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Meet Your Match Saves Lives

This past weekend PBS Nature replayed an episode titled “Why We Love Cats and Dogs” (watch it here), originally aired in 2009. The episode features Meet Your Match, shot at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, one of the organizations that participated in the beta testing of Feline-ality.It reminded me of just how powerful the Meet Your Match (MYM) program is. When we tally up the increases in adoptions, decreases in returns, decreases in euthanasia and decreases in length of stay from shelters who have implemented the program, we are looking at literally tens of thousands of lives saved!

How? Well – there are several aspects of MYM that, when combined, result in a life-saving formula. First, there is a set clockwork protocol for moving animals through the assessment process so that dogs and cats are moving through the system quickly and efficiently.

We assess the dogs (Canine-ality) and cats (Feline-ality) using a set of assessment items that have data to support their predictive value. We can identify cats who are likely to be tolerant of a child’s interaction, dogs who are likely to counter surf, the toys that a dog will likely play with, cats who will run to the door when the doorbell rings, and those who will run away, and much more!Dogs and cats are color-coded based on their responses in their respective assessments, which serves to help narrow the number of choices for adopters – which I discussed in an earlier blog.

While the assessments are a powerful component, just as important is the process the potential adopter goes through. Meet Your Match helps your adopters focus not just on breed or coat color, but on their lifestyle and expectations. Unrealistic expectations are one of the largest threats to the bond between an adopter and their pet; MYM helps to eliminate that risk.

Adopters may first interact with the MYM program online – see Richmond SPCA for a great presentation of the “alities.” Whether they learn about the program online or in person, adopters coming to an MYM shelter do not fill out an application – they simply fill out a survey (check out this great interactive version from Richmond) to find out what “ality” would best match their lifestyle and expectations.The adoption counselor now has a great set of tools to help the adopter find the match of a lifetime – as well as the tools to help educate the adopter who falls in love with a pet who may not be the best match! The survey focuses on what is important to the adopter, while the assessment identifies how the pet matches those items important to the adopter. The survey process, along with the assessment, immediately sets the adoption counselor and adopter up for a respectful, focused conversation around what is important to this individual person and individual animal.

One of my favorite quotes from an MYM adopter is not one of the hundreds who talk about the great match they made… but of a love at first sight. “He is not the perfect cat for our family,” says the adopter. “We should have chosen a cat in our orange category, but the kids fell in love with a purple cat. He is shy and kind of standoffish, but we love him– and will make it work.”

Why is that one of my favorites? Because of the power and respect in the process – while most folks will choose dogs or cats who are in the same color category as they are, sometimes they will not… and with Meet Your Match, that is okay – as we are sending them home with the tools to make the less-than-perfect match work.

Many of you have found MYM a powerful media tool as well – from the Nature show and an upcoming Animal Planet Cats 101 episode filmed at Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation, to hundreds and hundreds of local newspaper and TV news stories from shelters across North America and beyond (we just received some great MYM promo material from a New Zealand facility).

What is your experience with the ASPCA’s Meet Your Match program? Do you have some great promotion ideas? Great matches? Do tell!