Simplified: The Sioux Falls Area Humane Society has seen a nearly 23% increase in animal adoptions this year over last, and as a result, the rate of euthanasia at the shelter has dropped proportionately. Here's a look at some big changes and what's contributing to more animals finding new homes.

Why it matters

  • The Sioux Falls Area Humane Society helps about 8,000 animals each year – a number that has stayed fairly consistent in recent years, according to Executive Director James Oppenheimer.
  • Oppenheimer took the helm of the organization in January, and between that big leadership change, changes to the adoption process, a faster intake process for animals and re-opening to the public after the coronavirus pandemic, more of those animals are finding homes.
  • He also credits the nonprofit's increasing community involvement with the higher adoption rate. The humane society has a number of community partnerships, including with local college sports teams, businesses and the new Cattitude Cafe downtown.
"We’ve just been out there a lot more," Oppenheimer said.

Tell me more about what's different this year

Quite a bit, from leadership to the adoption process to the humane society's ever-growing social media presence.

Here are a couple of the big changes:

Open for business. During the pandemic, the shelter closed, and animals could only be adopted by appointment. That changed earlier this year, and now prospective pet parents can drop in anytime during regular hours to look at any of the adoptable animals.

"It's been fantastic," Animal Welfare Manager Caley Harr told Minnehaha County Commissioners during a presentation Tuesday morning. Harr also noted that the rate of returned animals is low because of the screening process for adoptive pet parents.

Big on the socials. The humane society has more than 42,000 followers on Facebook, with an increasing presence on Tik Tok as well. Each of the videos posted on Tik Tok has at least a few hundred views, with some exceeding 1,000.

Quicker turnaround. The average length of stay for pets dropped by nearly two days this year over last year, Oppenheimer said. That's in part because of a quicker internal process for getting animals in, spayed or neutered and ready to be taken to a new home.

Paperless adoptions. Pets can now be adopted via your cell phone. After choosing the pet you'd like to adopt, a link to forms will be texted to your phone, and you can fill it out right there at the shelter.

A new way to adopt cats. The Cattitude Cafe has also seen "fantastic" results, Oppenheimer said. Since it opened in July, nearly 100 cats have been adopted through the downtown cafe.

"It's like a free downtown showroom," Oppenheimer said.

More people looking for pets. Some of the increase in adoptions is also due to the growth in the Sioux Falls area. Oppenheimer noted the increasing number of dog parks in the area as an incentive for pet owners, too.

More partnerships. The humane society has partnerships across the city with Augustana University and the University of Sioux Falls, Schulte Subaru, Lewis Drug and more.

What happens next?

The humane society relies heavily on the generosity of the Sioux Falls community to continue its operations, Oppenheimer said, adding that about 80% of the nonprofit's funding comes from donors.

To help make it easier, the humane society has added an option for people to sign up for the "Humane Heroes" program, in which folks give automatic monthly donations. Learn more here.