Don’t Save a Life
Last week I shared with you the research that we recently published regarding adopter choice. The data was rich with nuggets about both the primary reason adopters chose their pet, as well as other factors that impacted their decision.
We were excited that the Wall Street Journal featured the research, with a focus on the difference between dog and cat adopters regarding their primary reasons for choosing a pet. The question that elicited the majority of responses regarding behavior toward people for cats and appearance for dogs was, “What was the single most important reason you chose this particular pet?”
One of the fascinating data nuggets from the research was adopters’ responses to the question, “Was there anything else that was important to your decision to choose this particular pet?” Adopters were asked to choose all answers that applied to them. Factors such as age, health and playfulness were more likely to be checked than the choice “wanted to help animal.”
Why is this so fascinating? We drive home the message constantly to come to a shelter to save a life – “help an animal!” It is prominent in messaging from shelters across the country. But the best messaging is usually messaging that motivates… If adopters report that health, playfulness, age, and even energy level are driving an adopter’s choice more than helping the animal, maybe our message is not as motivating to our adopters as it is to us!
While saving an animal is absolutely what happens when folks choose to adopt from a shelter (motivation for us in the field!), perhaps the public doesn’t need “to come to save animal,” but “to come to find your next best friend.” I reflect on a great campaign used by the Oregon Humane Society that plays on the benefits of pets as opposed to saving a life.
It might be that these types of messages are more impactful for your adopters. Certainly the data from our research seems to indicate that something other than saving a life is driving them to choose their pets from us. Specifically, adopters seemed to find appearance, social interaction with people, age and other individual animal characteristics (be it physical or behavioral) the most important.
How might this research impact the work you do?