Saving Lives

Huge FIR Event Reveals Success of Conversational, Fee-Waived Adoptions

Results from a recent survey conducted by the ASPCA’s Research and Development team shows the power of fee-waived and conversation-based adoptions, with a whopping 97 percent pet retention report.

Huge FIR Event Reveals Success of Conversational, Fee-Waived Adoptions

Following a huge adoption event that followed a large-scale cruelty case, research conducted by the ASPCA shows the power of fee-waived and conversation-based adoptions, with a whopping 97 percent pet retention report.

The research centered around adoptions made during a mega-event in 2016 in Raeford, NC. In January the ASPCA assisted authorities in Raeford in seizing nearly 700 animals from an unlicensed, 122-acre facility known as The Haven. After weeks of nursing the animals back to health and gaining legal custody, the ASPCA held a mega-event in which adoption fees were waived.

The ASPCA’s Research and Development team found that 96% of dogs and 99% of cats were still in their homes. (By comparison, many communities in which the ASPCA works and provides support report a retention rate of about 85%.)

A conversation-based adoption process was used where adoption counselors focused on adopter expectations to make appropriate matches instead of adhering to stringent adoption policies.

The survey targeted adopters in the weeks following the event to ask how their pets were doing in their new homes, get their opinions about the adoption process and collect demographic information.

Survey Methodology

Designers of the study randomly selected half of the adopters; the other half was selected for a separate survey focused on specific behaviors in the home for use by the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team.

A total of 244 people (125 dog adopters and 119 cat adopters) were solicited for the retention-related survey, resulting in 57% of the dog adopters and 60% of the cat adopters responding. The ASPCA R&D team had set a response-rate goal of 50%, so the higher rate allows for an increased level of confidence in the results.

Adopter Demographics

Adopters were broken down based on different traits:

  • 56% had no children in the home
  • 44% had at least 1 child
  • 74% were female
  • 26% were male
  • Age range was 19 to 78 years
  • There was a wide range in terms of distance traveled to the adoption event, with the highest percentage of respondents traveling 21-40 miles
  • People were from all incomes levels

The majority of adopters said they came to the event because of a general desire to adopt/rescue or to help animals who were caught up in this tragedy.

The Adoption Process

The vast majority strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the all four of these statements:

  • The adoption process moved in a timely manner
  • I had enough time to decide on an animal
  • The adoption counselors were thorough in explaining medical and behavioral issues
  • I would recommend a similar event to friends and family

The vast majority strongly disagreed or disagreed with these two statements:

  • There was too much paperwork
  • The ASPCA pressured me to adopt

Acclimating to Home

The survey indicated an overwhelmingly positive response from adopters on how animals were adapting to their new homes. For both dog and cat adopters, more than 80% of all responders said their pets were settling in well.

The few responders who said their pets were not acclimating well said they expected a challenging transition and were committed to keeping the animal.


The survey showed a high percentage of adopters—78% of cat adopters and 59% of dog adopters—had not registered their pet’s microchip.

The top three reasons given for not registering microchips were:

  • Forgot/hadn’t gotten around to it
  • Cost
  • Animal is indoors only (for cat adopters)

As a follow-up after the survey, the ASPCA partnered with the microchip company and registered all unregistered animals.

Related Research

A Comparison of Attachment Levels of Adopters of Cats: Fee-Based Adoptions vs. Free Adoptions

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