When we started working on Sparkie a little over a year ago, we anticipated learning a lot about the operational and technological challenges facing animal rescue as an industry. But little did we know how much else we would learn - and want to learn - about other aspects of the space, such as the legal, regulatory, public health, and business areas inherent to animal rescue in general.
We therefore thought it would be fun to make 5 predictions - technical in nature but also covering other topics - about how animal rescue will evolve in 2017. We may (and probably will) be off a bit in our guesses, but we are excited to give it a try and compare our predictions to this time next year.
So with that, we present Sparkie's take on The World of Animal Rescue in 2017. Drumroll please!
1. Facebook and Instagram will continue to grow in importance to animal rescuers in 2017, while other social media outlets decline in usage
We've said this before, but perhaps no other sector has taken to Facebook as a 'one stop shop' quite the way animal rescuers have.
We have seen animal rescuers use Facebook for everything from posting available animals, to creating foster and adopter communities, to passing documents back and forth over FB messenger.
For better or for worse, we see Facebook and its sibling company, Instagram, only growing in importance to animal rescuers in 2017. Here's why:
- Facebook continues to advance its mobile capabilities while Instagram adds features that mirror other social outlets. Rescuers are pretty much constantly on their phones and so as Facebook has published - and continues to publish - more mobile-friendly solutions, animal rescuers will only come to rely on the service more. In addition, being as time-strapped as they are, animal rescuers are going to be more likely to take to a format they already know (but that has new features, like Instagram Stories) than to learn its new counterpart (in this example, Snapchat)
- Facebook will start to replace other web services, such as instant messengers and even search engines, for animal rescuers. Yes, you read the latter right. We spoke to more than one rescue that actually starts any info/content search first on Facebook and THEN on Google. We admit when we heard this we kind of got a little freaked out, but given all the information rescuers store on FB - and how much time they spend on it - we realized that this isn't, and shouldn't be, much of a surprise
- Therefore, it only logically follows that as rescuers devote more and more time to these products they will have less time to devote to Twitter, Youtube, Google+ or other social media sites. Qualitatively we know this to be true as there are many animal rescue websites we visited in 2016 that had either broken links to these social sites OR they hadn't been updated in over a year (while FB and IG are updated almost hourly)
2. Rescuers will start to embrace, for their own operations, some of the 'pet-tech' that pet parents (i.e. consumers) already use
Pet-tech is one of the fastest growing segments of the "startup" scene and for good reason: more and more consumers - especially Millennials - are willing and able to devote income to their furry family members. So the explosion of tech toys such as GPS collars, in-home cameras, and automatic feeding products will only continue to grow as demand grows.
As such, we expect there to be a spill-over of this technology into the rescue space for 2 reasons:
- First, many pet-tech companies are trying to partner with animal rescue groups to either offer them product for free in exchange for PR or to give them promotion codes to pass along to their supporters for which they will receive a cut of the final sale that is made. In other words, animal rescue is becoming a viable - and important part - of many pet-tech lead-generation strategies
- Second, the technology being developed can have a lot of direct benefit to rescuers. For example, take GPS collars (with 2 on the market today, Whistle and Nuzzle, which recently launched). While one might not automatically think a GPS collar in a kennel setting is needed, it's not that difficult for an animal to escape a shelter environment (and even easier for them to escape foster homes). So if animal rescuers can have the piece of mind a GPS collar affords, then it's possible they can be saved valuable resources down the line (in the case of an escaped cat or dog, time and $ associated with a search). As such, we foresee more rescue groups in 2017 adopting practical technology like this that will make their lives easier and operations more efficient
3. Adoptions go virtual (jn more ways than one)
As everyone's day is increasingly consumed with time spent online, we think there are 2 parts of the animal rescue process that will start to (slowly) shift to the online space: adoption meet n' greets and adoption applications.
- The Virtual Meet n' Greet. Ideally rescuers want to have an animal in a home (if they can) before the animal is taken from a different geography other than the one the animal will ultimately come to live in. But sometimes this isn't always possible (especially as animals in the US are rescued from as far away as Thailand and Kosovo). Fortunately the growth of video as part of existing social apps - and video-only apps - has offered a huge convenience that allows potential pet parents to see and communicate with their future furry kids. In addition, innovative programs like Maddie's Fund will continue to help rescues secure real-time feeds of their adoptables, like the cat room from the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, making it easier for adopters to suss out if an animal is right for them first BEFORE going to visit in person
- Simplified Matching and Applications. It's no surprise that at times rescuing an animal can be a lot of work for the adopter. Between finding the right match, filling out a different application for each rescue, and getting it all done in time to save the chosen pet, the process can be daunting. That's why we believe that some of the businesses aimed at tackling these issues (HowIMetMyDog, AdoPet and BarkApproved are some we know about) will continue to expand into 2017.
4. Positive Shelter Environments Will Be Priority
While not likely to be a major movement in 2017 we do expect to see more press around physical facilities moving towards friendlier, warm and welcoming environments that promote a more natural interaction for both the animals and potential adopters.
It's no surprise that animals in a shelter environment can behave very differently when taken out of that environment and placed into a quiet, stable home. And this is important because sometimes animals pulled from a public shelter by a rescue group may turn out to be more easier (or more difficult) than anticipated. Therefore, any steps taken to reduce the stress animals face in public shelters will slowly gain traction.
"Shelter architecture" is continuing to gain traction as a discipline and it has taken amazing shape in places like Animal Haven in NYC that recently underwent a massive renovation in 2016.
5. #AdoptDontShop will continue to dominate
Finally, and most happily, we predict that rescuing an animal will continue to grow as the preferred means of adoption in the US today, for a few reasons:
- Awareness of the horrors of puppy mills will continue to rise, driving more people to consider rescuing over purchasing from a breeder and/or pet store. The recent press around the Rolling Stone's expose on puppy mills - while tough to read - is a great start to bringing attention to this issue so early in the year
- Laws will encourage rescue over purchase. While it remains to be seen what impact the new presidential administration will have on animal rights, we are optimistic that states will continue to pursue their own, pro-animal agendas. The passage of laws this year in states like NJ that require 'pet stores' to only offer rescued animals instead of pets from puppy mills is an example of some of the innovative legislation being thought of to protect animals
- Rescue pets are cool (especially on social!). Finally, it certainly won't hurt rescue animals that some of the biggest pet influencers out there are on their side, as are several celebrities that have made it a point to rescue their furry friends versus buy them
What do you think the trends in animal rescue will be in 2017? We'd love to hear about them at firstname.lastname@example.org