Offering Incentives For Adoptions; Great Idea or Potential Disaster?

Lately I've been hearing about shelters offering incentives to staff and volunteers based on the number of adoptions they make.  Could this be a great way to find homes for more shelter animals, or would it foster unhealthy competition among shelter workers?

Here's my take on it.  As a shelter volunteer my main role is adoption counseling.  READ: Adoption Counseling.  I endeavor to make a good match between a homeless dog or cat and a potential adopter. It doesn't need to be the most perfect match, I'm not sure perfect matches even exist.  But a good match, a responsible match, can and should be made for the good of the animal and the adopter.

Isis playing ball.  Believe me, Siberian Huskies are NOT for everyone! The few times we've had them at the shelter, I've thoroughly discussed the challenges with potential adopters!
Personally, I don't need "incentives" to do the right thing by the cats and dogs in my care.  I worry that if incentives are offered based on the number of adoptions made, some shelter staff or volunteers will feel compelled to become pushy with adopters in an attempt to rack up adoptions.  In doing so they may lose site of the need to make a good match between pet and adopter.  Pet adoption should not be about pushing dogs and cats out the door like cattle.  The attributes and lifestyle needs of both the animal and the potential adopter should be considered.

Shelters are increasingly under pressure from the communities they serve to increase adoptions and eliminate euthanasia.  These are worthy goals, but when shelters start thinking about finding homes for the animals in their care as largely a numbers game it concerns me.  If a shelter Director pulls her staff and volunteers together for a meeting and talks about how she wants everyone to increase their weekly adoptions, then offers incentives for doing so, that is worrisome.  What's  next, adoption quotas?  Doesn't it remind you of the sleazy used car salesman cliché?

Phoebe doing her movie star pose.  I adopted her from the shelter I volunteer at.  If an adopter is looking for a dog to go running with, lazy Phoebe would NOT be a good choice!
Poor adoption matches are likely to result in more pets being returned.  In my experience, once the Kennel card shows "Returned" as an animal's status, it often frightens people away.  They assume the dog or cat was returned to the shelter because of some horrible infraction they must have committed in their new home.   In addition, making a poor adoption match can cause a shelter to lose that person's trust.  If you lose their trust you lose them as a supporter of the shelter and as a future adopter.  One bad adoption experience will travel far by word of mouth.  Add social media to that and it will travel exponentially further and could damage the positive public opinion a shelter worked hard to earn.

This gorgeous, friendly dog was Big, Powerful, and super Energetic!  He'd be a great dog for many individuals or families, but may not be the best choice for every lifestyle.
As for me, I would not agree to play a numbers game.  The canine and feline lives entrusted to us are far too precious to let statistics get in the way of finding them a good, loving home.  The right home.

What is your opinion on shelters offering incentives to staff or volunteers based on the number of adoptions they make?  Has anyone experienced this type of model in a shelter or rescue, and if so what was the impact on adoptions, returns, and public opinion?  Please leave a comment and weigh in on this concept, I'd like to know what you all think!

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Unknown said...

Great post! I don't agree with incentives to raise a shelter's numbers. I worked in a shelter for a year, and I know that when it comes to animal adoption, it's all about quality over quantity. It's rough on a dog to be returned or bounced from home to home, and even worse for the dog to be put in a dangerous or bad living situation. By trying to push adoptions with less regard for the animal's well-being, they might end up a lot worse off.

I'd love to hear what others think about this!!

Unknown said...

Really good post and topic, Cathy. Thanks! I don't think it's a good idea; makes me very nervous when competition enters into something so sensitive and critical for these animals. I also think it depends on the way it's presented to the staff/volunteers and that would be dependent upon the kind of person running the shelter. Is it coming from a good place, where the needs of the animal are still the top priority? If yes, and a shelter comes up with creative ways to adopt more animals, then good for them.

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

Thanks for weighing in on this, I agree that it's quality before quantity. Thanks for stopping by!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

Thanks for your input on this, Jody. Yes, definitely want to encourage creative ways to increase adoptions while maintaining the integrity of those adoptions. Thanks for stopping by the blog today!

Unknown said...

I agree with you. These are all great points! I would think this will just create an unhealthy competition, with less concern for where these pets end up, which is not good! Great job by thoroughly discussing the husky breed with potential adopters! They are definitely not for everyone!
ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

Thanks Jenna! I appreciate your comments, the unhealthy competition is what concerns me. I have discussed Husky requirements extensively when we've had them in our shelter. People are surprised at some of the Husky attributes like needing LOTS of exercise and their ability to jump a fence. Thanks for stopping by!

Unknown said...

I agree with you! Although I completely understand incentivizing workers, I think that it could lead to negative results. A good match is necessary to keep dogs from coming back to shelters. Great post!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

Thanks for taking the time to provide your input Rachel, I appreciate it! Yes, although Incentivizing workers is important, linking it to # of adoptions could backfire. Thanks for stopping by!

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