Pet Profiles: How to Write Adoptable Animal Bios
Here are some general guidelines for writing blurbs to go with your adoptables’ photos.
1. Before you write anything, stop and think about your goal. You have to want this animal to find a home. You have to feel that want. Don’t let any secondary thoughts interfere right now. Think “I’m her greatest hope for a home in this moment. I’m going to make it happen.”
2. Write a show-stopping first sentence. Something that will make people stop and look at this animal. Do not write this sentence: Joey is a 5 y.o. neutered male Shep/Pittie/Lab mix w/white markings, up-to-date on shots. That’s all useful information that you can share once you have readers’ attention — and more important, their hearts. But first you have to grab their hearts.
How to do that? Look into the animal’s eyes and say something true about him — something about who he is, not what he is. Perhaps something that describes his need. If you’re working only with a photo, look into his eyes in the photo.
For example, in the photo below, you might see just a little bit of insecurity in the dog’s eyes. With that in mind, here’s one way to start the adoption profile: “Are they gonna like me? Oh … I don’t think they’re gonna like me. Do you think they’ll want to adopt me?”
In this one, you may see unconditional admiration. So you could start the profile this way: “Amber loves you already — and you’ve only just met through a picture.”
And in this one, you might see a bit of pride and begin the profile like this: “At your service! Samuel is just too proud to be homeless.”
3. Then share the facts. Once you’ve grabbed readers’ attention, and made them take a look at the dog behind the name, age, breed and stats, then you can share factual information. But how you phrase that information is important. Some tips:
- List the positives first. Don’t say first that he hates cats. Say first that he loves other dogs! Sometimes, on a shelter’s behavior evaluation, it will not even list the positives; it will just have the “cannots” and “must haves.” So you have to read between the lines. If the behavior section is blank, that must mean that she’s an extremely well-behaved pet. Confirm that this is the case, and then put that information near the top. Before you mention that she has arthritis.
- Spend as much time on the positives as the negatives. Or even more. Ask more questions about the positives. Often, a dog’s shelter or caregiver will give us a book-length explanation of a bad behavior to make sure we fully understand, but unless we ask, we don’t know nearly as much about the good behaviors.
Focusing too much on the negatives results in blurbs like this: “Andy unfortunately has leash reactivity, so although he can live peaceably with other dogs (as long as they’re submissive; he may challenge alpha dogs for dominance), he does behave threateningly toward other dogs when he’s on walks. With some training, you may be able to improve or even correct this behavior in time. But it will take a lot of patience. Andy is a loving boy, though, and so worth it!”
Here’s how to focus on the positive instead: “Andy is an empathic snuggle-bear! He’s that rare sort of pooch who is so thoughtful, and cares so much about how others feel, that he could easily become one of the most important 'people' in your life. He’ll come thump-thump-thumping over to you with his big Chewbacca paws and then sit his soft, scruffy self in your lap – oomph! That’s a lot to hold in your lap! And then he’ll look in your eyes like he knows exactly what kind of day you’ve had. This dog loves absolutely everyone. Well, except other dogs when he’s out on a walk. He’s bad with other pooches when he’s on leash. But other than that, he loves everyone. You should see him when you turn on the TV! The way he races to get to his favorite spot on the couch. But don’t worry — all it takes is the gentlest nudge to scoot him.”
4. At the end, urge readers to take the next step. At the bottom of the blurb, remind them how much you want them to call, email you or approach the shelter desk.
Near the end of the blurb is also where many people mention absolute requirements for adopting a particular animal, such as “The yard must have a six-foot fence” or “She must be the only pet.” When writing about a restriction or requirement, try to sound warm and encouraging toward the reader. The greatest danger when talking about restrictions is that while trying to ward off the unqualified applicant, you might scare away the qualified one by sounding unfriendly.
It’s not wrong to say what the requirements are, but you want to avoid making it sound like you don’t want people to call. And that can affect the reader’s split-second decision about whether to pick up the phone, send an email or approach the shelter’s front desk.
Here’s an example:
Good: “Please call. Eva is longing to be the only pet in a home with a six-foot fence. And if you can give her that, then you can give her a miracle.”
Not so good: “Qualified adopters only. Must have six-foot fence, pink linoleum in the kitchen, green in both baths. MUST HAVE NO OTHER PETS.”
5. Finally, carefully reread the whole profile. Ask yourself, “Would this make ME call?” If the answer is “Well …,” then that’s not good enough. Go back over it — with your heart.