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Whether you're a longtime pet parent or ready to be one for the first time, choosing a new companion to share your home with is a rewarding experience. And while heading to a shelter is a great means to scope out a new furry friend, you can now connect with these same pets in a different way.
Participating in pet adoption events is a perfect way to connect with a shelter animal — and for them to find their forever home. Typically, these animal adoption events draw attention to pets in need. And, to sweeten the deal, some shelters will offer certain promotions to encourage more adoptions during these events. But, really, what's sweeter than taking home a cuddly pet?
Not sure what to expect at these events? We're breaking down what it's like to pursue pet adoption in this unique way.
The Importance of Pet Adoption Events
Many, many animals are waiting to find homes. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), shelters in the United States take in around 6.5 million animals each year. Unfortunately, shelters will sometimes experience overcrowding, increasing the need for special events to help more pets get adopted, freeing up space for more pets in need. Pet adoption events bring to light this fact, while letting pet parents provide a second chance to find a loving home.
One such event, Clear The Shelters, an annual initiative spearheaded by NBC and Telemundo owned stations and powered by shelters across the United States., has been uniting pet parents and shelter animals since 2015. In 2018 alone, more than 100,000 pets were adopted into forever families.
As a Clear The Shelters national sponsor, Hill's Pet Nutrition has a long history of supporting shelters and helping people find new furry friends. Since its start in 2002 Hill's Food, Shelter & Love program has provided over $290 million worth of pet food to more than 1,000 shelters nationwide and has helped more than 10 million pets find a new home.
When animal shelters participate in an event as big as Clear The Shelters, they tend to receive a lot of publicity. Carly Scholten, the Chief Operating Officer of The Animal Foundation, a shelter and clinic in Las Vegas, emphasizes the importance of this media attention: "Clear The Shelters Day is, simply put, our biggest day of the year at the Animal Foundation. Most days, we measure our visitation in terms of hundreds of people. On Clear The Shelters Day, we measure visitation by the thousands." At its 2018 Clear The Shelters event, 3,000 people visited the Animal Foundation, resulting in 229 adoptions that day.
One adoption, in particular, was special for the shelter. Orion, a dog who had lived at the Animal Foundation for 300 days, was adopted by his forever family on Clear The Shelters Day. Stories like this show the positive impact that animal adoption events have on shelters, pet parents and the adopted pets who find new homes.
Why Adopt During Pet Adoption Events?
On Clear The Shelters Day, participating shelters offer deep discounts on adoption fees and services — sometimes even freebies. There's been some growing concern that free adoption events may increase animal return rates, but statistics show otherwise. At the Animal Foundation, for example, out of 11,493 adoptions in 2018, the return rate for cats and dogs was only 5.54%.
Another benefit of adopting a shelter pet is that they're already vaccinated and, in some instances, neutered or spayed. Many shelters also provide pre-adoption microchipping and postadoption support. Speak with the animal shelter to see which specific services they offer.
What to Expect at a Pet Adoption Event
On pet adoption day, you'll have so many animals to choose from. That's why it's a good idea to think about what kind of animal is best for your lifestyle beforehand. Do some research. When you bring home a new dog, for example, you'll spend a fair amount of time (and patience) training them. Adopting a cat? You'll need to give them time and space to adjust. Have room in your life for more than one pet? Consider adopting a bonded pair — you'll get twice as much love!
But even if you don't have the perfect pet in mind, shelter employees and volunteers will provide you with guidance as well as everything you need to know about each animal, from their temperament and healthcare needs, so that you can find one that best suits your lifestyle.
Animal shelters are full of amazing, fun and loving animals waiting for the perfect people to adopt them. Scholten points out that "most shelter pets are happy, healthy animals who wound up here through no fault of their own. Many are already housebroken, and our older dogs are already through the cute-but-destructive puppy phase." Take a look at your local shelter's website to see who's waiting for you.
Shelter events attract a number of people in your community, so if you plan on adopting during a pet adoption event be sure to come prepared in case you have to wait in lines. We have pulled together a handful of helpful resources here to prepare you for your pet adoption day event.
Not Ready to Adopt, but Still Want to Help?
While the animals take center stage at pet adoption events, those who work behind the scenes, like Scholten, experience profound happiness. "My greatest joy is seeing our team, volunteers and community come together to save homeless or abandoned animals," she explains. "Finding them a stable, loving forever home — whether it's during an adoption event or just over the course of an average day at the shelter — we are all united in helping those who cannot help themselves. I can't imagine a more satisfying feeling in any profession."
If you aren't able to adopt, there are many ways in which you can help match these pets with forever homes. Scholten says that at the Animal Foundation, they take an "all hands on deck" approach and recruit "an army of volunteers" for Clear The Shelters Day. Animal lovers get to hang out with pets all day, giving shelter employees more time to spend with those looking to adopt and answer any questions they may have. Volunteers make all the difference at big events by keeping the lines moving and keeping pets happy.
Volunteering jobs might include things like helping walk the dogs, cleaning up cages or assisting shelter workers in running to get things like food or do laundry.
Can't attend an event? Promote your local shelter by sharing photos of animals available for adoption. This helps potential adopters see all of the terrific animals waiting for them.
The Joy of Adopting a Forever Friend
When you adopt a shelter pet, you open up your heart and home to an animal in need and, in return, you receive unconditional love and a bond that lasts forever. And the momentum created during animal adoption events encourages people who may be considering adoption, but haven't yet made the move, explains Scholten: "Some adopters need a special reason to make the commitment to adopt. The appeal of an adoption event can sometimes be the motivator people need."
If you adopt a pet during a shelter event, share it on social media! Post a picture of you and your new furry family member with the hashtag #ClearTheShelters. Once your new pet is settled in, think about starting a social media account for your new friend to highlight how wonderful it is to share your life with a shelter pet.
The fifth annual Clear The Shelters event takes place on August 17, 2019. To find a participating shelter, visit the campaign website and simply enter your zip code. Whether you're ready to adopt or just want to help out, taking part in these annual events is a way to spread joy by matching loving pets with loving homes.
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.