The majority of people who saw the photo loved the celebration photo, the idea of animals being adopted from the shelter and the shelter being (at least nearly) empty. And this is how I hope and want them to feel.
However, as I saw the photo getting shared around social media, it was inevitable that questions came up. These questions have been popping up for several years -- and have gradually decreased over time, But the questions are out there and I thought it was a good time to address them.
The questions are all similar to the following theme, and that is, are pets that get adopted in low-cost and mega-adoption events going to good homes?
How do we know the pets are going to good homes?
How do we know they are not just going to be returned?
And how do we know they are not going to be abused?
And I think they are fair questions -- because, while getting animals out of the shelter is a good thing, if the animals are going into crappy situations, then it sort of makes it all for naught.
For starters, during Mega-Adoption events, KC Pet Project takes adopters through the same adoption process as during a normal day. We talk to the adopters about what they are looking for in a pet. We then try to match a pet with their home life and lifestyle. And we ask a lot of questions of adopters -- but mostly to help fill gaps in knowledge they need for the pet to be successful in their home or to be sure we're making a good match -- not in an effort to trip them up into saying something "wrong" that would cause us to stop the adoption. In short, we use our normal discussion-based open-adoption principals.
As for discounted adoption pricing and mega adoption events -- the research and our experience says they work to get pets adopted, without the feared unintended consequences of poor care or abandonment. There has been a lot of research done in animal welfare on FREE adoptions (which KCPP has never done, mostly because it doesn't seem that a $25 or $35 adoption fee is a significant barrier), but the information on free adoptions would certainly be relevant to discounted ones.
So what does the research say?
One Maddies Fund study noted that 93% of dogs and 95% of cats adopted at a FREE adoption event remained in their homes 6-12 months after the adoption event and 94% of adopters noted a "strong" or "very strong" attachment to their pet. So the price of the adoption fee did not make the adopter value the pet any less -- in the same way that several of my pets have come to me for free and rescued off the street -- and I love them all.
The study concluded that "successful adoptions do not require a fee, and free adoption promotions may increase adoptions without compromising the quality of the animal's life."
Another report from Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (and supported by Maddie's Fund and the ASPCA) noted that eliminating adoption fees for cats does not devalue the animal in the eyes of the adopter, and that free adult cat adoption programs could "dramatically impact the lives of thousands of shelter cats who would otherwise reside in a shelter for months or be euthanized."
And now with many shelters around the country actively promoting low-cost adoptions, there has been zero evidence that such adoption promotions attract animal abusers to shelters. And let's face it, why would someone come in, show their ID, and adopt a mircochipped pet that they then intend to abuse when that abused animal will be tracked back to them? It doesn't make sense, and the evidence suggests it either doesn't happen, or is exceptionally uncommon.
So while concerns are good -- we all need to be good stewards of our adoptable pets -- we also need to rely on the best data available. And that research tells us that low-cost adoptions save lives without sacrificing the quality of love and care a pet can expect to receive in the home. It's the best of both worlds.
And it's by adopting being aggressive with our adoption policies and programs that KC Pet Project has been able to more than triple the number of adoptions since taking over shelter operations, and allowed us to increase the percentage of animals saved from 38% in 2008 to 94% in 2015. And that's more success worth celebrating.
For more reading:
Animal Sheltering Magazine - Free to Good Home (this article also gives a lot of ideas on how to make up revenue shortfalls from "free" adoptions)
Best Friends Animal Society - Reduced-Fee Adoption Promotions: Concerns and Responses
Best Friends Animal Society - High-volume adoption model controversy
Charleston Animal Society - Fee-waived adoptions save lives (this 8 minute video is really, really good)
Photo from the 2013 ASPCA Mega-Match-athon adoption event.