Adopting a furry member of the family can feel at times like seeking a new relationship: after all, you’re looking for someone to spend your life with, and you’re really hoping the two of you will get along. Sure, you find human partners at blind dating events and animal ones at the shelter, but on the surface, the processes are both very similar (only with less sniffing at one event…we hope). Now, what if you could apply the principles of online dating to pet adoption, and find some prospective animal pals through the internet?
Not exactly a novel idea — many shelters list their adoptable animals online and work with sites like Petfinder to reach a wider audience — but AllPaws wants to take it to the next level. They’re not just putting adoptable animals online. They’re also taking a look at what works for online dating, and turning it to good use for pet adoptions, in a site that will be launching soon.
It’s already possible to sort adoptable pets by species on most online adoption sites, and refinements by size and hair length are typically available too. After that, things start to get more…fuzzy. What if you’re looking for a cat who plays well with others? A low-energy dog who doesn’t need to be walked multiple times a day? How about hypoallergenic animals up for adoption? Do you want to be a hero and adopt an older animal who might otherwise languish in the shelter? Want to sort by grooming needs or temperament?
These are all more or less the kind of specifics you’d care about on an online dating site; OKCupid, for example, lets users sort by a wide arrangement of criteria to find their most ideal matches, allowing them to exclude people they know they wouldn’t be interested in. With thirty search filters on AllPaws, it’s possible to quickly narrow down the options in your area and develop a list of favorites to take to the shelter so you can do a meet and greet.
But is the AllPaws approach really the way to go? On the one hand, anything that helps animals get into forever homes is a great idea. And one benefit of many of the search features on the site is the ability to check for things that would make an animal incompatible with your needs or lifestyle. No more falling in love with a cute puppy and thinking you can “make it work” even though shelter employees warn you that the dog might not be the best fit for your life, and then surrendering her to the shelter later because you couldn’t handle her. On that front, AllPaws might be more successful not just at getting pets adopted and out of shelters quickly, but also reducing the number of animals returned to shelters, which would be a great benefit.
On the other hand, it also turns animal adoptions into something slightly like a shopping experience, allowing people to “customize” right down to coat color, which doesn’t sit so well with me. Animals for adoption are living beings and should be treated with respect, and it worries me that some people may see them as accessories, rather than serious lifetime commitments — much like those who flit about dating sites, looking for a casual connection. Except that unlike people, animals aren’t in a position to negotiate the terms of a casual relationship.
Photo: Lachlan Rogers.