Dog adoptions 1.0: How to Rock offsite adoptions and save lives immediately!

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Presented at the American Pets Alive No-Kill Conference 2014.

Presented at the American Pets Alive No-Kill Conference 2014.

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  • Note to Holly – This area/series of slides may be a good place to have the audience call out supplies that you need for even the most basic adoption program.
  • Note for Holly: You could walk through an entire basic take home packet here if you wanted to give them a heads up of the types of things we tell our adopters about.


  • 1. How to Rock Offsite Adoptions and Save Lives Immediately!
  • 2. Presentation Roadmap • Getting Started; Creating an Adoption Program • Adoption Protocols and Processes • Common Emergency Situations – How to Adapt • Celebrate Success!! • Audience Questions
  • 3. Getting Started
  • 4. Getting Started • The very first step to getting started with adoptions is to build a relationship with your local open-intake or kill shelters. • Even if you’ve had a contentious relationship in the past you need to work together now. Remember, you can’t save anyone if you’ve been banned from the shelter!
  • 5. Getting Started: Minimum Needs • Dogs at risk of euthanasia. • The drive to save those dogs. • A few trusted staff members or volunteers. • A few crates and one vehicle. • APA! started with no where to house dogs but Dr. Jefferson’s garage, one truck, one staff member, and a few volunteers. It can be done!
  • 6. Getting Started: Minimum Needs • Set your protocols before you begin! It is so much less stressful as you are getting started if all of your staff and volunteers are using the same processes and protocols. • But, be sure that you are ready and able to adapt as your organization grows and you learn more about the needs of your community. • We recommend weekly meetings for staff/team leaders to discuss what protocols are working well and what areas need to improve.
  • 7. Getting Started: Selecting Dogs • It’s important to keep a good mix of dogs in the program. • Diversity will help you to appeal to a wider range of adopters and allow for more balance at off- site events.
  • 8. Getting Started: Selecting Dogs • Keeping diversity in your program will allow you to keep adoptions flowing. • Having a larger number of more easily adopted dogs will allow your organization to generate income for the harder to adopt out dogs and allow you to grow your programs.
  • 9. Getting Started: Necessary Materials and Staff to Conduct YourFirst Dog Adoption
  • 10. Getting Started: Set Your Protocols • Determine adoption fees • Determine basic adoption protocols i.e.: will you adopt to individuals under the age of 21? Proof required of landlord approval for renters? – Note: individual circumstances in which APA! denies an adoption or counsels more thoroughly will be discussed in more detail.
  • 11. Getting Started: Adoption Packets • All APA! adoption packets include: – Adoption Application – Adoption Contract – Basic Take Home Instructions – Medical and BehaviorHistory • Note: Be sure to have a local attorney review your application and contract for compliance with local laws and regulations.
  • 12. Getting Started: Materials for Every Site • Donation Jars • Table and 2-3 folding chairs • Office supplies – pens and clipboards • Signage and business cards • Nametags and t-shirts for staff and volunteers • Dog and human first aid kits • Tents for shade and to draw attention to your site.
  • 13. Getting Started: Basic Dog Care Items for Every Site • Leashes, collars, and harnesses –one of each per dog and several extras. • Lots of treats – a variety of higher value and lower value treats can be helpful in motivating the dogs • Clean up bags – because poop happens.
  • 14. Getting Started: Training Adoptions Staff and Volunteers
  • 15. Areas of Training • Dog Handling • Basic Dog Care • Adoption Protocols • Site Specific Information • Basic Medical Care • Customer Service • Safety/Behavior
  • 16. Training: Dog Handling • Counselors and volunteers should handle dogs with kindness and respect at all times. • Training should cover loose leash walking, proper usage of equipment such as Martingale collars or harnesses, and some basic obedience skills.
  • 17. Training: Basic Dog Care • At most of APA’s sites the counselors are responsible for routine dog care such as feeding, nail trims, and bathing. • We feed the dogs twice a day and administer prescription medication as needed. • We also train our staff to use enrichment materials such as Kongs as much as possible to exercise the dogs’ minds.
  • 18. Training: Basic Medical Care • At APA! all staff adoption counselors are trained in the dosage and administration of basic preventatives such as flea and tick preventatives, heartworm preventatives, and dewormer as well as in the administration of basic vaccines such as DAPP and Bordatella. • By having the adoption counselors take care of these basic preventatives as necessary at the start of each day it saves the limited time and resources of the medical team. • APA! also trains adoption counselors to identify basic illnesses and perform general wellness checks on the dogs each day. Counselors report any variations from the norm to the medical team so that the dog can be scheduled for a thorough examination and treatment if necessary. • Having a basic knowledge of medical care also allows our counselors to more fully educate adopters.
  • 19. Training: Customer Service • Customer service is of paramount importance even though it is the most easily overlooked training area. • Friendly and helpful staff members and volunteers will increase adoption numbers, increase donations, as well as help to maintain a positive relationship with the community and your off-site partners or your in-shelter partner. • REMEMBER TO SAY, “THANK YOU”!!
  • 20. Training: Safety/Behavior • All adoption counselors need to be trained to be able to safely break up a dog scuffle should one occur. • All adoption counselors also need to be trained to understand some basic dog behavior such as maintaining critical distance and basic body language that dogs use. Specific behavior issues will be discussed further in the behavior presentations.
  • 21. The APA! Adoptions Process
  • 22. Application Protocols • Basic Rules – Adopter must spend time with the dog prior to applying. – Adopter must thoroughly complete an application. – Adoption counselor must thoroughly review the application and discuss any potential red flag areas with the applicant. – The adoption counselor must never judge the adopter. It’s an adoption interview, not an inquisition.
  • 23. Counselor Discussion • While the applicant is interacting with dogs the counselor should observe and engage the applicant in conversation. • Try to steer the applicant towards the right dog for their lifestyle before they fall in love with a dog that will not be a good fit. • Be honest without being discouraging. Discuss the dog’s exercise and training needs, temperament, any restrictions, and any relevant health information. Full disclosure is not negotiable.
  • 24. Red Flags • The Adoption counselor will take every application and thoroughly review. In the case of one or more “red flags” on the application, the counselor will ask probing questions and note answers and topics discussed on the application. If the applicant fails to provide adequate answers, the counselor will continue to discuss the individual dog situation and try to get to the bottom of the issue.
  • 25. Common Red Flags • History of outdoor only pets, desire for this dog to be outdoors unattended. • History of surrendering pets to shelters. • Current breeding activities. • History of pets dying or becoming lost as a result of neglect or improper safety practices. • Adoption as a gift to someone else. • Desire to adopt multiple dogs at once. • Adopter under 21 years of age/supported by parents. • History of physical reprimands.
  • 26. Denying an Adoption • If you have reviewed an application and discussed, in detail, all red flags with the applicant and believe that this is not a good home for the dog in question the counselor must discuss this with the manager on duty or adoptions manager prior to denying the adoption. • But, remember that denial should always be the last resort. Sometimes, if you just put an adoption on hold for 24 hours to gather more information you can clear up any misunderstanding or red flag that was on the face of the application. Ex: Call a vet reference, call a landlord, do a home visit.
  • 27. After Approval • If an application looks good and this will be a good, safe home for the dog you can approve the application and complete the adoption by going through an adoption contract and a Basic Take Home packet as well as any relevant additional information for this dog.
  • 28. Contract Addendums • Disclosure, disclosure, disclosure! Protect your organization by disclosing all relevant information (, behavior) and adding a clause to the contract to that effect and having the adopter initial that clause. • For example, for a dog with a health problem you would write “I am aware this dog will require daily thyroid medication” and have the adopter initial or sign the added clause.
  • 29. Special Circumstances • Our most common special adoption circumstance is a pre- adoption. If a dog isn’t yet spayed or neutered and we feel we have found the perfect home for them we will allow a pre-adoption with a $150 deposit. The dog remains the property of APA! until the day of surgery. • Other special circumstances that may come up are dogs needing surgery for which APA has fundraised, dogs with ongoing medical needs that APA! will help out with, or trial adoptions.
  • 30. Returned Adoptions • APA! runs an open adoption policy. If for any reason the adoption is not working out we require that the dog come back to APA! even if the dog was adopted out several years ago.
  • 31. Returned Adoptions • We go over the return process with every adopter during the adoption process; all APA! adoption paperwork includes the contact information for returns. • Our Adopt-Line team handles the logistics and scheduling of return. The Adoption Manager approves all returns and works with the Behavior Manager to address any behavior issues in the dog. • However, we always want return to be the last resort so we encourage adopters to get in touch with us at the first sign of an issue and offer ongoing support to our adopters.
  • 32. Adoption Fees • Baseline Adoption Fee: $150 • Some dogs will have higher fees. Post-parvovirus dogs or dogs that have required extensive medical treatment are two examples. • We reduce adoption fees for dogs who have been in our program for a while, dogs who are older, or dogs with special needs.
  • 33. Off-Site Adoptions • This would include off-site adoptions of dogs pulled into your shelter or foster homes and dogs you are working with at the open intake shelter.
  • 34. Benefits of Off-Site Adoptions • Ability to start saving lives before having an adoption facility for start-up groups. • Increased adoption numbers due to increased exposure in the community. • Spreading your mission, educating the public, and gaining name recognition. • Additional donations – The APA! dog program receives most of its donation jar donations from one of our off-site locations.
  • 35. Off-Site Adoptions Start Up • First, you need to develop a relationship with off-site partners. • APA! works with several area PetSmart stores as well as an artisan’s market in a thriving downtown area to run numerous off-site events every day. • If you wish to develop an off-site adoption program for dogs in the local shelter you also need to work with the shelter to gain access, permission, and develop protocols.
  • 36. Selecting Sites • One of the first things to look at is the demographics in the selected neighborhood and the cleanliness and organization of the store itself. • If scouting sites, go to the site for a few days to get a sense of traffic through the store as well as the staff and management in the store. The more polite and helpful the staff, the more happy customers will be walking past your adoption site. Happy customers = more donations!
  • 37. Selecting Sites cont’d • When approaching a partner, have statistics ready about your successes, photos of happy adoptions, all program information and 501(c)(3) status forms. • Make an appointment to speak with the location manager and sometimes property management depending on the store’s situation. • When you approach a site, have your equipment and staffing ready to start THAT day.
  • 38. Supplies Needed for an Off-Site • Categories of supplies include: – Sanitation and safety supplies – Basic dog care items – Dog containment items – Adoptions materials – Supplies to deal with the weather – Marketing materials - signage, donation jars, perhaps some retail items
  • 39. Storage of Supplies • Depending on the site, you may have some permanent secure storage or you may need to tote these items back and forth each day. Plan for space in the transport vehicles not just for crates and dogs but also for all of the supplies needed to successfully run a site.
  • 40. Sanitation and Safety Supplies • Bleach • Roccal Spray • Hand Sanitizer • Antibacterial soap • Sunscreen for doggies and people • First aid kits for humans and dogs. • Tupperware bin to use as a basin in which to sanitize items such as bowls, leashes, and toys. • Humane methods to break up a fight should one happen - air horn, citronella spray, shake cans.
  • 41. Basic Dog Care Items • Water and food bowls • Water jugs or access to running water – Yes, you can run a site without running water!! • Leashes, collars, harnesses • Clean up bags • Food, toys, and treats • Linens/bedding for warmth and to create shade • Grooming items – nail clippers, shampoo, and brushes
  • 42. Dog Containment • Ex-pens: One per adult dog or litter of pups • Zip-ties • Crates • Secure transport vehicle(s)
  • 43. Adoption Materials • Adoption packets for each dog at site • Extra adoption packets and commonly used handouts such as post-parvo or demodectic mange handouts. • Table and 2-3 folding chairs • Clipboard, pens, stapler etc. • Donation jars, signage, printed literature
  • 44. Weather Related Supplies • Sunshades or tents to protect each ex-pen from blistering sun or light rain • Ice, fans, and misters for hot weather • Blankets, jackets, and sweaters for cold weather
  • 45. Pre-Site Checklist • The Dog List – Each day we publish a list on our website of where each dog will be. It helps us to ensure there is a good balance of dogs at each site and helps the public find dogs in which they may be interested. • Preventative Meds – Administered by counselors as needed before going to site in the morning. • Loading Dogs Safely/Efficiently – Make sure vehicle is an appropriate temperature. Each vehicle has an alarm.
  • 46. Daily Off-Site Schedule • 8AM Counselors arrive at APA to prepare for the day. Walk their dogs, gather their supplies. • 9:30AM counselors leave for site. • 10AM counselors set up their sites. • Site should be set up and dogs fed/medicated by 12PM at latest. • Evening meal followed by breakdown and return to APA begins at 6:30PM. • Counselors’ days end at 9PM.
  • 47. Site Set Up: Sanitation • Put your table and donation jars out first • Everything needs to be sanitized with a 1:30 Bleach:Water solution every day.
  • 48. Site Set Up: Sanitation • Ex-pens and the ground beneath them can be sprayed with the solution prior to getting any dogs out. • Leashes, bowls, and hard toys can be soaked in a basin.
  • 49. Site Set Up: Dog Care • Once the entire site and materials have been sanitized you can get the dogs out of their crates 1 at a time and walk them prior to putting them in ex-pens. Clean up all feces immediately. • Be sure each dog has bedding, toys and water. Once all the dogs are in their pens you can feed them and administer morning medication. • While the dogs are eating: hang small donation jars, small sanitizers, and kennel cards on each ex-pen. • While the dogs are eating supervise the dogs for signs of resource guarding and ensure that people aren’t petting the dogs while they are eating.
  • 50. Managing Your Site • Get dogs out for walks as often as possible while still maintaining control of your site. Always clean up feces and urine immediately. • Keep a bucket or trash can nearby but out of sight/smell for poo bags. • If it is slow you can work on grooming the dogs or basic obedience skills.
  • 51. Managing Your Site: Customer Service • The off-site adoption counselors are the face of your organization in the community! It is important that the counselors treat every person that walks by as their new BFF. A warm smile and a friendly hello will go a long way towards increasing adoptions and donations at each site.
  • 52. Managing Your Site: The Public • We want the public to interact with the dogs and take them for walks! It’s the best way for them to get to know a potential new family member. • Please remind visitors to sanitize their hands before and after every pen. • If someone wants to walk a dog please get the dog out for them to avoid escapes and take their keys or other valuable item while they walk the dog.
  • 53. Managing Your Site: Behavior Issues 1. If two dogs are barking at each other put a visual barrier such as a sheet or shade between the dogs. If that isn’t working, you can sanitize and swap ex-pens to put a non-reactive dog between the two reactive dogs. You can also give the dogs interactive toys to keep them occupied. 2. If a dog is trying to climb out of its pen: put a drag lead on the dog and secure a lid onto the pen so that the dog can’t get out. It is OK to use an XL wire crate offsite as long as the dog has shade and ample time out of the crate.
  • 54. End of the Day: Breakdown • Walk all dogs one more time and load them into crates in climate controlled vehicles. Be sure to use the same crates for each dog as during morning transport. • Create a sanitizer basin with 1:30 Bleach Water solution. Sanitize bowls, hard toys, leashes etc. • Gather dirty laundry, spray ex-pens and the ground where dogs have been with the bleach water solution. • Breakdown ex-pens, tables, and load vehicle.
  • 55. Return to APA! • Upon return, dogs are walked again and put into overnight kennels. • Counselors clean out their vans. Sanitize all crates for 10 minutes with the bleach water solution (making sure that all areas of crate are in contact with the solution). • Restock vans for the next day with food, clean laundry etc. • Prepare nightly adoption log, deposit all donations and adoption fees, and complete the end of day email prior to end of shift at 9PM.
  • 56. Dealing with Emergency Situations at an Adoption Site
  • 57. Foul Weather • Need to have foul weather plans in advance so that there is no confusion when the issue arises. • Who can make the decision to close a site? When would site close early? • What to do if you do have to close early? • At APA! the Manager on Call or Adoptions Manager can make the decision when to close a site early due to foul weather.
  • 58. Dog Stolen from Site • Prevention is key. Always be vigilant. • If a dog is stolen: Make note of the person’s description, vehicle they are driving, license plate number, and direction of travel and call 911. Give the police the suspect’s description as well as the dog’s description. Call the dog adoptions manager who can alert the microchip company. • MOSTIMPORTANTLY: Keep yourself and the other dogs safe. Do not confront someone who appears dangerous or who has a weapon.
  • 59. Donations Jar Stolen from Site • If a donations jaris stolen: Make note of the person’s identifying details and alert police. • Most importantly: Keep yourself and the dogs safe! Don’t confront a violent, angry, or armed individual. Just call 911. Donations can be replaced, you cannot.
  • 60. Loose orEscaped Dog • If you are alone – Call the dog adoptions manager immediately and watch to see in which direction the dog has fled. – While keeping your site under control try to coax the dog back with treats, sweet talking, and praise. Drop low to the ground and speak in a gentle, soothing voice. Don’t shout or use excited, high pitched tones.
  • 61. Loose orEscaped Dog • If you have a trusted volunteer or other helper: – Grab some treats and a leash and follow the dog. If you know the dog, drop to a knee and try to call the dog and capture calmly. Try not to run after a dog, they will run faster. If they’re in full flight, run after the dog, trying to keep it in sight. Take your phone, so you can update helpers as to its whereabouts. Your helper should immediately contact the dog adoptions manager and dog program manager.
  • 62. Loose or Escaped Dog • If you can’t quickly catch the dog, call the adoptions manager to have flyers made, hang flyers, and call in more help to look for the dog. • APA! has successfully caught loose dogs even after two months on the run in the winter, don’t give up! • Examples: Fawn, Rainbow, and Unicorn - the little Chi family that loved to run away.
  • 63. Sick Dog • Separate – Keep the dog at least 6 feet away from all other dogs. If you have been handling that dog, change your shirt to avoid transmission of germs. • Supervise – Monitor the dog’s symptoms, contact the medical team. • Seek emergency care if necessary
  • 64. Dog Scuffle • Stay calm. • Safely separate the dogs – do not grab collars. Use your airhorn, citronella spray, or even the water hose. • Alert the adoptions manager and complete an incident report. • Attend to your own wounds first if you get bitten. • Administer first aid to the dogs if needed. • Seek emergency medical care if needed. • First, safely return the dog to his run, secure the ex-pen with a lid and separate the dog from the public area. He should not be handled by the public or volunteers for the rest of the day. • If the dog bit a member of the public or volunteer we need their name and full contact information. APA! always recommends bite victims seek medical attention.
  • 65. Bites Happen • Thoroughly wash the affected area with soap and water. • If no skin was broken no further medical attention is needed. • If the skin was broken, APA! recommends that the bitten person seek medical attention to prevent infection. • If the wound is serious and will not stop bleeding seek emergency medical attention. • ALL bites, no matter how minor, must be reported to the Dog Adoptions Manager and Behavior Manager. • Bites are a learning experience. They tell us something about the dog’s behavior, something the dog may need to work on, and also alert us to what type of home may be most appropriate for the dog.
  • 66. Challenges, Obstacles, and Failures
  • 67. Challenges and Failures: Zera • What happened? • As a direct result of everything we learned from Zera we created a successful Behavior & Enrichment program to work with dogs with behavior challenges.
  • 68. Challenges and Failures: Hershey • What happened? • As a direct result of Hershey’s death we added additional measures on our applications and follow up support system to help our animals stay safe in their adoptive homes.
  • 69. Challenges: Sandy Sue • Sandy survived the euthanasia list, a severe URI, parvovirus, and heartworms. She also overcame significant behavioral challenges. • However, we did not give up and Sandy is now a beloved family pet.
  • 70. Success Stories: Polomo and Hercules
  • 71. Rising Above Obstacles • If you take nothing else away from this presentation remember this: There will always be naysayers and roadblocks. You will make mistakes, sometimes at the cost of a life. Please do not give up. There are so many lives that can be saved, simply by refusing to give up. Keep moving forward, keep learning, keep changing, and keep growing. That is the road to NO KILL!
  • 72. Acknowledgements • Photos provided by – Scarlett Blue Photography – Ed Lehman – Summer Huggins – Angela Lozano – Holly Livermore – Jessica Marsh – Cathy Bridge – Melissa Miller
  • 73. Audience Questions