Public relations in animal rescue is vital to an organization’s success. It may be a low priority on the totem pole but building a relationship with the community brings in more adopters,
volunteers, and donors. Animal rescues and shelters need to build a strong rapport with their
community to create change and achieve goals.
In the past, shelters have used tactics such as photos and videos of sad, starving, abused, or
mangled animals in attempt to gather support and donations. Animal rescue tugs at people’s
heartstrings, and understandably, the public would quickly turn the page of the magazine or
change the television channel upon seeing these images.
Supporters, volunteers, and donors do not need to see the dark and awful places some
rescued animals come from. They would prefer to view images of happy, healthy animals,
such as adopted animals thriving in homes or medical and behavioral rehabilitation success
stories. We all want to make a difference, and seeing hard evidence of this encourages further
support. Tangible proof that money or time is helping animals blossom helps individuals decide
where to allocate their valuable resources.
While small municipal shelters or rescues may not have the ability to employee a public relations
individual or team, everyone in an organization can be aware of how they communicate with the
public and share positive messages. No one likes to be told that they are wrong, making the line
between rude and appropriate education very fine. Providing resources for low cost spay and
neuter and vaccines are helpful tools to assist with pet health and overpopulation.
Day to day interactions with shelter staff is vital, such as no-judgement animal surrenders and
open adoptions. Everyone has unpredictable life events, and sometimes breaking that lifelong
commitment to an animal is unavoidable. Judging and shaming someone who may already feel
bad will give them a more negative view of the shelter or rescue, and less likely to return
or utilize resources down the road.
Having an extremely long adoption survey or rigorous adoption
requirements only deters adopters. If someone wants a dog,
they are going to get a dog. If they come to a shelter, the
staff may be the important variable in whether they adopt
or buy from a pet store or breeder. Not everyone has
the same views on pets, and there are other options
of good homes rather than one set, strict standard.
Steering an adopter towards a more appropriate dog
for their lifestyle or making gentle recommendations for
a certain dog’s needs can save lives. Just because a
home may be different does not mean it is bad.
Prioritizing PR no matter how large a nonprofit
is makes a difference in attracting and maintaining donors and volunteers. Being more
aware and careful with public interaction
encourages people to come back.
Advertising with positive, impactful
content helps share the great, hard
work an animal rescue is doing.
Keeping an open mind and
being kind helps save lives.