It used to be that lost dogs or those needing new homes didn't have all that many resources. Good Samaritans put up flyers on telephone poles or hoped that people would visit the animal shelter.
But with the amazing reach of social media now, dogs have many more options. They can tell their stories with glamour shots, videos and thoughtful bios. Even beyond that, shelters are partnering with community business in ingenious ways to get the word out. Think beer cans and pizza boxes.
A New York pizza shop is working with a local rescue group to help find dogs more homes. When people order a pie from the Just Pizza & Wing Co. franchise in Amherst, New York, they'll find an adorable canine face staring at them from the box.
The pizza shop is working with the Niagara Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), taping flyers of adoptable dogs to the top of pizza box lids.
The program started when SPCA event coordinator Kimberly LaRussa reached out to franchise owner Mary Alloy with the idea. Alloy volunteers at the SPCA and is a big animal lover.
"We are always coming up with fun and unique ways to promote our shelter animals here," LaRussa tells MNN. "Just Pizza is a phenomenal supporter of the SPCA. I reached out to [Mary] and said 'What do you think of promoting our shelter animals this way?'"
Everyone agreed it was a great plan. Because the pizza shop typically sells about 300 pizzas over a weekend, that's how many flyers LaRussa printed featuring the 20 adoptable dogs they had looking for homes.
The puppy-tagged pizza boxes started flying out the door on Friday afternoon. The word spread about the dogs, and by Monday, two of the pups were adopted.
"We really weren't expecting it to happen so fast," LaRussa says. "We're going to have to keep printing more ... and add cats to the mix too!"
Social media and community outreach like this is key to getting animals adopted, LaRussa says.
"I don't know how animals were adopted back in the day before we had social media and video when we could tell their stories. It puts the animals in a different light," she says.
"When you come to the shelter the dogs are barking and jumping. But the moment you take them outside, they are an entirely different dog that wants to put its head in your lap or go for a walk or catch a ball. Putting them in a different light, like on the pizza boxes, shows people who they really are."
Helping homeless dogs with beer cans
Every month, Motorworks Brewery in Bradenton, Florida, holds a "yappy hour" for pups to spend time on the outdoor patio with their owners. The brewery also works with pet-related nonprofits to raise money throughout the year.
In one of their brainstorming sessions, someone suggested that they do a limited-edition beer can for dogs like they had in the past to raise money for breast cancer research.
So Candy, Day Day, Morton and King from Manatee County Animal Services were dressed in their finest bandannas, posed for some handsome photos and starred in their very own Kölsch four-pack.
Not long after the cans debuted, Morton and King were adopted, Barry Elwonger, Motorworks' director of sales and marketing, tells MNN. And all the attention helped 40 dogs get adopted since the campaign went viral. In addition, all the profits from the sales have gone to the shelter.
But all the publicity from the campaign was especially exciting for Day Day.
A woman named Monica who lives in Minnesota was reading about the campaign online. When she saw the photos, she realized that Day Day was really her dog Hazel, who had disappeared three years earlier when she lived in Iowa.
Hans Wohlgefahrt of Manatee County Animal Services took Hazel on an almost 1,700-mile drive to be reunited with his mom — all thanks to a beer can.
With Day Day/Hazel finding her way home and Morton and King getting new families, only Candy needs a new home from the original quartet. To help her out, the brewery plans another special limited-edition beer can — this time featuring six dogs, including Candy.
"We're just absolutely humbled by how far it got. We love animals and it was definitely a really, really cool project," Elwonger says. "Dogs are getting adopted. People are thinking about rescues. Money is getting raised. We couldn't be happier."