Reaching the High-Hanging Fruit
In 2009 HSUS led a research project focused on investigating what messaging is most effective in motivating folks to spay or neuter. One of the findings of that research was that the messaging they focused on would likely mainly reach the “low-hanging fruit” – meaning those pet owners who already were motivated toward spaying/neutering their pets, but may not have sufficient resources to do so. The low-hanging fruit is important, but is only part of the equation. It’s certainly the place from which we should all be starting and maintaining spay/neuter programs – especially those looking for a self-sustaining Humane Alliance model.
Our work with GIS technology has been circling around the populations of middle- and higher-hanging fruit. Our GIS-focused research has indicated that even in communities where spay/neuter saturation is overall quite high, there are locations that are still pumping out dogs and cats who end up at high risk in the shelters. We have begun to develop interventions focused on those populations, and acknowledge that standard messaging and methods for outreach are likely not to be the most impactful.
The HSUS Pets for Life program is a great resource for learning about the grassroots one-on-one outreach that can make an impact in neighborhoods with low saturation of spay/neuter. Their focus is not to leave flyers or hang door hangers in these areas, but to build relationships, respect people for who they are and where they are in their humane evolution, and slowly move them toward a positive resolution. Cool, cool stuff – and very powerful. We are excited about the new toolkit that HSUS has rolled out – check it out here – and cannot wait to try these tools out in our X Maps the Spot communities to measure impact for those most at risk.
while messaging through billboards and other advertising may be effective for the low-hanging fruit, and the Pets for Life a power punch for the high-hanging fruit, what about those in the middle?
One community we are working with is exploring options for looking at messaging that not only resonates with those middle fruits, but also results in an actual spay/neuter. The Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland, OR (ASAP), has identified an area based on our GIS analysis that is high in both cat and at-risk dog (large bully types) intake. They are experimenting with incentives to increase the likelihood of spay/neuter.
You can see from this map that there is a concentration of cat intake in a small area.
ASAP is testing two messages in this area – one focused on a happy pet…
and the other on humor.
Getting saturation in the target areas is important. To totally overuse the analogy, we need to pull all the fruit from the tree. But I would suggest those harder to reach are probably the ones most likely to impact shelter intake.