It was nearly 10 years ago now that my husband and I had our first rush of baby fever, and did what most people seem to do when they aren’t actually ready yet to have a baby: We adopted a dog.
When we arrived at our local shelter, we instantly fell in love with a puppy who looked more like a meatball than a dog, and sat down to do the paperwork with the kind staffers, who asked us all sorts of questions about our social life. They wanted to pair us with a dog breed that would best fit our lifestyle, in an effort to reduce the chances of our soon-to-be fur baby being returned to a shelter.
It’s a concern most shelters take pretty seriously — though I don’t believe many have come up with such a truly unique and brilliant way to tackle it than the amazing folks at Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando.
At Pet Alliance, pets who are ready to be adopted attend “Pawgwarts” — just like Hogwarts, but emphasis on the paw. As such, each animal is sorted into a Pawgwarts house based on their personality, where prospective owners can find their match. (How cute is that?)
“The idea was born from a need for people to see our dogs based on their behavior and personality rather than appearance,” says Stephen O’Neal, Digital Marketing & Communications Director for Pet Alliance. “After some discussions with a few talented volunteers familiar with the Harry Potter stories, we thought it would be a fun and engaging way to feature our dogs. Our shelter manager and our behaviorist, both Potter enthusiasts, created the sorting process used on each dog individually.”
Considering the cultural powerhouse that the Harry Potter series has become, it makes sense to assume that most visitors to the shelter will already have an idea of what the four houses represent, and which they likely belong to.
“People come in knowing what their personal house is and are so enthusiastic about our Potter-inspired sorting process,” O’Neal shares. “And for those not as familiar, each kennel has information about the qualities represented by the house.”
The fun doesn’t just end there, though: There’s also a sorting quiz! Visitors can answer seven cleverly-phrased questions to learn more about which dog breed is a good fit for their home. According to the online quiz, research has actually proven that visual identification of dog breeds is incorrect more than 70 percent of the time. That’s why Pet Alliance says it’s joined other progressive shelters from around the country in removing breed labels from their shelter.
As you might imagine, the Pawgwarts program has been a huge hit so far.
“We have seen a definitive increase in people visiting our shelter as well as a realized increase in adoptions by about 10 percent over last year at this time,” O’Neal tells Babble. “With nearly 30,000 people taking the ‘sorting quiz’ online, we have also had a 40 percent increase in website traffic since the initiative launched three weeks ago.”
The shelter plans to continue this tactic, which O’Neal shares is actually part of a larger project that began back in January with the launch of Pet Alliance’s Pet Apartment Registry. By May, the shelter had removed breed labels from kennel cards and more recently, the addition of Pawgwarts has allowed the shelter to fully showcase the dogs based on their individual personalities and behavior, rather than their breed.
“Combined, these efforts will increase places for all dogs to reside, reduce the number of surrenders based on ‘breed’ and increase the number of adoptions,” O’Neal says.
Honestly, I think this is a pretty genius idea — not only because it taps into out collective love of all things Harry Potter, but also because it’s saving dogs’ lives in a clever and unique way.
Well done, Pet Alliance!