If it wasn't for a traffic jam, www.petfinder.com
might not exist.
Betsy Saul and her ex-husband, Jared, were stuck in traffic and started bantering about the Internet -- a new phenomenon back in 1995. They
agreed that amazing things would happen if people could do online searches by
zip code and if searchable data was available on web sites. For example, if you
wanted a house in a certain location, or strictly houses with four-bedrooms,
only those homes would pop up in a search.
Instead of diving into the real estate world, however, Betsy, an
animal lover, sought to help animal shelters. Petfinder.com was launched from
the Saul's home in 1996 while Jared was in medical school and Betsy was working
as an urban tree planter for the New Jersey Forest Service. To say they were
onto something is an understatement. In 2006, Petfinder.com was sold to
Discovery Communications for $35 million. More importantly, it's estimated that
more than 17 million pets have been adopted since the site's inception.
Jan McHugh-Smith, president of the Society of Animal Welfare
Administrators and CEO-President of the Humane Society of the Pike's Peak
Region in Colorado, says, "Petfinder has been the most significant
innovation and tool for animal shelters."
After facilitating all these adoptions, Petfinder is going to
"adopt" the Internet on Tuesday, March 15, to celebrate its 15th
anniversary. Jane Harrell, an associate producer at the site, says the idea is
to encourage bloggers to write about and support pet adoption. Individuals with
Facebook pages are asked to post pictures of their adopted pets as their
profile pictures that day, and to tell their pets' stories on Facebook and
(click continue reading)
"With so many Petfinder-related adoptions over the years, the
impact could be impressive," says Harrell. "Imagine seeing all these
pets whose lives were saved, and they are your friends' pets and your
relatives' pets -- and our hope is that one day this will be your pet."
"There are still misconceptions concerning pet adoption,"
says Debrah Schnackenberg, senior vice president of emergency services for
the American Humane Association. "Having said that, it's becoming chic to
say, 'I adopted.'" And it might be chic to visit Petfinder, as well. It's one of the
most visited websites on the planet.
Some may have feared that a downside of Petfinder would be people
"falling in love" with a photo, without knowing the temperament of
the available pet.
"Not all matches are good ones," Denise Deisler, executive
director of the Humane Society of Manatee County in Bradenton, FL, admits.
"However, we are so grateful for the traffic. This one guy saw a
shepherd-mix on Petfinder, but by the time he came into our facility that dog
was already adopted. So, we showed him six other shepherd-mixes on Petfinder.
He chose a dog who was at Animal Control, and heartworm positive. If he didn't
adopt, that dog would have been euthanized. He took care of the dog through
treatment, and today we frequently receive email stories about his dog, Quinn.
Sometimes, we read about Quinn's escapades with the family cat. Clearly, you
can tell by the stories, the bond he has with Quinn is very special. And it all
happened because of Petfinder."
While Petfinder's mission has always been and continues to be pet
adoption, one new charge is to enhance the pet/owner bond so pets aren't given
up to shelters.
"I've learned that it's all about the bond," Saul says.
When there are behavior issues, the trick is to convince people to find
qualified help sooner than later. It's not so bad dealing with a pet having
accidents for a few days. However, if such problems persist for months or
years, the human/animal bond is more likely to dissolve, and the pet becomes
expendable. When the bond isn't so strong, a dog's barking can be annoying.
When the bond is strong, the behavior is more likely be referred as, "My
dog has opinions, and I like opinions."
Saul says that when Petfinder began, "So many clearly adoptable
animals were being killed at shelters, it was a crime.
We're moving in the
right direction," she says. "With dogs, we've figured out the recipe
(to fewer euthanasias and more adoptions). Though not all communities are
baking the bread we do, at least we know how to make it work. With cats, we
still have an enormous issue (too many coming in, too few being adopted)."
Saul continues, "Saving lives is something people do when they
adopt, and that is transformative. But even better is what can happen, like the
story of an adopted deaf dog who was only in a home a few days, and saved a
family from a carbon monoxide leak."
"I can see it now -- dogs Skyping and cats playing with the
mouse at the keyboard," says McHugh-Smith. "Taking over the Internet
with adopted pets -- a very good thing."
Learn more at petfinder.com
© 2011 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC., Steve Dale
Tags: Adopt the Internet, adoptable cats, adoptable dogs, adopting parrots, adopting pets, American Humane Associaiton, Betsy Saul, Debrah Schnackenberg, Denise Deilser, Humane Society of Manatee County, Humane Society of Pike's Peak Region, Jan McHugh Smith, Jane Harrell, pet adoption, petfinder.com, SAWA, Society Animal Welfare Administrators, Steve Dale archives