What to include in your bio
1. A positive and engaging introductory statement about the animal to draw people in, even if it’s a generic one. Think of it as their “headline” (“This social boy is fabulous,” “Gorgeous Lily would love to be your new friend!”).
- Keep in mind that the first 200 characters of text will show up in an animal’s preview on the PAWS site, so make them count!
2. At least 2 more positive descriptions to draw adopters in, help them feel a connection to the pet, and learn about their personality: are they playful or a couch potato? Do they have a favorite toy or an endearing habit? Imagine the ideal adopter or home for an animal and describe it.
- Some basic questions to answer: How does this pet show affection and connect with people? What seems to make them happy/excited? What’s something cute or endearing about them that makes you smile? What would their ideal day consist of?
- For dogs: remember to include commands or tricks that they know. If we feel confident that they’re housebroken, now is the time to brag about it (if we don’t know or if they’re still working on it, don’t mention it – adoption staff will discuss it during application review)!
3. If applicable: a brief description of medical issues/needs (what they will mean for the animal and what they will mean for the adopter) using plain language for people who may be unfamiliar with veterinary terms.
- “Charlie has _____, which just means he’ll need ______ (a special diet, a daily medication, some extra monitoring at the vet, etc)
- Avoid overly technical language and be brief (ideally no more than two sentences total). This is not the time to go over an animal’s entire medical history and treatment – adoption staff can take care of that!
4. A brief description of special behavior or training needs that adopters should be aware of. Are they still learning important training basics or working on socialization? Will they need a lot of play or exercise? Do they need a more experienced dog or cat owner? Encouraging, casual language is critical for this section!
- For dogs, this is where we “translate” their back end behavior notes (“pushy – experienced owners only”) into positive, non-intimidating descriptions (“this bouncy guy will flourish with an experienced owner who can give him structure”).
- Keep descriptions concise – we don’t want this to feel like an intimidating list of problems! – and mix in as many positive adjectives as possible (“this friendly boy is working on his manners,” “this wonderful girl will be happiest as the only pet!”)
- Use plain language rather than shelter jargon, which can sound more serious than it is. Encourage adopters to see medical and behavior issues for what they are: manageable conditions.
- If a pet is hyper or untrained, talk about their training as something ongoing (“he’d love to continue working on his training with you!), rather than something the adopter will need to figure out for themselves (“he needs an adopter who will work on obedience training”).
- If we know that they’re treat or toy motivated, be sure to mention that: when you let adopters know what motivates a pet, you “build a bridge” between them and a potential adopter.
5. Whether they get along with/can live with kids and other animals. Remember to talk about the kind of home they can join, rather than the type of home they can’t join!
- “No kids” makes a dog sound like it eats kids for breakfast: even people who don’t have kids of their own won’t want a pet that sounds like it will hurt a child. Mention why this restriction exists without making it sound like one: “he’ll be happiest in a home with adults who can be sensitive to his age” or “he can join a home with kids over 12 who have experience with big goofy dogs”
- If they get along great with every animal and human they meet, remember to talk that up!
- For animals with a lot of restrictions (no other animals, no kids), try to work as many of them as possible into one sentence to keep it from feeling like a list of issues. Instead of “He is not a good candidate for a home with children. He is dominant with other dogs and chases cats, so he needs to be the only pet,” try, “He’ll do best in an adult home where he can shine as the only pet.”
6. End with a positive closing statement with a call to action. As with our opening statement, this can be generic:
- “He can’t wait to meet you, so fill out an application today!” “Come and meet this wonderful girl: we know you’ll fall in love!”
*Optional: How the animal came to PAWS (stray, owner surrender, etc). We don’t speculate or go into great detail about how hard an animal’s life was before being rescued. Negative details fuel the misconception that all shelter animals are broken or have a dark past, and feeling sorry for an animal or angry at past owners won’t get them adopted- a positive connection will!
- If the pet was surrendered, we share that info without saying or implying anything negative about the surrendering owner. Part of PAWS’ mission is to support and assist struggling pet owners, so that means that we take a nonjudgmental approach. When in doubt: “their owner was no longer able to care for them”
- If we know that an animal was with the same person for many years, that can be good info to share: it lets adopters know that the animal has lots of experience living in a home!
- Most PAWS animals came from ACCT, the city’s open-intake animal control shelter, where their lives are in danger when too many animals come in and space runs out. ACCT is PAWS’ primary rescue partner and they work very hard to save as many animals as they can, so we do not say or imply negative things about them. We focus on the positive; for example, we would not say the animal came from a “kill shelter,” but we would say that PAWS saved its life.