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What's Wrong With 'Lap Dances for Lap Dogs?'

Scott Delucchi of the Peninsula Humane Society laughs at some of the crazy ideas that have been tossed around for animal adoption promotions.

When it comes to promotional ideas, there’s quite a range, from brilliant, to bad, to colossally stupid.  I’ll start with a field I know well: Major League Baseball.

The Giants are almost always marketing gold, but even they swing and miss occasionally.

Take Photo Ball Day, a promotion they held to boost ticket sales back in the Candlestick Park days. The first 20,000 fans received a baseball with a star player’s photo on it.  Pretty nifty give-way, right? 

Baseball fans can be salty and love hurling insults at opposing players and umpires.  Turned out they also liked hurling baseballs, and stadium security couldn’t control the scene.  Promotional balls rained on the field after every bad call.

Believe it or not, the Giants also used to hold Bat Day - fans received actual baseball bats.  They had the good sense to cancel this event well before fan rage turned ugly in stadiums across the country.

Decades ago, in 1979, the Chicago White Sox held Disco Demolition Night.  They encouraged fans to bring their disco records to the game.  They made a pile in the outfield and blew them up.  Then, the real fireworks started. 

Fans flung records like Frisbees, they stormed the field and a near-riot erupted. The game was cancelled; a rare forfeit by the hometown team. 

This promotional disaster eclipsed Ten-Cent Beer Night in Cleveland, held five years earlier, which featured countless brawls and men urinating in the stands. 

There’s an old adage about baseball - it doesn’t matter how many games you’ve seen, you’ll see something new every time.

The animal welfare field can’t claim major disasters on this scale, but has had some questionable promotions. 

A shelter in Kentucky partnered with Hooters restaurant (which, let’s say, isn’t known for its wings). Hooters for Neuters was meant to entice manly men to neuter their dogs.  They brought their dogs to a Hooters parking lot where their dogs were “fixed” in a mobile clinic, while they enjoyed the (ahem) wings inside. Other groups have since co-opted the promotion; it won’t go away despite the backlash. 

The nation’s largest and richest national animal welfare organization, the Humane Society of the United States - which contributes exactly $0 to PHS/SPCA and animals here in San Mateo County - put their top thinkers together and decided to stand next to Michael Vick after he was released from prison for torturing dogs and running an illegal and horrific dog fighting program and compound.  The details of his operation sickened everyone. 

Vick paid a price. He lost fans, million-dollar endorsements and prime earning years in the already short career of an NFL quarterback.  Still, many people felt very strongly he was the last person an animal welfare group should hold hands with for photos opps.

Here at the Peninsula Humane Society, we think we have our clever moments. Our Giants-themed promotion, which reduced fees for all black and orange-ish dogs and cats during the Giants’ magical play-off run in 2010, was magic.  Loads of animals found new homes in record time. 

But, we turned down a similar idea proposed by one local resident who pulled for the cross-Bay rival.  “You should do the same for A’s fans!” he argued. Just one small snag with that: not many green or gold pets available for adoption. 

We also turned down another one: a local pole dance instructor wanted to hold an event to raise funds for shelter dogs. Poles for Pets or Lap Dances for Lap Dogs just didn’t sound right.

But, in the coming weeks, we’ll be trying something a bit controversial: paying people to adopt Chihuahuas!  The pint-sized pups are the most common breed in all Bay Area shelters. Some organizations have actually sent small numbers on flights to other parts of the country.

We think there is an easier way to rehome them.  In addition to waiving the adoption fee, we’ll give adopters 10 "fun bucks" to spend at our retail store.  Given the fact that some of these dogs await their new, forever homes in shelters for months simply because there are so many, $10 is next to nothing when compared to the costs to care for a dog for an extended period in a shelter.

Don’t worry, we won’t simply open our doors and hand out Chihuahuas and ten-spots.  The promotion is real, but we will carefully screen potential adopters, as we always do. 

No cute name yet for our promotion (Bo Derek isn’t available for a Perfect 10! promotion) , but we’ll entertain your ideas. For inspiration, check out our featured pups – Ginger, Mrs. Henderson and Mort -- alongside this column.

Do you have an idea for PHS' Chihuahua promotion? Tell us in the comments - Scott will be checking!


Terry Ward June 17, 2012 at 11:35 AM
Since we are asking questions, perhaps Mr. Delucchi might answer this one. Been asking it quite awhile now...as yet, no answers forthcoming from the humanewatch brownshirts. Which of the millions and millions of horses- dogs-cats-reptiles-birds-farm animals-wild animals residing today in shelters and rescues would you have the HSUS 'help'? Because OF COURSE you agree that if the HSUS were to help one rescue/shelter they would be obliged to help them all ....equally. Unless you believe that YOUR out-of-pocket rescue expenses are more important than MY out-of-pocket rescue expenses. As you seem to be privy to HSUS finances, I will let you do the math...HSUS year-to-date profit divided by millions and millions of shelter/rescue animals.
J Reding June 19, 2012 at 06:35 PM
How about if HSUS helps just a single shelter? Instead of spending less than 1/2 of 1% of it's annual take on hands on animal care, how about it does what it's advertisements SAY they are going to do--spend the money on actually rescuing animals? Instead of CHARGING shelters to "evaluate" them, why doesn't HSUS do it for free, since it certainly can afford to? Because it can't fund raise off of evaluations, that's why! HSUS is a sham, and you should be ashamed of defending them!
Sarah Barnett June 19, 2012 at 06:58 PM
J Reding, those numbers are inaccurate - in 2011, we spent over 30 million on direct care and services. Also, at the beginning of 2011, we completely revamped our shelter Services, and have helped dozens of shelters since then without receiving a penny. Here is what one director of animal control in NC had to say: "I just wanted to take a moment to tell you that for a long time I have been a person that was very skeptical of The HSUS due to things a person hears, but in saying that with the help from Kim Alboum and the rest of the crew that came in to help us has changed in my mind on what you guys are all about. Again from the bottom of my heart I appreciate so much what has been done for the animals and this facility in Caldwell County." We help shelters, it's part of our work, but not the only work we do. Here's an example: Last year there was a case in FL involving nearly 700 cats in a hoarding situation. We provided staff, resources, helped with the case and also helped coordinate placement for cats that were not adopted. We collaborated with local animal control and the local shelter, as well as local vets, and because of that collaboration, every healthy & adoptable cat was placed (this even includes FIV and FELV + cats, as well as ferals, who were relocated to colonies.) Once all was said and done, we spent over half a million. Was that half a million a grant? no. Did our work there help the local shelter immensely? yes.
Adam July 12, 2012 at 11:04 PM
SARAH: Your ghostwriters outdid themselves with that response. The half a million you allegedly spent in the hoarding case in Florida was PAID BACK IN FULL - $700,000 or so, according to newpaper coverage a few months ago, after the case was adjudicated. Who are you fooling? HSUS raised a ton of money to defray those expenses and then had the chutzpah to ask for eimbusement. And other animal groups did most of the work! $30 million for direct services includes plenty of fundraising, salaries for hundreds of paper pushers and all the Fund for Animals sanctuaries that HSUS doesn't even pay for. The Fund for Animals raises millions for those on it's own. Double billing in any other arena. Is it even legal in the charity sector? The $30 million also includes Humane Society International, another double billing scheme where people are led to donate to both groups for the same programs. And the Fund's Black Beauty Ranch flunked USDA inspection reports for animal neglect and other inhumane treatment. Cleveland Amory would be spinning in his grave if he knew. He grew to loathe HSUS and Wayne Pacelle too. Your 2011 tax returns will tell the real story about that $30 million figure. HSUS always gets 2 extensions, so people can't go through the list of grants and fundraising contractors (page 8 and Schedule G) until late 2012. You didn't revamp anything - just the PR script. And anyone can get a testimonial from a "recipient" - fake charities do it every day.
Adam July 12, 2012 at 11:06 PM
That's REIMBURSEMENT. I do write my own stuff, at least.

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