A New Approach to Adoptions at AWLA

A New Approach to Adoptions at AWLA

New Approach to Adoptions

People seeking to adopt animals from the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria may notice some changes in the shelter's approach to adoptions. By partnering with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to evaluate its adoption process, AWLA discovered that some of its previous policies and procedures were likely screening out people who could have been great adopters.

The new adoption process is designed to make it more welcoming and more educational for potential adopters. AWLA staff members are now trained to ask potential adopters open-ended questions that initiate conversations rather than depending on questions that have a defined “right” or “wrong” answer.

Katie Faxon, adoptions and community outreach manager, said, “Our focus is on good conversations and customer service. It’s about having mutual respect for each other." Volunteers are now assisting with the adoption process by showing animals to the public; this decreases waiting time to visit animals and volunteers can share their personal experience with the animals with potential adopters.

The open-adoptions approach also emphasizes working with people to solve problems and match them with the right animals for their individual situation. “I have been excited to see the many more adoption matches we can make when we eliminated the automatic list of reasons to deny an adoption,” said Faxon.

For example, a man who did not have a permanent residence came to the shelter seeking to adopt a cat. In the past, the shelter would have automatically denied his adoption because he was technically homeless. However, the staff talked to him at length and discovered that he drove a large truck across country and wanted a cat as companion. Based on the information the man provided, the staff introduced him to a cat who absolutely loves human attention and the two immediately bonded. He now has a riding companion — and the cat has human attention all day and night.

Studies have shown that people who are denied an adoption at a shelter generally become frustrated with the entire adoption process and turn to a breeder or a pet store instead. AWLA's goal is to build a mutually respectful relationship with people and help them to think through what it means to be responsible for a pet rather than simply denying their adoption. Since making the changes in approach to adoptions in early May 2014, the adoptions numbers are trending up. The AWLA adopted out 224 dogs and cats to loving homes from May 1, 2014, to June 30, 2014, nearly twice as many as in the same period last year.