Abbie Moore, executive director of 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com, is on a mission to lower the number of shelter pets euthanized each year. Toward that goal, she and the team at 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com have built a small regional rescue organization into North America's largest nonprofit online adoption site. We spoke to Abbie recently about the company's growth and plans, and why clicker training is an integral part of the work they do.
How did 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com get started?
The Humane America Animal Foundation (HAAF) was formed in 1999 to build a "no-kill community," working with communities to lower euthanasia rates through spay/neuter programs and saving adoptable pets. As HAAF, we developed a comprehensive no-kill program for Los Angeles, which unfortunately was not implemented at the time, although it has new legs with the new general manager of LA Animal Services, Ed Boks. In 2001, we added a website to our program that became 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com, a nonprofit charity that helps shelters, humane societies, SPCAs, and pet rescue groups nationwide advertise their homeless pets to adopters for free.
How fast is 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com growing?
Since launching our new website in 2004, we've gone from having 375 shelters and rescue groups posting their pets on our site to nearly 2,000 shelters across the country. And every day, 3 to 10 new shelters sign up. Soon, we'll expand our listings to pets other than dogs and cats, because there are so many other animals that need homes, too. We have tremendous success in placing pets and saving lives.
Your approach is upbeat and fun. Why is 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com different?
When people think about pet rescue and adoption, especially when it comes to visiting an animal shelter, it's often more depressing than uplifting. We wanted to make the experience as positive as possible in order to change people's impression of pet adoption. There are wonderful pets out there, and we can help you find any pet you want. We like to think of ourselves as an advertising agency with a single client: pet adoption. We're all about getting homeless pets into homes. We use the power of TV, the internet, and a toll-free phone number to connect adopters with shelter pets and help pets go from alone to adopted. We're working to help as many shelters and rescue groups as possible find homes for their pets.
What has your most successful program been?
Search Saver has made a big difference. Visitors to our site can tell us exactly the pet they're looking for, and we'll send them an e-mail whenever a pet of that description comes to one of our shelters and is posted on the site. If you come to our site looking for a black Lab, and don't see one, we'll send you an e-mail as soon as a black Lab in your area needs a home. Through Search Saver, we can reach out to previous visitors to our site, instead of waiting for new visitors. The program has shortened the waiting time for pets that need homes, as it gets them seen by as many people as possible.
Why is clicker training important to 1-800-Save-A-Pet?
I am a huge fan of clicker training because it is fun, easy, and can help us reach our goal of saving more lives. Many pets are relinquished to shelters due to behavioral problems, because people don't know how to shape their pets' behavior. A small problem can spiral out of control, and the pet ends up in a shelter. With clicker training, it is so easy to stop that spiral.
By helping shelters and adopters learn what a difference a little positive training can do, we'll be able to find more homes for more pets. In partnership with KPCT, I hope we can bring clicker training to adopters. I know that shelters are overwhelmed and it's almost all they can do to keep animals fed and kennels clean. But with a little effort and not much time, staff can teach a dog to sit or reduce barking. A little effort goes a long way toward making an animal more adoptable. For pet owners, clicker training is a simple and effective way to bond with a pet—even an adult with an unknown history. Every pet owner can learn how to reinforce the behaviors you do want, and not the ones you don't want.
How did you learn about clicker training?
When I was working with a rescue group, I kept getting questions from adopters about behavior issues and training. So I did some research online and found out about clicker training. I decided that as soon as I had my own dog, I would try it out because it sounded like fun. I actually didn't think it would really work because it sounded so simple, but I wanted to give it a try before falling back on other methods.
Soon after, we adopted Norm, who had been living on the street. He was timid, and I knew if I ever raised my voice to him this dog I would lose his trust forever. So I ordered a clicker and Getting Started: Clicker Training for Dogs. I loaded up the clicker and Norm knew immediately what it meant. I was blown away. It completely exceeded my expectations. I was asking my dog to do things, and he was figuring out what I was saying. We were communicating. More importantly, every time I took out the clicker, he got so excited. He was a very good boy, but had things been different, if he had had behavioral issues, I know we could have solved them with the clicker. And I know we can do the same for so many other pets who need homes.
Your pet is out there! Bring him home with the help of 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com.