As many of you know, Stray Rescue of St. Louis was forced to shut down for quite some time at the end of 2016 due to a devastating distemper outbreak at the shelter.  Once operations were up and running again, they shared the exciting news that moving forward, (most) adoption fees will be sponsored by local businesses, which got me intrigued and excited to do some investigating.

I love, love, love a small business doing community outreach for our awesome rescues and shelters. The idea of the sponsored adoptions excites me because there is endless potential to connect and learn. Connecting and learning are what make the world go ’round.

Stray Rescue’s Marketing Manager, Natalie Thomson, was kind enough to sit down with me Tuesday afternoon and answer my questions.  I don’t think she expected an interview, so I really appreciate her taking the time to chat.

As I mentioned, Stray Rescue was closed from October – December because of the distemper outbreak. Shortly after the shelter closed, a team from University of Wisconsin came to St. Louis to provide Stray Rescue employees and volunteers with in-service training on best practices and protocols to help them manage the distemper epidemic and to address holes in intake and adoption procedures.

Prior to the outbreak, vulnerable animals (those who were gravely ill or pregnant) were not vaccinated. Now, all animals are vaccinated immediately upon entering the shelter. While the vaccinations can pose a risk to those vulnerable animals, it’s important to maintain a Greater Good mindset for the benefit of all animals in the shelter. I’m sure there are other changes to policy, procedure and protocol, but Natalie couldn’t speak on behalf of the veterinary staff.

Once there was a strategy for treating all animals and abating the distemper outbreak, staff members focused on expediting the adoption rate,  implementing what’s known as fast-tracking.  The more time an animal spends in a shelter, the more stress and learned negative behaviors can render that animal unsuitable for adoption. With fast-tracking, rather than fill the shelter to capacity, shelters focus on providing those animals who are already in the facility with high quality training and socialization, resulting in faster adoptions.

It’s really a paradigm shift from emotionally-based rescuing to application of pragmatics and rationale.  As they say, work smarter, not harder.  By applying fast-tracking, overall numbers for rescuing should be the same.

Another way to expedite adoptions is through sponsorship.  For the months of November, December & January, all adoption fees were sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka. February adoptions will be paid for by Ashley Furniture HomeStore. Natalie couldn’t confirm who will be springing for March adoptions, as it’s not a done deal yet, but there are some businesses out there who are interested. Sponsorship encourages people to adopt from a shelter rather than purchase though a breeder, pet store or Craigslist. (FYI, shelters have puh-lenty of pure bred animals who need homes.)

As a business owner, I think the sponsorship is brilliant! It’s a wise investment into something truly meaningful, the community loves it and therefore, you just can’t lose. Tito’s and Ashley Furniture HomeStore will get social media mentions and tags each time an animal is adopted and Stray Rescue currently has 125,000+ followers.

If you’re a business owner considering sponsoring adoptions:

  • $5000 for one month
  • $2500 for two weeks
  • $1250 for one week

I’m really curious to know what feedback Tito’s has gotten from the public.  I’m also really curious to know how fast-tracking and free adoptions will affect Stray Rescue’s adoption rate in the long term.

It’s important to note that free adoptions at Stray Rescue apply to adult dogs, only. However, any long-timers who are adopted qualify for covered veterinary expenses and food. The thinking here is that these guys would be getting free medical care and food in the shelter, so why not continue to give them those while they are living in their forever homes?

If you’re looking to add a pet to your family, I urge you to consider adopting from Stray Rescue. All adoptable animals have been medically treated and cleared and properly trained, the adoption fees for most have been covered.

I’m a firm believer that all things in this world happen exactly as they should and in perfect timing, and that there will always be a greater lesson learned from tragedy. Congratulations, Stray Rescue! Even in times of trial, you continue to be leaders and examples in animal welfare.