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August 25, 2011



One of the best tools i've ever seen for Customer Service in Animal Shelters is the book 'Animal Friendly- Customer Smart: People Skills for Animal Shelters' by Jan Elster. Every shelter should have a copy of this book- it's amazing


i forgot to mention:
The first thing i thought of when reading the last paragraph about the puppy adotper was 'why didn't she purchase her pet supplies at the shelter?'. Missed opportunities all around


Most shelters/rescues don't do retail...some can't depending on local codes.
It can be a pain in the butt for the shelters,
With limited space comes limited supplies. You also need money to buy stuff in order to sell stuff.
I send my adopters to a local pet business. Win win for both of us.

I do rescue and just helped a older lady with no internet find a pet. I found totally rude rescues that were unwilling even to respond to e-mails or phone calls! Rescues that would not leave a MESSAGE on voice mail!! Rescues that did not post important info about the pets on their site and did not tell you about that info until a week after you did the app, interview, home visit etc...
And yes I know most rescue people work full time and do rescue(as I do myself), but there is no call for rude nonprofessional behavior.
That kind of attitude just gets less pets adopted...


great post. the hardware store analogy is perfect.

btw, i know EXACTLY where i'll be getting my next cat - and it has everything to do with the kindness and professionalism this particular shelter shows their animals and customers.

it's a long, inconvenient trek out of my way, and it's going to be a little more expensive than a certain place that's just down the road from me, but it doesn't matter. through past experience, i have forged a connection with these people. i trust and respect them. and while a pet is not just some 'thing' to buy, they have absolutely earned my 'business.'


One challenge often seems to be that the people drawn to animal welfare work are the so-called 'dog people' or 'cat people', who got into animal welfare in part because they don't relate well to humans. And to be honest, I don't blame them.

But the result can be poor human interaction. In my experience the animal welfare community needs a lot more people who have passion for the animals but also have good business sense and good human interaction skills.


One could argue that the shelter should have given the woman a better education on what it takes to raise a puppy in the first place, and avoided this situation entirely. :p
Some people don't like to say negative things, but I have no problem saying "this puppy will crap on your floor. This puppy will chew up your things. This puppy will go through a teenage stage at around six months whereupon they will be incorrigible and bounce off the walls. Can you handle that?"

I'm reminded of a couple with a small child and a little dog who came to the rescue shelter looking for another dog to add to the family, and they looked at a nice, calm adult hound, and two young, rambunctious mastiff mixes. The husband really kinda wanted one of the mastiffs, and I flat out said "this mastiff is not well-trained. He will counter surf, jump on you, and basically be like a bull in a china shop in your home." The family ended up adopting the nice, calm, adult hound and everyone is happy. :) (The mastiff mixes were adopted by separate families and they did behave as I had predicted, luckily these families knew how to handle that properly.)

John A Sampson I

Another probelm with the no kill shelter I found here in this area is there is a $22.00 charge for adoption but then the new owners have to fork over $180.00 pre paid to a vet to have the animal fixed which just eliminated alot of prospective owners who are lower income but who use to adopt 90% of the pets. Now the shelter struggles to house and feed the animals that are hold overs.A new idea is needed or the shelter will have to change it's policies yet again.
thank You
John A Sampson I

Jodi kurtz

I was just talking about this today. I have a management and marketing background and as I become more involved in rescue groups I am becoming embarrassed and frustrated by the customer service and follow up. I am in Australia but I am endeavoring to research what works in our country as well as overseas. The truth is not everyone is good at everything. These groups are often started by people with a beautiful passion for animals but that does not mean they know anything about sales, customer service or marketing. Thank you for sharing, I am glad I found ur blog.


One of the biggest problems with rescue groups is they have a built-in predisposition to hate people and blame all of their ills on people. As Nathan Winograd points out in his book, the majority of the public is good!

There's a local organization that we support because we feel they do more good than bad. They take "difficult to adopt" animals out of a local shelter, foster them, work with them, and adopt them out. They were against an increase in the local pet limit because then more bad people would just get more animals and not take care of them. Wrap your head around THAT!

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