Smartphone Ethnography: PetSmart Adoption Event

My first stop (my home didn’t really count) for smartphone ethnography was an adoption event at PetSmart.

PetSmart and PetSmart Charities give grants to Adoption Partners and allow them to hold adoption events in store. When you hear someone say they adopted a pet from PetSmart, they actually adopted from one of their partners, usually a rescue, not the store itself.

I used to help at adoption events twice a month before I started school. The Humane Society I helped would bring the cats Saturday morning and stay until the store closed. The cats would sleep overnight in the store, then we would clean up Sunday morning and stay until the afternoon to pack up and take the cats back to the shelter. This proved difficult for volunteers; the shelter was over 2 hours away, so the drive was split halfway between someone from that area and Northern VA, meaning the cats took quite the drive. Also, sitting at the PetStore for 15+ hours a weekend could be draining, and monopolized your entire weekend.

In the end, adoption weekends ceased because adoptions were low. There weren’t enough adoptions to justify the long drive, and scheduling volunteers to spend entire weekends at the store.

This particular weekend, the Humane Society was helping a local Animal Hospital adopt cats that people had been bringing to their office. Since it was the first weekend back in months, there were only six cats available for adoption. Three were adopted, including my two fosters Nemo and Dory.

People had apparently noticed the Humane Society’s absence from weekends at PetSmart. The Director had received messages on Facebook asking where we’d been. Staff stopped to welcome us back, and customers that would make visiting our available cats part of their shopping trip said they were happy to see us again.

It’s a nice feeling, knowing that the weekend adoption events made the Humane Society a noteworthy part of the community. Unfortunately, that doesn’t equate to enough adoptions or donations to sustain being there every weekend. However, the Humane Society is considering trying once a month on Saturdays only, to see if it is worth it.


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