For healthier adoptions and fewer returned pets, shelters need a more efficient way to connect with potential adopters and prepare them for proper care.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”
Interested pet adopters do not realize the importance of pets in shelters. A certain standards of their needs and lifestyle should meet theirs. And most animal shelter do not have the resources to let the interested adopters know how to ensure and prepare a pet's individual needs.
My research began with the goal of better understanding what people go through when they adopt a pet, particularly what factors contribute to unsuccessful adoptions and returned pets.
We conducted user interviews through story telling with a first time adoptee, her name is Hannah Un.
We also did a contextual inquiry with an adoption counselor and volunteer. In addition to that, I conducted guerrilla research by talking to interested adopters about their experiences with with adoption, and other volunteers about their experiences with people adopting pets at Underdog Alliance, Best Friends and more.
Melissa Soriano, a volunteer at Underdog Alliance & Best Friends in Los Angeles, taking hike trips and hanging out with sheltered dogs.
The most valuable outcome of our research was learning to see pet adoption as less of a transaction and more of a matchmaking process. Although aspects of adoption strongly resemble a traditional purchasing experience, healthy adoptions treat the pet as an independent party with needs and interests — rather than an object of transaction — and strive to form a healthy, mutually nurturing partnership between pet and owner.
Owners who have a lifestyle that fits the needs of the animal they’re adopting (housing, activity level, children / other pets) tend to be much happier and less likely to be returned from the shelter.
Most adopters come in with an idea of their "perfect" pet, but fail to consider if the needs of a particular breed align with their lifestyle. Advocating for the needs of each pet and helping adopters understand the necessary conditions for proper care (e.g. behavior, medical necessities, nutrition, space, etc..) is a huge part of the job.
Realizing that healthy adoptions were about aligning the interests of pets and adopters, we felt it was important to capture the journeys of each stakeholder involved in the pet adoption process:
After journey mapping, I have developing ideas to find solutions through storyboarding.
Today is Phoebe’s first day with Jenny. Everything went great during the day but Phoebe started acting peculiar.
Jenny Googles Phoebe’s behavior but can’t seem to find answers related to her behavior.
She remebers that she can access Phoebe’s personalized care plan online, which was created by the shelter employees prior to adoption.
Jenny now has a better idea of Phoebe’s behaviors and feels confident of the situation.
Easy access to your pet list and other features such as making appointments, donating, events and locating lost pets.
Step-by-step video and photo instructions to help teach your dog tricks from basic obedience like “sit” and “stay” to advanced tricks like “fetch leash” and “play dead”.
Every pet comes with unique needs and instructions for care. On the pet profile, you can access the care plan and review their responsibilities and reference to ensure proper pet care.
Buddy is as a concept for challenging attitudes about adoption, some interested adopters prefer their own interest in a specific type/character of dogs they prefer, not the wellbeing of animals. But to change that behavior through design will require a deeper dive into motivations and system-level considerations.
Preferably, I would have spent more time conducting contextual inquiry with adoption counselors and shelter workers, to better understand how resource constraints manifested in their work caring for the animals and facilitating adoptions. This would allow me to create a tool that reflects more of the realities in their daily operations.