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Is This Going to Be the OKCupid of Pet Adoption?

Is This Going to Be the OKCupid of Pet Adoption?

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.

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Photo: Lachlan Rogers.

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8:25AM PST on Feb 7, 2014

This sort of a website may work, but I worry about the animals who are overlooked - the old, the handicapped, etc...

Sometimes when people go to the shelter itself to look for a new family member, they get picked by the animal and that makes it very special for everybody!!

11:20PM PST on Dec 10, 2013

I agree with Mandy H. There are good intentions about the idea, but it shouldn't seem like a experience. Too have pets treated like items purchased on the internet, discarded or neglected when no longer wanted, is worrisome.

9:05AM PST on Dec 9, 2013

This is a great idea however I don't think there should be options for coat colour or anything quite that 'cosmetic'. Sure I get that some people can't have a long hair animal because they don't have time to brush them several times a day and it's fine to say you want a new furry friend with short hair but picking everything right down to colour is a bit sickening. I adopted guinea pigs, I was looking for two major things a couple of young females and confident personalities (because I already had two dogs at home) with a preference for girls with long hair, I didn't care what colour or if they'd had a really bad home before getting to the shelter. I ended up adopting two short haired girls one of whom wasn't exactly confident but did end up adjusting well. Why did I adopt these two rather then finding piggies who fit my 'list'? Because they where the best fit, they lived well together, they could tolerate the dogs barking and the noise of the major road and most of all because they where the two that feel in love with me. They picked me. Being so picky means that you can miss out on your new best friend and even though both my first two piggies died of genetic causes I'm so very very lucky that I didn't pass them over just because they had short hair or where a bit more skiddish then the others. The two girls that I currently have where adopted the same way, they love me, they live well together and they're wonderful personalities I'm just lucky that one girl has long hair.

7:39PM PST on Dec 8, 2013

what we wanted and what God wanted us to have were 2 different things; we love her anyhow

7:00PM PST on Dec 6, 2013

Please sign my petition to the Humane Society of the United States asking them to change the laws to help rescue groups...these peep are doing this on a volunteer basis and using all their resources....I am hoping my petition can help in some way.

4:59PM PST on Dec 6, 2013

interesting idea as long as it doesn't work out like a dating site and the pet gets tossed from one person to another.

9:03AM PST on Dec 6, 2013

It's worth a try, but why doesn't any organization go after the root of the problem, and that is go after the people who breed or let their animals breed. We need to start making those people take responsibility for the animals they produce. I think everyone of them must have a breeders license and have to take back all the animals they produced no matter how sick or old the animal is. The shelters have to do this, so why not the breeders who are causing the problem in the first place? Anyone who adopts or buys and animal would turn in to an agency who they got the animal from so the government can make sure that person has a breeders license and they can find that person should the new adopter decides they don't want the pet and wants to return them in say 10 years.

2:11AM PST on Dec 6, 2013

I think the on line information about animals available for adoption is a good idea. Hopefully it will increase the chance of an ideal placement that will be for life.

12:21AM PST on Dec 6, 2013

I just wanted black kittens because black is hardest to home, and young is better for training. I really didn't like the feel of looking them over (some atavistic feeling of slave-markets, maybe) so I got the first one I saw and the one the lady said everyone overlooked. We are extremely happy together four years later, they make me laugh and are my angel-baby-demons, with loads of toys, 13 beds around the flat, a cat-balcony, two-tier stroller for when they go to the vets and ceiling-high cat tree dominating the living-room. Love them to blazes.

6:22PM PST on Dec 5, 2013

Adoption is never an easy issue, but I will do it until I die. There's so many furry small miracles out there in need of love, security and a home. As long as my head is where it should be, I will provide it. Wish I could win the lottery so I could help more!

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