INDIAN RIVER COUNTY ― From Aug. 23 to Sept. 19, the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County is participating in a national adoption event called Clear the Shelters.

This is the seventh year that NBC and Telemundo-owned stations are presenting their nationwide adoption campaign, in partnership with affiliate stations and shelters. Since 2015, the Clear the Shelters campaign has helped more than half a million animals find new homes.

The HSVB will promote 50% off adoption fees and other specials from Aug. 23-Sept. 19, and will host a celebratory event on Sept. 18 with co-sponsor Hill’s Pet Nutrition. More promotions and specials will be advertised through the HSVB social media channels, email newsletters, and their website.

HSVB Chief Executive Officer Kate Meghji told Hometown News that she relishes the challenge, and has increased the goal from last year’s 121 adoptions, hoping to adopt 150 animals this month.

In the first four days of this year’s event, HSVB did 18 adoptions, all during weekdays, which are traditionally slower than weekends. Should that trend continue, they might hit the ambitious goal of 150 adoptions.

“The first year I was here, it was a blast,” Ms. Meghji said. “Because I’m extremely competitive, I think that first year we beat everybody in southeast Florida.”

Before COVID, Clear the Shelters was a one-day event. In 2019, HSVB did 101 adoptions in the one day. In 2020, the event was spread out over a month to prevent huge crowds from congregating on one day, and also to allow the shelters to stagger their staffing for safety.

This year the shelter has more animals than last year, which Ms. Meghji suspects is also connected to the pandemic.

“At the beginning of the pandemic we put this big plea out to the community to adopt and foster, to get our population low so we could split our staff up, so we could keep our staff from exposing one another. Animals came in at the same rate as they had the previous year, but they were moving through very, very quickly. We managed to keep the population pretty low, up until about October, when the population started acting a little more normal. And, seasonally, we see more intakes in the summer. August and September are traditionally the time of year when shelters are the most full, which is why they choose to do Clear the Shelter in that time period.”

On the day we spoke, HSVB had 55 animals available for adoption, but those numbers change every day.

“New animals come in every day,” Ms. Meghji said. “We’re sterilizing a bunch of animals today, so every day there will be more animals available for adoption.”

There will be adoption promotions all month, some of which will be announced in advance, and some of which will be surprises.

“Each week we will do a surprise promotion, might be kittens, might be puppies, might be black cats. We will make surprise announcements throughout the month. The pop-up promotions may be fee waived, or adopt one and get one free, to help get as many animals adopted as possible.”

In past years, some have worried that such adoption events where the goal is to get as many animals out of the shelter as possible could potentially lead to a loosening of normal adoption standards, especially regarding screening for suitable homes. Ms. Meghji says the data have proven that wrong.

“I have no concern with that. I’ve never seen that be the case in all the years I’ve done Clear the Shelter or similar promotions. And there’s a lot of national data that has disproven that concern. And our adoption return rates during these type of events is no different than any other time of year, about 4%. The attachment level that people feel for animals they get for free or a discount at these events is the same as if they paid a full adoption fee.”

“The national return average is between 7-11%. The first year I was here it was 7%. For the past year it has been 4%.”

While there will be specials and promotions all month long, the HSVB will hold a celebratory event on Sept. 18, the day before the month-long event ends.

“That’s the day that one of our presenting sponsors, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, will have celebrations across the country. We’re going to do something with them but I’m not prepared to say what that is yet. It will probably be a really cool adoption event to finish the month out and celebrate how many animals got adopted.”

The Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County is located at 6230 77th St., Vero Beach. For more information, visit www.hsvb.org or call (772) 388-3331.

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