Is that dog following me? A novel new animal rescue ad campaign.

New advertising campaigns try to sway people to adopt animals as animal rescue shelters face new challenges. 

Screenshot via
Barley, from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, is the latest star of the animal shelter's ad campaign, "Looking For You."

Either something strange is happening, or that dog really wants to go home with you.

The Battersea Dogs & Cat Home, an animal shelter in London, created a new ad campaign at a shopping mall that leaves viewers unable to simply walk away from the chance to adopt an animal. After being handed a flyer for the shelter, people are surprised to find that a dog named Barley follows them through the mall, from digital billboard to digital billboard, essentially begging to be taken home.

Many individuals have a weakness for puppy dog eyes, and animal shelters are capitalizing on the emotional reaction that furry friends can elicit. So how are adoption agencies doing, and is creative advertising resulting in more animal adoptions?

The clever interactive advertisement, called “Looking For You,” was created by advertising agency OgilvyOne, and was achieved by placing chips inside the flyers that were handed to passers-by. The chips interact with sensors and trigger videos on nearby billboards, creating the illusion that a dog was following the individual. The shelter said they hope the illusion will help potential adopters turn it into reality.

“Battersea rehomes animals all over the UK and beyond, and this could help encourage people to choose to rescue a dog,” Carly Whyborn, head of operations at Battersea, told AdWeek. “We're using innovative technology in a way that has never been seen before, and we hope more of our abandoned animals find loving homes because of it.”

They are not the only organization to get creative with their adoption goals. Canismo, an art campaign in Brazil, took multiple shelter dogs and used them to create 18 pieces of artwork. A video shows the dogs, covered in non-toxic paint, shaking their fur, covering canvases with an array of colors and patterns.

"The shake of the paint reveals a remarkable exercise of freedom, where each drop of ink bears the stain of prejudice. The combination of different colors in the paintings shows the mixture of breeds, as random and as beautiful as each mongrel dog," reads the online description. The art will be sold, and benefits the Procure1Amigo shelter.

In the US, there are roughly 13,600 independent community animal shelters. There are no national statistics for the number of animals located in shelters, but the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates 7.6 million animals enter shelters each year – 3.9 million of them dogs and most of the rest cats. Approximately 2.7 million animals are adopted annually, with another 2.7 million undergoing euthanization.

The ASPCA estimates that of dogs, 35 percent are adopted, 31 percent are euthanized, and 26 percent are returned to their owners.

In October, PetSmart Charities released a survey that showed more people are finding animal shelters to be useful ways to adopt pets. About 40 percent of respondents said they donated money or time to support animal shelters, an increase of 29 percent from three years earlier. And about two-thirds of those surveyed said they would rather adopt a pet from a shelter than buy from a store or breeder.

But here too, animal shelters may be facing a new challenge. NPR reported that as more people adopt from shelters, some shelters struggle to keep up with demand. The result is that many states seek to transport “rescued animals” from other states and countries, resulting in tens of thousands of imported dogs through a network of shelters and rescue programs. Connecticut, one of the few states that tracks the number of dogs transported across state lines, reported 14,000 animals came to Connecticut from other states in 2012. This often results in the spread of illness and disease.

“There are Connecticut-origin animals in our brick-and-mortar shelters who wait for homes themselves,” said Arnold Goldman, a Connecticut veterinarian, reported NPR. “And there is something disconcerting about that.”

Patti Strand, director of the National Animal Interest Alliance, said this new form of “retail rescue” has created a booming market for the rescue industry. She told NPR:

“There is a lot of money in this new kind of rescue that has emerged … These groups move dogs from just about any place that they can get them.”

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