Picking a new pet from an animal shelter is the right thing to do for a lot of people. And when it comes to matching up potential owners with new pets, Cedar Rapids Animal Care and Control runs well ahead of national averages.
Last year, the Cedar Rapids municipal animal shelter either adopted out or reunited 78 percent of all dogs and 39 percent of all cats with owners. Nationally, those municipal animal shelters reporting numbers could only find homes for 56 percent of dogs and 15 percent of cats.
Diane Webber, Animal Care & Control manager, said one explanation for the better numbers locally is marketing. Nearly every month, Cedar Rapids offers animal adoption specials with themes. One idea last fall was a “study buddy”—a shelter pet to keep students company while they studied. There was also a “feline formal.” That deal offered half price on adoptable cats with the black and while “tuxedo” coloring.
Webber said a lot of municipal shelters are looking for ways to draw in potential pet owners, rather than just sitting back and hoping people come by to look for a pet.
“I think municipal shelters are finding out if they want to compete with nonprofit shelters they’re going to have to do more marketing — get smarter about how they communication with their communities,” Webber said.
One potential owner looking for a new dog on Thursday agreed Cedar Rapids is a lot more active in trying to come up with ways to sell the pets up for adoption.
"We all hate to see animals put down," said Susan Spang. "I’m also impressed with how the shelter makes sure they find good homes.”
Webber said another issue for municipal shelters is the fact they must take all animals — strays caught by officers and dogs or cats turned in by owners. Nonprofit shelters can be more selective in which animals they take, which makes adoptions easier.
“Sometimes our population isn’t the cream of the crop," Webber said. "So to have those statistics and not have maybe what everybody is out looking for is still very, very good.”
And Webber said another reason Cedar Rapids is improving in the animal adoption rate is the old real estate slogan — location, location , location. Prior to the flood of 2008, the shelter itself was located off Old River Road SW, in a remote location by the Cedar River in southwest Cedar Rapids. It was difficult to get people to go there to look at animals.
The current location, just blocks from busy Center Point Road and Blairs Ferry Road on the northeast side, is a much more accessible area.
But Webber said something even better is coming in October. The city’s new animal control shelter under construction at Kirkwood Community College will have a better play area where animals and potential owners can interact. Animals not available for adoption won’t mix with the others the way they do now. Webber said she wouldn’t be surprised if the adoption statistics get even better.“Our new shelter is extremely people and pet friendly," Webber said. "It’s being built so it’s welcoming. They’re going to want to spend time out there looking at animals.”