2013-08-14 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Last month Nestlé Purina Pet Care Company announced it had completed the purchase of Petfinder, the largest online pet adoption website, from Discovery Communications. This is an interesting change of ownership for both Purina and Petfinder. The price tag remains confidential.

Petfinder is the homeless animal miracle worker. That statement is not an exaggeration. Petfinder.com (also Petfinder.org) is the oldest and largest online database of adoptable pets. At any given time it lists over 300,000 adoptable pets from nearly 14,000 animal welfare groups in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and beyond. As of 2013, the site has facilitated over 22 million adoptions. Pets listed on Petfinder include dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, small furry animals, horses, pigs and more.

The Petfinder website reaches a large and engaged audience of animal lovers and pet owners achieving more than 100 million visits each year. The site has expanded its resources beyond adoptions, offering veterinary and shelter care webinars, blogs and tips in marketing pets to the public, product promotions, such as the Kuranda campaign, where site visitors can purchase cotstyle beds for dogs and cats that will be delivered to the animal shelter of their choice. Petfinder showcases special categories like senior or disabled pets, and shares creative ideas that others have used to find homes for shelter pets.

Brownie (a.k.a. “Archer”) from WV is now a Brooklyn boy, thanks to Petfinder. Brownie (a.k.a. “Archer”) from WV is now a Brooklyn boy, thanks to Petfinder. This strategic transaction, Nestlé’s first major acquisition of a digital property, will allow Nestlé Purina to broaden its support for pet welfare organizations and strengthen its role as a provider of online pet-related information. Nestlé Purina PetCare company is part of Swiss-based Nestlé S.A., a global leader in nutrition, health and wellness. Before taking over Petfinder, the Company invested more than $30 million in pet welfare and pet communities, and touched more than two million pets in pet welfare organizations with its donations and support and through programs such as Purina Pets for People, Purina Pro Plan Rally to Rescue and the Purina ONE Shelter Pet Program (which provides pet food to animal shelters). Purina will remain a sponsor of Adopt-A-Pet.com, a placement database smaller than Petfinder.

History of Petfinder: Betsy Banks Saul and Jared Saul came up with the idea of Petfinder.com in early 1996 as a way to aid homeless animals. At that time Betsy was working for New Jersey’s urban forestry program while completing her Masters at Clemson University. They were not active in shelter rescue, but had skills with computers and graphic design plus a strong interest in animals. At first, the site was limited to their home state of New Jersey and was simply a labor of love. Demand and popularity led to rapid national and international expansion. Petfinder has always been a free service for shelters and rescue groups as well as potential adopters.

In 2006, Discovery Communications bought Petfinder which then became part of Animal Planet Media Enterprises, but was later moved out of Animal Planet and into Discovery Communications’ digital media group. Betsy Banks Saul was still involved with Petfinder as were many of Petfinder’s original employees. Betsy Banks Saul and Jared Saul are also founding board members of the Petfinder.com Foundation. On July 15, 2013, Nestlé Purina Pet Care announced the acquisition of Petfinder. Presently Petfinder has 19 employees.

Petfinder’s impact on our homeless pets: In 1996, Petfinder was a game changer. Having a Petfinder page increased adoptions for Babylon Town Shelter, other municipal facilities and private non-profits. Now dogs and cats were being advertised throughout the U.S., attracting loving homes from near and far. Dogs that would have never gotten homes locally were “speaking” to distant people because their face, name or breed touched a nerve with someone seeking a pet just like the one in the digital photo.

Early on, a Shepherd mix taken from one of the Babylon cemeteries appealed to a cardiologist because the dog’s haunting eyes resembled those of his departed dog. “Brownie,” a scared stray Mountain Cur/Whippet in Kentucky finally caught with a tranquilizer dart, found his way to Last Hope on LI. A young New York Daily News editor noticed the words “active” plus his sad story in his Petfinder description and called to inquire because she used to live in West Virginia. She wanted an athletic dog to jog with her in Park Slope. Sarah, the editor, rented a Zipcar to come meet him and another for his adoption. She has worked so hard to transform him into a city slicker. By taking long walks a.m. and p.m. in Prospect Park and employing Patricia McConnell’s exercises to alleviate separation anxiety, she calmed him down. Brownie (now named “Archer”) graduated from the dog walker three times a day while Sarah was at work to a park play group after he “aced the interview.” He is a Brooklyn boy and a long way from the Kentucky road where he was abandoned- all because of his Petfinder blurb.

The Petfinder computer filter helps prospective adopters narrow their search. Type in “Cane Corso” and every purebred and every mixed “Cane Corso” posted in the geographic range of your choice will pop up on Petfinder. We once had a determined adopter from Gettysburg follow “Moppet,” a “Beardie” mix from Babylon Shelter to Last Hope to her home in PA because the word “Beardie” confirmed that she was looking at the same dog that she feared had been put to sleep when the dog temporarily dropped off the Petfinder radar screen.

Petfinder, though an adoption tool, has helped to unite long lost pets with their owners too. Clicking on the photo to enlarge helps confirm hunches. Last year “Riley/Ranger” the stolen Border Collie mix from Mattituck spent four months at Babylon Shelter but found his way home because a family friend stumbled on his Petfinder photo.

Congratulations, Purina, on purchasing Petfinder. Please protect and preserve this precious tool that has become the best friend to millions of homeless pets.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Parker” a young Boxer mix #13- 352 does it all. He does sit, down, paw and walks nicely on a leash. “Granite” #3-265 is a six-month-old Russian Blue mix purring and playing machine. Take a look at “Bingo” #13-484 too. He is a leggy brindle Cairn Terrier mix that the police found tied to a fence.

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