Admit it; you’ve been trained. You wake up each morning, place your spouse’s, girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s slippers next to the bed for them, fetch the morning paper for their reading pleasure and get ready to greet them with a kiss, right? Take the hint and celebrate Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month with us at Trademark Productions this October! Because if you think your cat is going to do anything for you that we mentioned on that list…well, you’d be mistaken.

Now, there’s a perception that buying a dog for the household must be done through a private breeder. Fortunately, this is falling by the wayside a little at a time, especially during the recent recession. The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy released results indicating that 29% of owners surrendered their dogs due to behavior problems, 29% because of the family’s housing situation, 25% citing incompatibility with the family’s lifestyle and 15% due to the family’s preparation and/or expectations. This means that there are more dogs than ever who need a good home regardless of whether or not they come from a private breeder.

The first place folks may look to find out about animal adoption or local shelters is the internet and we’ve decided to take a look at a couple of sites and see what we like about them as well as what feel should be looked at in the future for improvement.

ASPCA: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (http://www.aspca.org/)

As the first humane organization in the Western Hemisphere, the ASPCA remains dedicated to providing prevention for the cruelty to animals in the US. There are multiple navigation areas on the site, some highlighted quite clearly and some not so much. The ones that are very visible offer dropdown menus, some of which lead to pages that lose the top navigation and others that don’t, which adds a bit of confusion. There’s wonderful information on this site and plenty of news, only it’s just a shame that it’s not presented in a way that’s easy on the eyes and equally easy to follow. One last plus are the links to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Excellent use of social media!

American Humane Association (http://www.americanhumane.org/)

The navigation is straightforward, easy to use and the information articles are arranged in a way that’s extremely easy to follow. They also make use of social media (Facebook, Twitter and MySpace), though links are strangely absent on the main page. And where you can find the links, the icons are smaller than we expected them to be. One almost has to go out of your way to notice them. The “Donate” button at the top is nice and big, so that’s a plus, especially since they’re a non-profit organization able to exist because of donations. They also make use of a weekly blog. The one thing that stood out to us in terms of needing improvement, besides the social media bits, is the overall look of the site in terms of color. It’s very bland and uninviting.

Adopt A Pet (http://www.adoptapet.com/)

And we move on to a non-profit charity that offers free advertisements of pets in need of a home from shelters, humane societies, SPCAs, pet rescue groups and pet adoption agencies. The navigation is borderline with half of it being fairly easy to see and use and the other half tucked away on the side and not as evident. As for the main page, it feels like the one that never ends. There’s too much on it in too small a font that could have been broken down into other sections of the site. Fortunately, the blog is updated frequently, which is terrific, but there’s no real use of social media and that surprises us. It also surprises us that Purina is one of the sponsors considering the ingredients they use in their food (http://dogfoodanalysis.com/ and http://www.acreaturecomfort.com/truthaboutpetfood.htm).

Animal Shelter (http://www.animalshelter.org/)

This is a site full of good intentions. It features a database of pets searchable by criteria that helps a family find the kind of animal they’re looking for, makes use of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, and offers various articles as well as a list of animal shelters throughout the US. What could possibly be wrong? Plenty. Let’s start with the look and feel of the site, which looks and feels as if it was designed by someone inexpensive, inexperienced or inexpensive and inexperienced. There’s too much content on the main page, an odd bit of empty space at the bottom, no Site Map, no About Us and no way knowing the last time anything has been added to it. The years listed at the bottom of the page suggest it may not have been updated since 2006, which is a little difficult to believe. But then again…

The sites above are obviously suited to large regions, mainly the US as a whole, while you’ll want to check with local organizations for information more pertinent to your location.

It’s easy to overlook the plight of animals in our current economic times since our spouses and children come first. But like those close to us, animals are looking for a family to live with and grow in, too. Dogs tend to trade love for love and have earned the nickname of ‘man’s best friend’ for a reason, so please consider opening your arms, heart and home to a dog while we celebrate Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month!

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