18 June 2014

iAdopt Unveiled - An interview with OSPCA's Tanya Firmage

Terri Perrin
InfoStream Staff Writer

Tanya Firmage

In 2013, the Ontario SPCA launched iAdopt, a new year-round, adoption campaign. This avant-garde campaign was nominated as a 2014 Innovation Showcase for the Urban Animal Regional Conferences in April for demonstrating its ability to become an industry-wide and international initiative. Catering to all sectors of the industry, the program is available to everyone and celebrates collaboration and sustainability. 

 Infostream staff writer Terri Perrin spoke with Tanya Firmage, Director of Animal Welfare & Operations at the Ontario SPCA, to learn more about iAdopt.

Infostream (IS): Before we get started, we’d love to know what ‘Pet Experiences’ led you to work in animal welfare.

Tanya Firmage (TF): I honestly believe that I was born with a natural affinity to work with or around animals. Throughout my entire life I have always had a multiple of family pets, each unique in their own special way. A love of animals is something that comes naturally to me and I have been proud to be their ‘voice’ through my work at the Ontario SPCA for the past 23 years.

IS: Animal shelters have been promoting pet adoptions for decades. What makes the iAdopt campaign so unique?

TF: The vision for the campaign resulted from a group of people having a conversation about how we could launch something similar to the annual ‘Home for the Holidays’ program. But we wanted to make it something that could run 12 months of the year. The iAdopt program had its soft launch in the fall of 2013, with iAdopt for the Holidays. It soon developed into something that was not just an adoption drive but also a way to engage people to talk about their pet adoption experiences. It is unique in that it focuses on featuring positive real life pet adoption stories as a means to encourage others to adopt and experience a similar happy ending. This is the first Canadian program that is intended to bring together people who have adopted animals from everywhere in Canada and get them talking. They participate in the campaign by joining social feeds – such as Facebook and Twitter – and start conversations about pet adoptions there. It is heart warming to read their stories. It makes us feel good about what we do.

IS: I understand that iAdopt is increasing pet adoptions not only in OSPCA shelters but across the province. Tell us about that.

TF: During the 2013 iAdopt for the Holidays promotion, OSPCA shelters adopted a total of 1,442 animals, surpassing our goal of 1,250. This reflected a 12.7% increase over the same time period last year. Including affiliated shelters across the province, a total of 1,836 animals were adopted across the province. In February, we ran iAdopt for Love. The spring promo is iAdopt for Spring. We are still compiling those statistics but expect to see similar results.

IS: How do you come up with the campaign themes?

TF: We are developing a series of unique posters and themes that will each run for two months. The people and pets featured in the campaigns are all real life adopters. The featured statements come from these same people. The fact that we bring adopters in to participate is exciting. Our marketing and communications team puts together the promotional materials for the program.

IS: You say you would like to see the program go national. Does that mean that OSPCA is willing to share the PR materials and strategies you’ve worked so hard to develop?

TF: We would love nothing more than to have others get on board with iAdopt. All materials are downloadable at http://www.iAdopt.ca for free. We encourage any pet adoption organization, from small adoption agencies to municipalities to contact us for more information. We also encourage them to ‘Like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, to keep tabs on iAdopt developments and theme updates.

IS: How is it that this topic was selected to be one of the four Innovation Showcase presentations at the Central Region Summit?

TF: Our program was nominated – not sure by whom – but I am glad they suggested us! I do recall having a conversation early on with Larry Evans, PetLynx Corporation, where I commented that I could see iAdopt being showcased at the Urban Animal Summits. At the time I was really excited and confidant that others were going to be as excited, too!

IS: Tell us about your Urban Animal Conference and Summit experiences. What is the most important thing you take away from these conferences?

TF: I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at the Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver Urban Animal Conferences this year, speaking about our high volume spay/neuter programs and the reduced intake numbers. Stephanie Johns, OSPCA’s Marketing Manager, presented the iAdopt program at the Innovation Showcase in the Central Region (Toronto).  I have been to several Summits in previous years. The extreme sense of collaboration in the room is important. When I think back to my very first Summit experience I recall that I never thought that this level of relationship building would ever be possible.

IS: What do you hope to achieve by being an Innovation Showcase presenter at the national Summit in October?

TF: Tonya Martin, our Senior Manager of Animal Welfare and Operations, will present on iAdopt at the 2014 Summit. We look forward to telling more people about the campaign, having them join in our excitement and get involved. We’ll have some phenomenal information to update following the first full year of the program. I am sure the Summit experience will, once again, be very valuable to the OSPCA and anybody in the urban animal community

Originality, dedication and commitment were evident in all 20 of the Innovation Showcase presentations featured at the four Urban Animal Conferences presented across Canada in April 2014. While all were deserving of the opportunity to present at the upcoming 2014 Summit for Urban Animal Strategies in Lake Louise in October, only two from each region were selected.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations Tanya to you and your team. Great to see the positive outcome for the animals and for pet parents. You are absolutely correct about the potential for this program right across the country.