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They say that beauty is skin deep.
Apparently, the same goes for cuteness, which is why the ASPCA’s Meet Your Match pet pairing program — designed to match pet and human personalities — has been such a success.
Since 2008, when the Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals became one of the first organizations to try out the novel program, they’ve seen adoptions increase 20 percent and returns drop from 13 to 10 percent.
Instead of bringing home the most adorable pooch or kitten to first catch their eye, soon-to-be pet owners who sign up for Meet Your Match are encouraged to choose based on compatibility.
Emily Weiss, Ph.D., CAAB, the ASPCA’s vice president of shelter research and development, wrote her dissertation on how to select and train shelter dogs for service work, which eventually inspired the Meet Your Match service.
For dogs, the process starts with a 15-minute animal analysis, which pairs the shelter pet with a color that corresponds to the animal's personality, persistence level and motivation to interact with toys or people.
Weiss — who own three dogs, two miniature cows and a llama — describes green as “the Donald Trump of dogs, the life of the party.” The nine “canine-alities” also include purple “couch potatoes" and orange “wallflowers.”
Cats, on the other hand, are judged based on “valiance,” or how they respond to new situations and environments. “Purple is less valiant, so when you take home a ‘secret admirer,’ ‘love bug’ or ‘private investigator,’ you may not see the cat very much at first,” says Weiss.
Once potential adopters fill out a 19-item questionnaire, they're matched with appropriate pets. For both cats and dogs, the type of breed is less important than you'd think.
“Believe it or not, while a Jack Russell Terrier is more likely to be a green than a purple, there are purple Jack Russells,” notes Weiss. “We’re looking at the individual dog or cat, not the breed. If someone takes home an animal based on appearance and breed type alone, they could go home with displaced expectations.”
Since the ASPCA makes their materials available to shelters across the country and even the world — the offering has made its way to Australia, the Netherlands and Canada — they don’t have exact participation numbers. But some 150 ASPCA locations across the country have implemented the Make Your Match service to help pets and owners find lasting love.
Of course, the secret is not just to find compatible personalities but to also set up realistic expectations for owners, so that the relationship endures.
“People often make decisions based on their heart and not their head, and maybe that won’t be the best match,” says Weiss. “The beauty of this program is that we can help shift perspective and set that person up with the right expectations. Love conquers all — especially if you have the right tools.”
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