The shelter isn’t the only place to go. Rescue organizations are finding homes for more animals by bringing adoptable dogs and cats to special events and venues, and featuring them on social media.

“We take in 30 animals a day,” says Lauren Lipsey of the Washington D.C. Humane Society. That figure sounds impossibly high for any shelter, even in a large city, but unfortunately it’s not unusual. And given that most of these shelters and rescue organizations are already short on space, funding and other resources, finding good homes for all the animals is a huge priority and challenge.

While drawing people to shelter and rescue facilities remains key, many organizations are also finding ways to bring the animals to potential adopters, whether in person or through social media. “It’s important to get people’s attention, to show them how wonderful these animals are,” Lauren says.

Here’s how several shelters and rescues are raising awareness of animals in need, and increasing their adoption rates.

  • The Washington D.C. Humane Society has a mobile unit called Adoption Force One. It’s an RV that transports adoptable dogs to various venues such as the local farmer’s market, pet supply store and a brewery where millennials gather.

“We also set up in the mall across from the White House where there’s a lot of foot traffic,” says Lauren. “People can see how the dogs react to crowds or children.”

To help extend the mobile unit’s reach, you can find its current location via Twitter at #AdoptForceOne. washhumane.org

  • The Amanda Foundation in Los Angeles takes their adoptable dogs shopping. “Retailers here are welcoming,” says Teri Austin, former television star and animal advocate. “We sometimes dress the dogs in costume and go to stores like Tiffany’s. It starts a conversation and people follow up. We’re like Hollywood agents — finding the right role for each dog and cat.

“We introduce people to dogs with creative breed names like Dorkie (dachshund/Yorkshire terrier), Schoodle (Schnauzer/poodle) and Yorkiepoo,” she adds. “And we never say an animal is old, just well-traveled or mature. We give them a personalized story.”

The organization also takes adoptable dogs to employee education days at companies like Toyota.

In addition, the Amanda Foundation helps reduce homeless animals with their Spaymobile, which provides 7,000 spay/neuters a year. “There used to be 76,000 animals a year in LA shelters,” Teri says. “After an extensive spay/neuter push, there were 56,000. Adoptions went up by 10%.” amandafoundation.org

  • Dogs deserve to be treated like rock stars and a rescue called Motley Zoo (a play on Motley Crue) makes that happen. Although it doesn’t have a bricks-and-mortar structure, it does have a strong network of foster homes in the Seattle area, as well as an online presence.

“We’re known as the ‘rock and roll rescue’,” says jme Thomas, executive director. To help raise awareness, the organization names its dogs after bands and musicians. “We take dogs to concerts to meet their namesakes, and the artists share their experiences and photos, which in turn inspires followers to foster, adopt and volunteer. The animals get a unique identity which speeds adoption, often by fans or band members. We’ve saved over 1,600 animals since 2009.” motleyzoo.org

  • Anjellicle Cats Rescue in New York City takes cats to Petco stores where they get lots of exposure to potential adopters. It also recently partnered with Koneko Cat Cafe in Manhattan; all the cats at the cafe are under the rescue’s care, and are available for adoption.

“I also created an Instagram account for our cats so people can see their stories,” says volunteer Liana Zetterholm. “After five months, we had almost 4,000 followers and adopted out ten cats to Instagram fans alone. One woman drove from Baltimore to adopt a cat because she fell in love with his pictures; she has since adopted a second cat from us.” anjelliclecats.com

  • In 2008, John Bartlett started fostering kittens for Purrfect Pals, a cat rescue organization in Arlington, Washington. In 2011, he set up a webcam to watch the kittens while he was out. He enjoyed it so much that he thought others might too – and that led to the creation of the Critter Room Kitten Cam (livestream.com/FosterKittenCam). Over 40,000 cat lovers worldwide follow “Dad John” on Livestream and Facebook, and many adopters create pages for their new adoptees.

The sense of community is so strong that followers often meet at adoption events. In 2014, for example, fans from the US and Australia gathered in Seattle for a four-day convention at the Average Joe Cat Show, a Purrfect Pals fundraiser. purrfectpals.org

Whether it’s a special event or show, a partnership with a local pet supply retailer, or an Instagram or Facebook account, shelters and rescues are finding all kinds of great ways to broaden their reach and bring growing numbers of needy animals and potential adopters together. It’s a win-win for everyone!

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