I am looking for advice or examples of communication to use with adopters who are waiting to adopt their animal due to a spay/neuter surgery, dental, rabies vaccine, etc. We only have a vet at the shelter 3 days a week, so our adopters often have to wait 1-3 weeks before taking their animal home. This results in our Adoption Team having to call adopters week after week with little to no update. We are struggling with finding the right phrases to use so that we inspire confidence in our work but don't overshare our medical procedure.
Currently, our medical staff prefers not to share when an animal is scheduled for surgery, because they feel it gives them false hope since our surgery schedule changes "minute to minute". So we tell adopters we do not know when the animal will be altered but will call you as soon as it is done. We also require adopters to schedule the adoption appointment within 24-48 hours once the animal is available to avoid artificially extending their length of stay. So, we call adopters when the animal is ready and since they haven't heard any approximation of when the animal is going to be ready they have scheduled vacations, work meetings, etc and cannot come within the 48 hours.
Please help us!
We have a very similar situation at my shelter, we have customers "pre-adopt" prior to surgeries and then ask customers to pick up within two business days. Our current turnaround for spay and neuter surgeries is around 1-2 weeks but dentals take a bit longer.
We used to have staff calling adopters weekly but we inevitably had people who wouldn't get our message and would just see that we called and come rushing in only to be upset that their pet wasn't ready to go. It took a lot of staff time and seemed to just build frustration for customers that we'd be calling them with non-updates so we stopped that and now only call once their pet is ready to go or if there is some other sort of large update for them.
We use a waiver to help cover all of this, it outlines that they'll be contacted when the animal is able to go home but that we can't guarantee when that is. We recently updated it to list out what days they could pick up depending on the day the receive our call to help eliminate the guesswork of what we mean by a business day (since we operate different hours than most businesses). It also has a line that makes them aware that they can pre-authorize someone to pick up their pet for them and sign the remaining paperwork, and we have a spot at the bottom for them to provide that person's name and phone number. Since adding that we've had better luck with getting people to come in within our two business day limit.
The waiver is still being updated as we keep finding new tweaks to verbiage so I don't have one that I can share but these are the two parts of the waiver that seem to have helped us the most.
Thank you so much for your help! Would you be willing to share your waiver with us?
Why not do foster to adopt? Gets the animal out of the shelter and into a home faster, the animal is still owned by you until it can be altered, then schedule the surgery when convenient for foster and vet. This is what we started to do to shorten length of stay, plus they will know if the animal is a good fit for their home before committing.
We have done foster to adopt in the past but it becomes extremely difficult to get the adopters to bring the animal back in and we get a ton of resistance on our vetting techniques, i.e. the adopters want to bring the animal to their own vet.
I should also mention that our city mandates animals are altered before being adopted from us.
Can you allow the adopter to take the animal to their own vet? If they are willing to pay the money for that surgery, and will provide proof it was done, that may help you. Alternately, a voucher system for them to get the vet care done by that outside vet which would cut down delays.
At our shelter, if an animal needs a “special” surgery (basically anything besides spay/neuter), they are allowed to go home with the adopter as a pre-adopt right away, and we call to schedule their surgery appt when we are ready for them. If animal only needs spay/neuter, we keep them at the shelter for that, because those are what we have a harder time with compliance on.
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