BF: We’ve seen you explaining why you put two kittens in a
cage and call them Peaches and Cream. Tell us about that.
MA: Any shelter can increase its adoption rate by at least 10
percent by doing double
adoptions – especially
during the kitten season!
I always tell people:
Don’t put one kitten in a
cage. And don’t put three
kittens in a cage. Put two
kittens in a cage. Use
laminated cards and give
them names like
“Peaches and Cream” or
“Peanut Butter and
Jelly” or “Bonnie and
Clyde” or “Heckyl and
Jeckyl.” Then stand back
and watch as the families
When they take Pea-
nut Butter out of the cage, and Jelly looks sad, they can’t do it –
they just can’t separate them. So they’ll adopt the two of them.
And, speaking of returns, the lowest adoption return rate that
we have is when people adopt pairs of animals.
BF: How about adopting older animals who are harder to place
than puppies or kittens?
MA: It works for adult cats, too, putting them in friendly pairs.
And when you have puppies and kittens, don’t put them up
front. If you put them at the front, the older animals will never get
a chance. So you put them in the back and draw people through to
see all the adult animals first, and maybe one of these dogs or cats
will remind them of a childhood pet they had.
Another thing is to put bandanas on darker-colored animals.
Black ones are always the last to leave, so shelters end up with
lots of black dogs who all look the same. You need to break that
up with bandanas – red, green, yellow, and blue.
BF: What about the special-needs animals – the 17-year-old
cat or 10-year-old dog?
MA: That’s a little bit more complex, but it’s all in how you
sell the animal.
We had this little dog named Charlie, and he had a shunt disor-
der so he was never going to climb stairs. It just wasn’t going to
happen, and this was going to be something he was going to live
with the rest of his life. The staff had been trying for 30 days to
get someone to adopt Charlie, but the minute they would tell
Charlie’s story, people would keep walking.
So I took Charlie out and I’m sitting on the bench with him
and some woman walks by and says, “Oh, what a cute dog!”
And I say, “Yeah, he’s a wonderful dog.” And I’m talking about
all his great characteristics, and she’s getting interested. She says,
“Well, is he up for adoption?”
And I say, “Yeah, but only a real animal lover would adopt
him.” And she says, “Well, I’m an animal lover.”
And I say, “I’m sure you’re a wonderful human being, but this
takes a person who really cares about animals.” And then she be-
comes adamant and says, “I really care about animals.”
And I say, “Ma’am, I’m really not trying to insult you, but
Charlie is a great dog, and he needs somebody special.” And she
says, “Well, what’s wrong with me?”
All I did was get her to bring out her real feelings. She did
adopt Charlie, and she brought him back to me every single month
for the next two years so I could see his progress.
You can’t promote the negatives. You don’t just run up to people
and say, “This dog is 17 years old.” That’s going to be a turnoff.
First, find out if someone’s going to bond with him. Then find out
from them, “Just how much of an animal lover are you?” And
then you can really get into it.
BF: How do you
make the shelter it-
self more adoption
MA: Watch how
you display the ani-
mals. Don’t put black
dog, black dog, black
dog, brown dog,
brown dog, brown
dog. Learn from the
masters in marketing.
gives you 31 differ-
ent flavors to choose
from. They create ex-
citement. So do the
same thing with the
dogs: a black dog, a
brown dog, a white
dog, and a brown-and-white dog. Break it up so the eyes are look-
ing at different colors along with the different personalities.
The other thing to watch is how the shelter is laid out. When
somebody walks back to where the dogs are, and they all start
barking, it can be scary. So we have people sign in at the desk.
Then we call a volunteer or staff member to come out to the front
desk, and they tell the people, “When we take you out to the dog
area, the dogs are going to start showing off, and they’re going to
be barking and jumping up to get your attention. Don’t be alarmed
– they’re just showing off!” Then the escort takes them out to the
dogs, and they’re not so intimidated.
BF: What about how cats are presented?
MA: I’ve gone to shelters where I’ve seen a lot of literature on
the cat cages. People aren’t there to adopt literature! So if you
have all this stuff on the front of the cage, you’re just making it
more difficult to see the actual cat.
All you need is a small card identifying the cat – name and
age. Keep all the other information somewhere else. Then, when
someone is really interested, you can go and get all the details.
In fact, when you walk into a lot of shelters, you see cards on
“The lowest adoption rate we have is
when people adopt pairs of animals.”
“Put colored bandanas on black dogs to
help them stand out a bit more.”