PetRescue online adoption strategy a virtual reality

31/10/2014 - 13:55


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PetRescue has become the home of animal adoptions across Australia, thanks to its much-visited website.

PetRescue online adoption strategy a virtual reality
TARGET: John Bishop says PetRescue is aiming for 70,000 adoptions for the 2014 calendar year. Photo: Attila Csaszar

PetRescue has become the home of animal adoptions across Australia, thanks to its much-visited website.

A Perth-based not-for-profit group has used its online presence to significantly reduce the number of unwanted animals that are euthanised in Australia.

Animal adoption group PetRescue was founded 10 years ago by three friends who were determined to find homes for as many unwanted animals as possible.

At the time, about 200,000 cats and dogs were put down each year because pounds and shelters couldn’t find a home for them.

Since then, PetRescue has steadily built its online footprint to develop a network of member organisations. It now boasts the nation’s most visited charity website, with between 18,000 and 20,000 visits a day, and has 760 pet rescue groups across Australia listing animals available for adoption.

Last year, the PetRescue process facilitated 44,000 pet adoptions, 110 times the number of pet adoptions completed in its first year of operation.

Director John Bishop told Business News he was hoping to reach 70,000 adoptions for the 2014 calendar year.

However, the PetRescue team needs to triple that number if it’s to reach Mr Bishop’s ultimate goal of ‘re-homing’ 200,000 animals every year.

“Based on our current numbers we should be doing that by mid-2017,” Mr Bishop said.

“The reason why we’ve targeted that number is that it should stop the killing.

“It sounds like a very big number … but there’s about 600,000 pets being acquired (from breeders) in Australia, so when you look at those numbers, taking one third of that market doesn’t actually seem that unreachable.”

A key part of PetRescue’s success in building traffic to the site has been online marketing, specifically utilising a suite of Google products, including advertising.

In essence, the adoption of the Google strategies has enabled PetRescue to intercept people searching the web for specific animal breeds or breeders, and instead offer them the opportunity to adopt a rescued pet.

“Some people just aren’t aware that there are rescue animals available for adoption,” Mr Bishop said.

Google Australia’s head of small business, Richard Flanagan, said PetRescue was a unique example of startups making use of digital marketing, particularly in the not-for-profit space.

“They have seized on the fact that Australians, more and more, are spending a lot of time on devices such as laptops or mobile phones and they therefore want to be where Australians are,” Mr Flanagan told Business News.

“If you think about Australians looking for pets, they’re increasingly doing that on digital formats.”

The team behind PetRescue has expanded to eight part-time staff and Mr Bishop, who is the only full-time employee.

He was a winner in the 2014 Business News 40under40 awards and was also named Western Australia’s social entrepreneur of the year, alongside co-founder Vickie Davy, at the EY awards.

The pair represented WA at the national awards, which will be announced next month.

None of the three founders had any experience running a not for profit when they launched PetRescue and, as such, Mr Bishop said much had been learned in the decade since.

One of the main things, he said, was realising there was a lot of help available if you’re willing to ask for it.

“One of the issues we had was we knew we needed mentors, but we didn’t want to establish a board and make PetRescue too cumbersome,” Mr Bishop said.

Instead, the three founders formed the official board and a group of mentors were brought in to become an advisory board.



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