Get Your Pet, a new pet adoption website, fosters direct re-homing to take strain off of shelters.
Annually, 7.5 millions pets are taken in by shelters. Get Your Pet (GYP) aims to drastically reduce that number by 2 million or more.
GYP focuses on direct re-homing by pairing potential animal parents with adoptable pets via profiles set up by their previous owners. With 2.5 million shelter pets surrendered directly by owners, GYP hopes to take a strain off of rescue facilities.
Angela Marcus, co-founder of the organization, combined her passion and experience to fill a void in the animal world. In her Mad Money feature interview with Jim Cramer, she noted that 1 in 2 pets are euthanized at shelters, largely due to overcrowding. Lessening the number of dogs and cats as well as other pets left behind at shelters can give more pets--like those who are strays or victims of cruelty cases--a chance at adoption.
Currently a start-up company, GYP gains its footing through nominal fees to feature or adopt a pet. Creating a pet profile on the GYP platform costs $10, but that fee is currently waived.
Interested new guardians pay $99 for a full adoption package, which is half to one-third the price to adopt from a shelter. The bundle includes one veterinary visit with supporting facilities, 30 days pet insurance with Trupanion, and coupons with industry partners. A portion of the fee is even donated back to shelters.
Marcus says that shelters have been extremely supportive of the GYP program because it allows them to make space for animals, saving more lives in the long run.
GYP is also working to end the stigma against giving away a pet. The group recognizes that some homing situations are no longer suitable for a pet or its human family, but judgment surrounding pet surrendering causes many to abandon animals in the streets or on doorsteps.
Through the website, wannabe owners meet and message with a pet's previous parents, à la dating apps. With previous owners able to upload videos, photos, and info about their furry friend, Marcus says it offers them a "peace of mind" in knowing their loved one is going to have a happy ending with a good match.
"Pet-Lover-in-Chief" Angela Marcus extended an exclusive interview with Wide Open Pets, answering questions from how it all began and what's in store for the groundbreaking company. Backed by six years of experience working for the Pennsylvania SPCA, Marcus has insight and a proven fiery spirit to help those who cannot help themselves.
WOPets: Do you remember the first successful re-homing that Get Your Pet facilitated? Can you tell us about it?
Immediately following the launch of getyourpet.com, I spent a lot of time at the largest open admission shelter in my area, the Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia (ACCT Philly). I spent hours talking one-on-one with people coming to surrender their pets with the hope that they would try getyourpet.com as an alternative.
Being an open-admission shelter, ACCT Philly is always full and pets are always at risk of euthanasia. Pit Bull-type dogs are, by far, the greatest at-risk animals in their population. One of the days I was there, I saw an older gentleman sitting in the lobby, filling out intake paperwork and it was clear that he was upset. I went over and sat next to him. I introduced myself and he told me his name was David. He went on to tell me that he had to give up his Pit Bull mix dog Coco, who was sitting patiently by his side, because his wife's dog kept going after her. That morning, with the grandchildren in the home, it had happened again, and his wife said Coco had to leave. I explained what getyourpet.com does, and asked if he would be willing to give it a try. He happily agreed (after a phone call to his wife) and we created her profile together. Within a few weeks, a local young couple reached out to David through the site. Caitlyn and her husband Adam met with David and his family, and they all knew immediately it was a match. Coco, now named Ruby, has been in her new home since then and is thriving.
For pictures, and more information about Coco/Ruby's adoption story, read GYP's blog post here.
You worked as the Operations Director at the Pennsylvania SPCA for six years. How did your time there influence the Get Your Pet business idea?
Had I not spent six years living and breathing the animal shelter environment, I never would have been inspired to create getyourpet.com. At the beginning, I was so excited to start my career at an animal shelter, because I had myself convinced that I would be helping pets and saving lives every day. While that may have been true, very quickly I realized that there were things I had not anticipated. I didn't expect to feel so bad for people who were surrendering pets. I didn't expect the helplessness I saw in the faces of the pets in our care, nor did I know that illness is everywhere in the shelter, despite our following the best cleaning practices. I didn't expect to be told that there wasn't enough money to treat a sick animal, and that euthanasia decisions had to be made so we could stick to the budget. I didn't expect to see good people leaving the shelter empty-handed because they didn't fit some arbitrary adoption criteria.
For me, these things opened my eyes to a harsh reality: the pet adoption system is seriously flawed. Yes, animal shelters are necessary for stray and abused animals that have no other option, but they should always be a last resort.
I was determined to create a solution. What if we empowered the people who love and care for their pets to find them a home without involving the shelter? What if people who wanted to adopt a pet could meet the pet behaving normally, without the fear and stress that occurs in a shelter? What if we could enable people to make good decisions based on the individual needs of the pet, instead of trying to treat each pet generically?
You mentioned in your interview with Jim Cramer of Mad Money that judgment often surrounds surrendering pets at shelters. Can you expand on this sentiment and how Get Your Pet aims to eliminate this judgment?
Before I worked at an animal shelter, I thought that anyone who gave up their pet must be a heartless person. I couldn't ever imagine giving up a pet that I had committed to caring for, so why should it be any different for anyone else, unless they just didn't care? This is not an unusual way of thinking about surrendering a pet, especially for people employed in the field of animal welfare. As a result, employees often treat people surrendering a pet poorly, judging them and their circumstance unfairly.
Until it happens to you or you've had an experience similar to mine, it's easy to think that a good person keeps a pet for his or her lifetime, period. The reality is that life happens. All of a sudden, you have a child who is extremely allergic to the cat you have had since your pre-parenthood days. Or, your job relocates you out of the country and you realize that country's six-month mandatory quarantine period would be inhumane for you to put your pet through. It has been my experience that no one gets a pet with the intention of giving up that pet.
As animal advocates, we cannot help pets without helping people. A little compassion and understanding can go a long way, and that's why I feel it is so important that we maintain a "judgment-free" zone at getyourpet.com.
Get Your Pet has been described as the "Match.com" for pets and their owners. Do you think this is an accurate term? Would you use any other relatable terms to describe it?
There are certainly similarities between the functionality of getyourpet.com and match.com. Two parties create a profile, and messaging occurs safely between them through the site. There are big differences, too. One is that we do not use any algorithm to "match" people with pets, but allow people to search and connect freely, though anonymously, with the owners of pets that interest them. With match.com, both parties are seeking a relationship, whereas getyourpet.com is trying to provide different, complementary solutions to two different segments of people.
I would say our business model in many ways more closely mimics that of AirBNB or Uber. This model is called the shared, or two-sided, economy: connecting someone who has a need with someone who has a want.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how animals shape your daily life then and now?
Animals have always played a big part in my life. I was the kid who was rescuing kittens, raising money for the local shelter, and begging my parents for pets as presents over any new toy or gadget. Not much has changed, except now my husband has to be the one to say 'no' to me. We currently have five dogs, one cat, and six chickens. It's a full house, before we even get to the kids!
What happens if a new owner adopts an animal through Get Your Pet but it doesn't work out?
If the previous guardian is willing, the pet can be returned to them so that other potential adopters can be considered. If that is not an option, the adopter can re-list the pet on our site for free. If there is an immediate need, then unfortunately, the pet may end up being surrendered to a shelter, but at least they had a chance with us, one they wouldn't have had otherwise.
We all know that no amount of vetting or references is a perfect guarantee of a successful adoption, but we believe that getyourpet.com's unique process of enabling the adopter to connect with the pet's guardian, the person who knows the pet and its needs best, gives the pet the best possible opportunity at a successful adoption. It is commonly known that between 10 to 12 percent of shelter adoptions don't take, for example. We have had about a half-dozen animals returned to their guardians out of over 350 adoptions, or around two percent. Still not perfect, but a big improvement.
Is there a Get Your Pet professional that works as a liaison between old and new pet owners?
Our goal is to enable people to transfer pets from one good home to another with education, but very little day-to-day involvement from us. In addition to our Tips for Adopters and Tips for Guardians, there are automated messages that walk both parties through the adoption process. All messaging on the site is monitored and we do involve ourselves if/when necessary. We also provide support via email and sometimes phone to guardians and adopters when needed.
How big is the staff at Get Your Pet besides the three administrators?
Currently, the primary staff consists of myself; my partner, Jeff; and our Chief Technology Officer, Brian. We have the help of the amazing team at Social Fire Media and our Public Relations consultant, Denise. Being a startup means working around the clock, with limited resources, to get the job done. And that's where we are at right now.
Get Your Pet is still a start-up company but is already growing. Can you tell us about the growth rate you've seen since the business started? How many pets have been adopted to date?
Like most start-ups, we experienced some hiccups with working out our process, initially. But since expanding nationally in June, we've helped more than 350 pets go from one good home to another. In September, our average was just over 70 new guardian registrations and just under 200 new adopter registrations each day.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We all know animal shelters are overcrowded and under-resourced, but not everyone realizes that one out of every three pets entering shelters is surrendered. In the vast majority of cases, it's because the pet owner does not know that they have another option. To be successful, not just as a business, but to save the lives of thousands of animals, we need all the help we can get with spreading the word about our service. Even if you don't need to find a home for your pet, or want to adopt right now, please consider signing up for our e-mail list to stay informed. Tell your friends about us by liking and sharing our posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Together, we can help pets go from one good home to another and reduce the burden on shelters/rescues throughout our country.
It's clear that the people behind Get Your Pet have big hearts and a big drive to make this world a better place for pets.
Do you know of a pet successfully adopted into a loving home through Get Your Pet? Share the happy store with us in the comments below!
All photos are successful adoptions coordinated through Get Your Pet. Photos courtesy of Get Your Pet.
WATCH NOW: Yard Bar Adoption Event with Wag in Austin, TX