Mary Champion's dog Bobby didn't like to be left alone. The beagle and a Jack Russell terrier mix would stand at the door barking whenever Champion left her Cape May Court House home.
So, Champion and her fiance booted up their computer and went looking for a new dog to keep Bobby company.
These days, the hunt for a new pet is often a high-tech outing, with pet adoption groups creating their own websites and Facebook presentations to help prospective owners find the dog or cat of their dreams without undergoing a long and frustrating search.
Since 2004, the Cape May County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center has had its own website and also has been using Petfinder. The group launched its Facebook site 18 months ago, said Judy Davies-Dunhour, the center's manager.
The Web not only enables the shelter to reach out to people outside of the Cape May area, it also makes it easier for would-be pet owners to easily find the type of animal they are interested in, she said.
Annually, the county shelter adopts out about 1,200 animals, about five times as many cats as dogs.
"When you put a description in Petfinder, let's say for example, we put in a certain breed, like Chihuahua, St. Bernard or Persian, there are people, rescues and private people, who have a search set up, like a Google alert, so in the event that those words appear anywhere, they're alerted. The information comes to them," said Davies-Dunhour.
People from as far away as Virginia and New York have adopted animals from the center because of Petfinder, Davies-Dunhour said.
Having a broad presence on the Web also lets the group disseminate as much information as possible about itself.
The group's website is geared toward county residents and is informational. It includes specifics about adoption fees, what adoptions include and when the local rabies clinic will be held, Davies-Dunhour said.
"Facebook is the personality of the shelter. I post on Facebook if there is a particular animal that is really in need of a home. I recently posted that we have a 15-year-old shepherd mix that came in," said Davies-Dunhour. "It is more of a personal touch to the shelter. You get an idea of what's important to us, based on our Facebook page. The ripple effect of Facebook is amazing."
Fourteen years ago, Lynnette Miller adopted two cats and a dog the old-fashioned way, by heading down to her local animal shelter. The first time she saw the animals is when she spotted them in person at the shelter.
In recent years, one cat and the dog died, leaving her with only one indoor-outdoor cat. She didn't like that.
"I wanted a fat, old, lap cat, who was just going to love me, hang out and just be grateful for a home and not give me too much trouble," said Miller, 51, of Galloway Township.
Miller started researching by breed, looking for the more people-friendly cats. She stumbled upon Petfinder during a Google search.
At Petfinder, some of the agencies list the personalities of the animals. Miller and her youngest son printed pictures of the cats they were interested in and took photos with them on a visit to Cape-Atlantic Citizens Altering the Strays (C.A.T.S.) of Ocean City. She adopted two cats, Schultz and Mixer.
Cape-Atlantic C.A.T.S. is a private cat rescue organization that adopts out 300 cats annually, 70 percent through the Internet.
"You can find out, the cats we were looking at, do they need to be in a home with no other pets or children. All those criteria, that I know I was looking for, I can just scan through all those adorable little faces on Petfinder and pick out the ones that we liked," said Miller, who added looking for a pet now was completely different and incredibly convenient compared to 14 years ago. "It's a lot of time saving and saved a lot of trips back and forth."
Champion also found out how easy it was to narrow down a pet search by going online.
The 26-year-old wanted a female dog between the ages of 1 and 4. She knew she'd found what she was looking for when she saw a photo of a dog named Sadie.
Sadie was described at the Petfinder listing as being an energetic dog, who would be at home with another dog. It also said Sadie had lived in other homes, but Champion and her fiance Lonni Creamer, weren't put off. She adopted the dog from Atlantic County Canines in Egg Harbor Township.
Atlantic County Canines is a small, private animal rescue group, that adopts out 30 dogs annually, 90 percent through the Internet.
"Sadie is definitely a product of Petfinder," said Champion, who added she became Facebook friends with Atlantic County Canines after she adopted her dog.
Animal Outreach of Cape May County, a no-kill private shelter and rescue group, has been using Petfinder.com for about 12 years.
The group adopts out 150 animals annually, said Marilyn Jones, the vice president of the group's board of directors. At least 80 percent of the animals adopted out by the group were found by their new owners through the Internet to some degree, Jones said. The group is opening an adoption center on Saturday in West Cape May.
It also has its own website - aocmc.org - and a Facebook page, said Ellen Shaw, president of the group's board of directors.
"Our website has all the comprehensive information about the organization. Facebook is used for the marketing and promotion of individual animals. All the animals are listed on Petfinder," Shaw said.
The group also uses Facebook to promote its events and fundraisers.
About three years ago, the Cumberland County SPCA in Vineland started using Facebook and Twitter, but increased its use of both during the past year, said Maria Spoerrle, the group's junior volunteer and foster coordinator. Last month, the organization ran a promotion playing off the "we have an app for that" catchphrase.
If a person adopted the featured pet, the adoption fee was reduced for that day.
"We see people come in and say, 'I saw this on Facebook,' or they will ask about an animal that is not on Petfinder, but that was posted to Facebook, so you know they are paying attention, and also, we are getting more people from different areas who are coming in to look, and you know that's due to the Internet, either Petfinder or Facebook," Spoerrle said.
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