“Have you ever sat in a waiting room, waiting for your car to get serviced?” asks Lori Letzring, Manager of Pet Resources and Community Services at Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center (HCPRC). If you’re like us, you’re picturing fluorescent light bulbs, stale coffee and a lengthy wait. HCPRC’s strategy for the Get ‘Em Home Challenge made use of this time in a most ingenious way!
HCPRC wanted to participate in the Get ‘Em Home Challenge but they knew they couldn’t do it alone. “We needed some help,” says Letzring. HCPRC asked one of their longtime supporters, who runs a popular local dog magazine, to sit down with them and assist them in designing a strategy that would be both effective and sustainable for shelter staff.
HCPRC’s strategy relied on help from multiple local businesses, including 3 local car dealerships. The dealerships helped them promote the pets for adoption by allowing them to bring dogs into their buildings on field trips, taking photos, creating graphics and creating buzz about the pets on social media. They also involved local children in a coloring contest and held ROMPs (Receiving Meaningful Outside Play) for corporate groups and dogs with long shelter stays.
Visits to the dealership were a hit with volunteers, adopters and the businesses’ customers, not to mention the dogs themselves. “It just went over huge,” says Letzring. “When you take a dog up to a car dealer, you’re putting them in front of a whole new audience that our social media could not reach.”
The assistance with marketing was really helpful for HCPRC. “The car dealerships got really competitive,” chuckles Letzring. For example, Reeves Subaru had a special gift pack of toys and treats they gave to anyone who adopted one of “their dogs,” such as Marley. Each time a dog visited, the businesses promoted them on social media and encouraged their staff and customers to do the same. This was the key to finding a forever home for Marley, whose adopter saw her in one of their posts.
Taking dogs on visits to the dealerships was especially rewarding to volunteers. Having one-on-one time with a dog outside of the shelter allowed them to get to know them on a level that is often impossible in a shelter. Plus, says Letzring, “If you go anywhere with a dog, you’re the most popular person in the place. It makes people happy.”
ROMPing with Dogs
Each day, HCPRC held a ROMP for their longest-stay dogs. During a ROMP, each dog gets 15 minutes of individualized enrichment time outside with a volunteer. They do things like play tug of war, fetch, give belly rubs or even just sit quietly outside-- whatever the dog seems to enjoy. They engaged eight corporate groups in ROMPS and in helping fill Kongs for dogs and making cat toys.
In December, they invited the community in for a holiday ROMP. Local group Characters for a Cause attended and played with the dogs in their superhero costumes.
Engaging the Littlest Supporters
They held a coloring contest using pages from Maddie’s Tail Wag, a free coloring book for children that can be downloaded from our website. They took the coloring books to students during the Great American Teach-in. Two winners received $100 gift cards and plush Maddie toys. “The kids loved the gift certificates,” says Letzring, “But they really loved the Maddie dogs!”
“The Get ‘Em Home Challenge was such an important piece for us,” Letzring tells us. Participating and winning the Get 'Em Home Challenge helped the shelter convince their county administrators to fund an extra staff position! This fall, they’ll be hiring the shelter’s first-ever behaviorist to train and enrich pets’ lives. Their $7,500.00 prize has been set aside to use for purchasing the new behaviorist's supplies.
The most important thing they learned during the Challenge? “Don’t try to do it all yourself,” says Letzring. “Get friends, businesses, the local media or anyone you can to help you.”