Picture 4What a great idea: shelter pets for adoption, in a mall near you! What potential pet owner wouldn’t like a bright, fun, one-stop-shop conveniently located in their local mall, with helpful pet adoption counselors, adorable adoptable pets, and all the supplies you could need? With a grand opening scheduled this month, Found Animals and the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority in Downey have partnered with the ultimate goal to “increase the adoptions of shelter animals as well as improve the public’s perception of shelter adoptions. By highlighting the animals in a high-traffic, retail setting, we will reach that population who may not visit the shelter to find their next pet.” We spoke to Found Animals adoption staff (Director, Molly Stretten and Program Manager, Becky Haas) and found out lots for you about Adopt&Shop… read on to find out what they had to say!

Adopt & Shop
353 Lakewood Center Mall
Lakewood, CA 90712
(Near Costco, on the south side of the mall.)
Open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.

Official Grand Opening: April 30, 2011 – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Featuring $5 pet microchips, pet information,
and fun activities for the whole family!

Retail locations have been used by other organizations before, but sadly successes we know of have been far and few between. (For one success story, stay tuned for our upcoming interview and article with the wonderful Sante D’Or foundation and their cat sanctuary and adoption center located in a retail storefront.) However with Adopt&Shop’s innovative partnership and design, we’re hopefully they represent the start of a new wave of Adopt&Shop-like establishments spreading pet adoptions to malls across North America!

What is the goal of Adopt&Shop?
The ultimate goal is to increase the adoptions of shelter animals as well as improve the public’s perception of shelter adoptions, hence contributing to the overall mission of Found Animals – to decrease euthanasia of shelter animals. By highlighting the animals in a high-traffic, retail setting, we will reach that population who may not visit the shelter to find their next pet. Due to negative perceptions of animal shelters (noisy, sad, deplorable conditions, ‘broken’ pets), only 18 percent of pets are adopted from shelters.  We have a goal to facilitate at least 600 adoptions in 2011.

How did you come up with the idea for Adopt&Shop?
Dr. Gary Michelson, founder of Found Animals, has always wanted to bring the animals to the people, and envisioned replacing the older puppy store model (with animals from breeders and/or puppy mills) and replace it with a rescue model (with all animals from local shelters). Dr. Michelson and the Found Animals Foundation are determined to make a difference by using business principals to solve the problems of pet overpopulation and the resulting shelter euthanasia. The retail adoption center is essentially a pet store but with pets coming from the SEAACA shelter in Downey.

What’s it like inside?
Adopt & Shop is a fun and welcoming environment designed with the animal’s (and people’s!) comfort in mind. The 1,084 sq. ft. store will feature pets for adoption as well as carry all of the basic supplies needed for a new pet including food, collars and leashes, ID tags, bowls, litter boxes and kitty litter, al competitively-priced with the larger pet supply retailers in the area. Approximately 500 sq. ft. will be devoted to housing 10 dogs and 10 cats at any given time. More unique items such as eco-friendly toys and bedding will also be for sale. There will be luxury kennels for dogs, beautiful play areas for cats, and space to visit with a pet during the adoption process. Additionally, there will be an iPad kiosk on-site to showcase the free Found Animals 24/7 online pet care tools as well as pets available for adoption through other local shelters.

How many paid staff & volunteers are in the store daily?
At least two staff will be in the store at all time, along with several volunteers.

How do adoptions happen from the store?
The application process at Adopt & Shop focuses on the conversation between our highly-trained adoption counselors and the interested adopters. The conversation is driven by specific questions about the person’s previous pet experience, lifestyle, and desires for a new pet, but the adoption does not depend on the specific answer they write on an application. The staff at Adopt & Shop bring many years of experience from different shelters, rescues and humane organizations, and the adoption process has been developed using the aspects that we feel best predict the success of the adoption (for the animal and the person).

How long are the pets left alone when the store is closed?
The pets are left alone overnight, and we take great precautions to make sure that they are relaxed, comfortable, and entertained during the off-hours. Although it is not ideal to leave an animal alone all night long-term, we feel that it is an acceptable short-term solution while the animals are looking for their forever home!

When did it open?
Adopt & Shop launched on Tuesday, April 12, 2011. An official grand opening event is set for Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. During the grand opening event, a pet fair will take place featuring $5 pet microchips, pet information and fun activities for the whole family.

Where do the pets come from?
All of the pets will come from one of Found Animals’ shelter partners, the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority (SEAACA) in Downey, CA.

Did you have a volunteer or staff with retail experience that planned the design of the store, and the business plan for it?
Yes, although it was also a huge collaboration! The key to any non-profit opening an adoption center is to utilize the skills their staff and volunteers have to offer – and they do have a lot to offer!

How did you find the location?
We decided to focus in the direct vicinity of SEAACA in order to ensure the smoothest transition of animals from the shelter to Adopt & Shop. The exact location was stumbled upon while visiting the various malls and shopping centers in those cities, and it seemed like the perfect fit!