This 104-year-old animal-rescue organization experienced a phenomenal 2012, thanks in large part to a successful and heavy social media presence. This was a big reason the center won the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ $25,000 Community Engagement Award. The award was given to the contestant that did the best job of getting its community involved in saving lives during the ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge.
“We primarily won the award due to our social media efforts,” says Dan Rossi, the ARL’s executive director. “Our staff and volunteers worked so hard during the three-month challenge to (increase adoptions and) post and share stories of great adoptions and other happenings going on at the shelter.” During the three-month contest, the shelter placed 2,176 cats and dogs, an increase of 533 animals over the same three months last year.
And things haven’t stopped. The ARL’s Facebook page is constantly updated with photos of newly adopted animals, fundraising events, funny photos, news items, wildlife preservation efforts, and dogs in need of homes. A variety of posts is crucial to maintaining people’s interest, Rossi says. All too often it is “out of sight, out of mind” on social media, so Rossi makes sure each of the ARL’s pages on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other sites are constantly maintained and updated.
All of this takes a lot of effort, but ARL’s staff and 500 volunteers step up. Animal-loving students from three nearby universities are often first in line to volunteer. They assist with online duties, walk dogs, help out at numerous special events, and raise community awareness about adoptions and the shelter.
This open-door shelter does not turn away any animal in need, which sometimes puts a squeeze on space. To ease crowding, the shelter relies on a core of foster families, who take dogs into their homes when space at the shelter is at a premium. Foster families allow the group to never euthanize based on time or overcrowding issues, Rossi says.
“We have had a dog that stayed in our care for over a year before being adopted,” he says.
The ARL’s foster-care program also enables special-needs dogs or those who struggle with the shelter environment to blossom in a home setting and get adopted much more easily. Getting to know dogs on a personal level really helps staff match them with the right adoptive families, too. And it’s working — in 2012, more than 2,000 dogs found new homes.
In addition to adoptions, the ARL operates a successful spay-neuter clinic, a low-cost health care clinic, behavioral classes, and community education classes. Having a strong presence in its community is key, Rossi says, noting that a big goal of 2013 is to break ground on a larger shelter right in the heart of the community it serves.
“We see ourselves as an urban shelter,” he says, noting that raising the $8 million to $10 million needed for a new facility is daunting. “But we are up for the challenge.”
The efforts of the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center to aid and rescue dogs inspired FreeKibble.com, a website dedicated to providing nutritious food to shelter animals, to donate 5,000 meals to ARL.