a little girl looks at a dog in a shelter while her mother looks on
Photo by Michelle Riley/The HSUS

A key element in achieving Adopters Welcome is to stop automatically categorizing entire segments of your community (seniors, students, limited income earners, etc.) as unsuitable adopters. For example, when the Wisconsin Humane Society took an objective look at their adoption data they found that only 76 of nearly 10,000 adoptions came from a zip code three miles away from their shelter. Identifying this opportunity allowed them to create a strategy that engaged residents in that zip code through adoptions and other services. How can you identify your adoption blind spots and correct them?

Step 1: Map your data
Determine where your adopters are coming from and where you think they should be coming from, ie. your adoption territory. Select a time frame that you think represents a typical adoption period for your organization. Collect the addresses of those who have adopted from you during that time frame and map them using a paper map and pins or digital mapping software. Consider free programs like Google's My Maps or invest in a product like ESRI's ArcGis Pro so you don't have to create this map manually. Now, look for the empty areas of your map within your ideal adoption territory these are your adoption blind spots.

Step 2: Investigate why the blind spots exist
Determine why potential pet adopters in your blind spots haven't made you their source for pets yet. This will help you uncover missed marketing opportunities and create new sources of great adoptive homes. It may take some digging to determine the underlying reason behind each blind spot, but don't give up! If there's a blind spot in your community, it's not because they don't have or want pets, it's because you haven't yet connected with them.

Step 3: Fix it
Now that you know why an adoption blind spot exists, take the steps to correct it. Perhaps you need to extend your adoption hours so commuters can come in the evening, or you need to partner with major employers to feature adoptable pets in their workplaces. Maybe you need to bring pets into the communities that have trouble reaching your facility, or you need to print and post bilingual materials.

In many cases, the segments of your community that are adoption blind spots are likely to be underserved in many ways, not just in adoptions. These communities are often isolated from services most people take for granted like veterinary care and access to quality pet care products. These locations may benefit from a more strategic approach that includes access to resources that you or other agencies in the community provide. If your adoption territory includes underserved communities, the HSUS's Pets for Life Community Outreach Toolkit will guide you through the development and implementation of a community outreach program that works.

Connecting with untapped parts of your community doesn't happen overnight. It takes time to build familiarity and trust and that requires having a visible and consistent presence. Identifying and correcting your adoption blind spots can be the key to ensuring a home for every adoptable pet in your care.