and a lot to do with the owner's life circumstances - moving, landlord policies or financial difficulty, for example.

When it comes to circumstances like these, AHS directs owners to services that can assist them by helping to find pet-friendly housing and low-cost spay/neuter options. One example of this approach is the KindestCut program, which helps more people in the Twin Cities spay and neuter their pets, helping to cut costs and prevent future pet overpopulation.

When it comes to behavioral problems, AHS now provides a helpline that gives free access to professional advice from on-staff experts, as well as direction on which of the shelter's training and behavior classes might benefit pet owners.

Before the Animal Humane Society started requiring appointments, its five locations were flooded with hundreds of pets per day. This made it difficult to find a starting place when it came to providing special care, training and treatment for newly arrived pets. The new approach gives staff a chance to prepare for pets' arrival by providing the exact medical care they need and a space to call their own.

Not only do interviews help a shelter give the best care, but they also allow potential adopters to find a pet that's just right for them. Instead of adopting a pet whose background is a mystery, they can learn important details about the pet's former life. This can give them peace of mind in knowing why the pet was surrendered, as well as cues on how they can give their pet the best care possible. Because of this system, some pets are on the adoption floor and into a new home within one day of arrival.

But what about stray animals who weren't surrendered by their owners? Animal Humane Society's new program makes a smart change to the necessary five-day holding policy, wherein pets must wait to be adopted in case their owners come to claim them. Previously, these pets were held before being placed on the adoption floor, but with this change, potential new owners can fall for them much sooner.

Here are a few stats that reflect AHS's success so far:

• 2,000 appointments made per month
• 855 animals spayed/neutered in the program's first month
• Placement rates rose from 64% to 71% in just a year
• Length of stay for cats has gone from an average of 32 days down to 8 days
• 55% of animals on average are on hold for potential adopters at any given time, up from 20%