Hundreds of thousands of adoptable animals are listed on the web every day. How can you ensure your animals get noticed? How can your descriptions help potential adopters imagine a homeless animal as their future family pet? Individualizing adoptable animals with accurate information helps potential adopters connect with your animals among all the others in the search results.
Kit Jenkins, PetSmart® Charities Program Manager, discussed ways to help individualize animals during her July, 2010, webinar The Power of Personality: Presenting Your Adoptable Pets as Individuals in the Crowd. Watch the recorded webinar and also download her slides to review her examples. Here are some highlights of her presentation:
Every Animal Deserves a Name
- Choose names that emphasize positive, fun, eye-catching physical and personality attributes. First impressions are hard to overcome, so avoid the negative (Stinky, Killer, Monster, Scratch, Demon).
- For bonded pairs you want to stay together, try paired names.
- Get creative. Use baby name books, pet name websites, and lists of paint colors.
A Description Can Be a Passport Home
- Physical descriptions can include age, gender, sterilization status, breed(s), color(s), and approximate size or weight. Do not include jargon or acronyms. Be consistent and descriptive.
- Use photo-based breed reference books for identifying breeds. Kit suggests dog and cat books by Bruce Fogle or David Taylor.
- To ensure consistency, decide on an agency-wide policy for labeling breed types and mixes. For example, is a Lab-ish looking dog labeled "Labrador" or "Lab mix"?
- Highlight distinguishing markings, colors, and physical details, even noting missing features.
Their Story Paints a Picture
- Positive language is more effective than pitiful.
- Paint a picture in words so the potential adopter can envision how the animal will fit into their family. Specific details help. For example, "Fluffy loves to stretch out in a sunbeam for a good nap," or "Jake's favorite toy is his fleece dolly, which goes everywhere with him."
- Use a description template. Templates save time, are easy to write (so more people can write them), and are easy to skim. List basic info, likes/dislikes/needs, then embellish special details, and include 1+ images.
- Include known likes and dislikes. For example, does this animal have a history of getting along with other dogs and cats, or of not getting along? Be clear about information provided from the previous home and what your agency has observed or determined. Avoid overly definite phrasing, such as "likes kids under 6." Instead, use factual statements, such as, "Has lived with kids under 6."
The Power of a Photo - It Might Be All Surfers Ever See!
- Full body shots are usually better than head shots for the primary image.
- Take pictures at the animal's eye level. For some breeds, straight-on stare shots can look intimidating and can reinforce negative stereotypes, so soften those photos with a profile or play pose.
- Avoid kennels and cages. Add a colorful bed or blanket or background, especially for dark or white faces.
- Take the time to help the animal look relaxed, playful, or connected. For example, dogs with open mouths usually appear more relaxed than dogs with closed mouths.
- It usually takes more than one picture to get the right one, so take lots!
- If you need to use a flash, diffuse it by placing a single layer of facial tissue over just the flash. This will help reduce glowing eyes and help to define dark or white faces.
- Images should include toys; poses with hands and laps show the animal interacting with people.
- Check out more tips for getting great photos.