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Tips for a Successful Pet Adoption Event

Updated: Jan 19

Are you planning on hosting a large pet adoption event? If you’ve done this before you know how overwhelming it can be. But with so many organizations trying to find homes for all these animals, weekend pet adoption events have become very popular in cities across the country. To ensure the success of your next event, we’ve gathered some tips from others in the field - things they would definitely do again, and some things they would definitely not repeat:


Stay Open Late


Pet stores and non-profit organizations overwhelmingly reported that extending their hours proved to be a huge benefit. Some even kept their doors open until midnight, saying that things slowed down the later it got, but people were still coming until closing. But the number of adoptions occurring after normal closing time can make all the difference in the world.


Pet Event
Pet Event

Offer Swag


Adoption events offer an opportunity to invite all types of businesses and others to partner with you. This is a chance to give away free educational and promotional items to people standing in line to adopt. The types of swag that organizations and businesses give away at these events are logo bags, coupons, pet bandanas, collars, name tags, leashes, harnesses, and pet toys.

The relationships you can form with the partners in your event can turn into sponsorships, and/or opportunities for cross-promotion. Adoption events provide a way for you to recruit new community partners that you may not have otherwise had a chance to connect with.


Make the Process is Easy


Have one of your volunteers assigned to every potential adopter to help them find the right dog or cat for their family before taking them to the checkout line. The benefit is that the process is much smoother as it creates a calmer atmosphere for everyone involved, including the pets, plus it makes for much better matches.


It also helps to have multiple checkout stations even if it requires using iPads. The idea is to make the paperwork as quick and easy as possible.


Offer Discounted Fees


By discounting your fees you add to the potential success of your event. More people will come if you advertise reduced fees or even free adoptions. The media may even want to promote your event. Marketing research shows that far more pets are adopted when fees are reduced or even eliminated. This is one tactic that organizations can’t ignore if their mission is to save the lives of all these animals.


Initially, your employees and volunteers may object to holding a free adoption event. But when they see how many people show up wanting to support your organization and rescue a needy animal, all doubts will fade away. The number of animals being adopted and having their lives saved thanks to your discounted or free adoption event will warm the hearts of you, your staff, and all your volunteers.


Incentivize Your Volunteers


Treat your volunteers with respect and kindness. Give them the proper training, so they know how to introduce and match potential adoptive families with the dog(s) or cat(s) that would be most suited to them. This allows your volunteers to offer better service while giving them a sense of pride in doing this work. Think how they feel when they go home and brag about how many pets they found homes for in a given day.


You also need to have a break room that your staff and volunteers can retreat to when they need a break from the crowds of a large event. Stock your break room with plenty of food and drinks to get them through the day. You should have coffee, water, soda, energy drinks, fruit, candy, granola bars and whatever snacks they can grab to give them a boost. You should also provide lunch and dinner on long adoption days, even if it means ordering take-out from nearby eateries.

Be Creative


Choose a unique theme for your adoption event and make it fun. If the atmosphere is more like a festival, families will come in droves. Have a photographer there taking pictures of adopters with their new pet. And be creative with the giveaways you select for the kids. Make them fun and unusual, like wash-off tattoos, customizable mugs, crazy-looking hair pieces, or stick-on nails in wild colors.


Avoid Confusion


People adopting a pet must have a clear understanding of your fees and your adoption policies. Make sure that the signage you display and the printed materials you hand out are clearly written in simple language to avoid any confusion. Your organization should have a well-defined screening process to make sure that these animals will be going to good homes. All of this should be clearly explained in simple terms as confusion is what prevents most people from making a same-day decision on adopting a pet.


Prevent Crowding


You may need to implement crowd-control methods to keep people from pushing others out of the way, grabbing cage cards away from others looking at the same dog or cat. If your event is too crowded people may choose an animal without talking to someone working there to find out about the animal and whether it would be a good fit for them. It’s best to have a volunteer assigned to each adopter and the only way you can do this is to control the number of people having access to the cages. Some organizations have people take a number, which keeps them from cutting in front of others in line.


You Need Real Grass for Potty Breaks


If there are no grassy areas near your event where dogs can comfortably go potty, you’ll be in trouble. We have heard of events where artificial turf was laid down in a parking lot for this purpose and it was a disaster. First of all, it eliminated a lot of parking spaces for customers shopping in the area. And secondly, it was a mess, especially the cleanup afterward because it was nearly impossible and extremely unhealthy.


Space Out Your Events


If you schedule too many big events in a short period of time you will exhaust your staff and risk losing volunteers. When people are overworked, they lose their enthusiasm. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. It may make sense to skip a big event to keep your team excited. Choose the neighborhood events that have been the most successful for you in the past, but make sure the ones you choose are spaced out.


All-Nighters Aren’t Worth It


In your enthusiasm you may be tempted to schedule your event to last late into the night, or even all night. Although this might work in large metropolitan cities, in small communities it likely won’t because there isn’t enough foot traffic to make it worthwhile. How many people are walking around between midnight and 6:00 AM?



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