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Animal shelter takes new approach to adoption through conversation

The new Adopters Welcome program is an effort by shelter staff to make the adoption more inviting for potential in adopters.
Ayrlea Manchester shows off Goose, one of the dogs recently adopted from Georgian Triangle Humane Society. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

In the interest of helping more animals find homes, Georgian Triangle Humane Society is tearing down some of the barriers to adoption.

According to Ayrlea Manchester, adoptions and outreach supervisor, that means leaving behind the perception of a judgemental process and adopting one that’s more welcome.

The new program is called Adopters Welcome, and it includes changes like same-day adoptions, eliminating what can be seen as an intimidating interview process, and paring down a five-page application to a one-page adopter profile.

“It’s adoption through conversation,” said Manchester. “We’re certainly not loosening the process, but we’re going to have more of a conversation with our adopters to make our best match to person and pet.”

Manchester said the shelter is moving away from appointment-based adoptions or phone calls and emails, and welcoming potential adopters to drop-in at the shelter during hours of operation to meet the animals and talk to an adoption counsellor. All the dogs and cats currently up for adoption will be at the shelter during hours of operation to meet potential adopters and possibly go home with them that day. 

“We want everything to be positive,” said Manchester. “We want them to come in and have a genuine conversation.”

In addition to making it more welcoming for a potential adopter, Manchester hopes the changes help reduce the length of stay and return rate for animals that come through the shelter.

Currently, the average length of stay for cats is 27 days and it’s about 11 to 14 days for dogs. However, there are cases where animals have been at the shelter for up to a year waiting for an adopter to choose them.  

She’s overseen a soft-launch of the program and has been pleasantly surprised at the success of adoptions done this way. She commends the staff at the shelter for working toward the change, which has included an overhaul of adoption paperwork, policies, and processes.

It’s an effort Manchester believes will serve both adopters and the animals better.

“It’s really cool to see the switch in people’s opinions on adoption,” said Manchester. “There are a number of people that are pro adoption now.”

She added mixed-breed dogs are not shunned as they once were, and that bodes well for a shelter as most dogs that come through are a mix of more than one or two breeds.

At one time, she was rejected by an animal shelter when she applied to adopt a dog because she didn’t have a fenced-in yard. She eventually adopted from a different shelter and said she gave her dog a very good life.

“We’re trying to put our own judgement aside, and have a genuine conversation,” said Manchester. “We still want to make sure this person sounds like they’re a good pet owner. We want it to be a good fit for the person and the animal.”

GTHS staff have already started providing adopters with resources for training or taking care of their pet based on the information shelter staff gathered while the dog or cat was in their care. They will also provide detailed notes of all they observed from the animal while it was in their care.

Last year, the GTHS helped more than 1,300 animals get adopted. There were 61 dogs brought to the shelter through the Year of the Northern Dog program from remote communities in Northern Ontario and Manitoba. GTHS accepts transfers when there is capacity available and no local dogs waiting for a chance to get into the shelter. Next year, Manchester said staff and volunteers hope to help more than 2,000 animals.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 15 years of experience as a local journalist
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