Friday, December 28, 2012

Meet Your Furry Match with the OSPCA

I've told you before how we are talking about adopting a dog once we get settled in a new home. To help me get a feel for the process, I paid a visit to the Ontario SPCA's Provincial Education and Animal Centre in Newmarket just before the holidays.  I met with Alison Cross, the OSPCA's Senior Manager, Marketing & Communications, and she gave me a tour of their bright and welcoming facility and introduced me to many of their beautiful pets.
The Centre was collecting donations of food, supplies and toys for pets at the holidays.
The OSPCA partners with Iams and is a proud participant in the Iams Home 4 the Holidays program. The Newmarket location had a goal of 215 adoptions for this year's program. As of my visit, they had reached 165, which is great, and I've seen a number of pets disappear from the adoption website since then (good news!), but there are certainly more still looking for a forever home.  Most of the animals at the centre come from investigations or animal control (strays), but there are many surrenders as well. Cats, dogs, and small animals are all housed, cared for, and adopted out by the OSPCA. There were even 14 domestic ducks there looking for homes when I visited! The average length of stay for an adult dog, once they are ready for adoption, is only about 10 days. (Animals are first assessed and treated for any health concerns, spayed/neutered, etc., before being released for adoption.) For adult cats it is much longer and can range anywhere from 1-2 months. Can I tell you how hard it was for me not to bring a kitty or two home with me after I heard that? Kittens are placed more quickly than grown cats, I guess due to the "cute" factor.

A really innovative aspect to the pet adoption process with the OSPCA is their Meet Your Match program. Alison describes this as kind of like e-Harmony for pets and their people, which sounds just about right to me! Meet Your Match is a program developed by animal behaviourist Dr. Emily Weiss, PhD, for the ASPCA. Essentially, staff observe and assess each cat's and dog's own personality and behavioural profile, then complete a profile survey for them. Based on this assessment, each pet is identified by one of three colours - green, orange, purple - and further classified into one of three sub-categories of personalities. Potential adopters also fill out a one-page survey, answering 18 multiple choice questions about their lifestyle and what they hope their pet to be like, and are then also assigned to one of the colours.  This process helps to create the best matches possible between pets and their new owners, resulting in the highest compatibility and the lowest rate of returns to the shelter.

For instance, I took the quiz, and I'm an Orange. So, when I visit the shelter, I can focus on the dogs (or cats) of my colour, knowing that I'm most likely to find a a great forever friend whose personality is a great fit within this group. No one is restricted to their colour, but if you are looking at an animal of a different colour, then the staff at the shelter can at least speak with you about what that means and how you may have to change your expectations. If you are looking for a couch potato purple dog because you live in an apartment and aren't the active type, then you won't be a great match for a green go-getter, for instance.

When you are ready to adopt, you can have a look at your local adoption centre's website for the selection of animals currently available for adoption. These listings are updated in close to real time as animals become available or find their new homes. Of course you can also just drop in during their listed adoption services hours. You can find your nearest OSPCA Adoption Centre through the alphabetical community listing or by entering your postal code at the OSPCA website.  

The first step in your adoption is to complete the Meet Your Match survey, either in person at your local OSPCA centre, or online. (Many OSPCA affiliates and municipal sites have also adopted this matching system to improve their adoptive matches, so you may find it elsewhere as well.)  Then staff at the adoption centre can help you to identify your colour matches and work with you to find your new pet.

The OSPCA does not do home checks or apply a waiting period for adoptions. There are adoption fees, which vary by location, and serve to partially cover the costs of care for the pets (including spay/neuter, micro-chipping, etc.), so inquire about these locally.  If you already have a pet at home, a meet and greet with your prospective new pet is encouraged, to see how they will get along, but isn't mandatory.

Iams is an important partner of the OSPCA, and they provide adoption kits to go home with every cat and dog adopted from one of these centres. As part of their partnership, Iams also provides nutrition training for centre staff, and, as of January, OSPCA centres will be exclusively feeding Iams formulas to their animals.

I have to say I was really impressed with my visit to Newmarket. When I walked in, my first sight was a sweet little black kitten named Percy, who was playing happily in his large room with a couple of the staff. Then at the reception desk I was greeted by a very friendly gal and her equally friendly dog who came in from home for the day. Everything was bright and spotless, and all of the animals I saw seemed very content. I've been stalking the website since then, looking for my perfect canine match. I'll keep you updated!

Disclosure: I am an Iams blogger, and a #PGMom, and my OSPCA visit was facilitated through these connections at my request. No compensation was received for this post. All opinions on this blog remain my own. And I really want a dog :)

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