Angela Marcus, a former director of operations for the Pennsylvania SPCA, had an idea: What if there could be a way to connect people who need to surrender pets with people who want to adopt, completely bypassing animal shelters?
In today's sharing economy, "if you want to go somewhere, you go in someone else's car. If you want to stay somewhere, you stay in someone else's house," Marcus said, citing Uber and Airbnb.
In November, Marcus, a 33-year-old Bucks County native, launched Get Your Pet, a website that enables home-to-home adoptions. She hopes it becomes the future of pet adoptions.
Instead of dropping a pet off at a shelter, owners can list their animal on getyourpet.com. Potential adopters browse listings for dogs and cats and can contact an owner directly. A meeting is set up. If everything works out, the pet is checked by a veterinarian and the adopter pays a $99 fee. The adoption is then made official.
An estimated 2.5 million pets are surrendered annually to shelters across the country, Marcus said.
For many of the animals, shelters can be traumatic.
"You're in a cage 24 hours a day," Marcus said. Shelter life can lead to illness for the pet. And if there isn't room, the pet is euthanized.
Her fledgling company has so far facilitated nine adoptions in the Philadelphia region.
Get Your Pet recently entered into a partnership with Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia, the city's official shelter.
The timing is fortunate for both sides. On Monday, ACCT Philly began a major renovation of its kennel's heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems. During the two-month project, the shelter's capacity to take in large dogs will be reduced by half to 50. It is an opportunity for Get Your Pet, which will maintain a kiosk at the shelter during the renovation.
"We are referring to Get Your Pet," said Audra Houghton, operations director at ACCT Philly. "Anything we can do to get people to keep their pets in their home [to reduce] owner surrenders."
ACCT Philly spends an average of $168 for each animal that arrives at the shelter, Houghton said. That covers basic care and medical expenses.
The shelter takes in about 25,000 animals a year, so it will save money by avoiding surrenders. Also, with each adoption through Get Your Pet, 5 percent of the fee goes back to help shelters.
The first success story for Get Your Pet started at ACCT Philly. Marcus was at the shelter when she met a Philadelphia man who needed to surrender a pit bull named Coco, who was not getting along with the family's two other dogs.
Marcus told him about the website and he agreed to try it to find Coco a new home. However, he could not keep Coco in his home, so Marcus arranged for a foster to take her.
Through Get Your Pet, the man communicated with two potential adopters, but neither was a good fit.
Then he was contacted by Caitlyn and Adam Kotchetovsky of Sellersville. The couple had just lost a dog to cancer in October. They learned about Coco in early November through Caitlyn's aunt and joined Get Your Pet.
"Everything was through the website," said Caitlyn, 26.
The couple met Coco's owner that weekend. They learned about tricks Coco could perform.
"That's what I liked about the whole experience with Get Your Pet. You know the dog's background," Caitlyn said.