A Happy Tail of Going Local: Dumped by PetsMart, animal rescue group rebounds to healthier relationship with local business!

A Happy Tail of Going Local: Dumped by PetsMart, animal rescue group rebounds to healthier  relationship with local business!

Tiny Tails K9 Rescue is a non-profit organization in Bozeman, Montana that works with a network of volunteers to place unwanted or stray pets in foster homes while they work to find them loving homes for the long-term. For many years, Tiny Tails held an annual “Santa Paws” fundraiser just before Christmas at an outlet of the PetSmart chain. I volunteered as photographer to take portraits of people’s pets with Santa, printed them, and sent recipients to the checkout line with a frame and photo in hand to make a $5 donation. PetSmart provided the backdrop, Santa suit and printer and would send a check to Tiny Tails with the proceeds following the event.

tiny-tails-fundraiserIn 2014, PetSmart decided to conduct its own Santa event and opted not to invite local pet rescue organizations to participate.

Undaunted, Tiny Tails partnered with locally-owned Montana Murray Kennels, an area dog obedience school and boarding facility, to stage the fundraising event. Tiny Tails obtained their own Santa suit and photo printer while both Murray Kennels and Tiny Tails each promoted the event to their patrons and on social media.

We were a little worried about how it would turn out — would people make a special trip to this less-known business or just go to PetSmart? And would attendance suffer from the lack of foot traffic PetsMart offered?

Not in the slightest. The highest number of photos paid for in any previous year was 31, which generated just $155. This year, Tiny Tails simply put a jar out, suggesting a $5 donation per printed photo. The event ended up with more patrons than ever and, without the limitations of PetSmart’s transactional structure, many people chose to donate above and beyond the suggested amount. We raised more than $475 while spending fewer hours than we ever had previously! It was a huge win that we look forward to building on next year.

Of course, we also hope the great folks at Murray Kennels will gain some new customers as a result of the exposure, too. Our experience is another great reminder to think local first!

UPDATE: December 7th, 2015


Click to see many educational graphics offered for free use.

We again had a wonderful turnout for our annual Santa Paws event, held for the second year at Montana Murray Kennels. This year owner Ron Murray added a bonus for Tiny Tails while broadening engagement: he invited local vendors in to participate in an on-site holiday bazaar while the photos were also being taken, with a portion of sales going to Tiny Tails.

We were so excited to see the event grow! Again we saw a better turnout and more generous donations from those receiving photos of their pets or kids with Santa than any year at PetsMart. We anticipate an even bigger event next year with the possibility of more vendors and publicity.

By Hallie Kronebusch, Tiny Tails K9 Rescue Volunteer and AMIBA Operations Manager


Giving back to the community is just one good reasons to go local and independent. See 10 more great reasons.

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