Tell a Teacher
The Pets in the Classroom program offers pet stores an easy, cost-free way to engage their local communities and help build the next generation of pet owners.
One of the most effective ways for pet stores to obtain free publicity and increased good will is to engage in community outreach. These activities can take many forms and are limited only by your creativity and ability to plan and organize an event.
Common community outreach events include animal adoption days, where the store partners with a local humane shelter to find homes for abandoned or stray pets, or sponsoring a free or low-cost rabies vaccine day at the store in conjunction with a local veterinarian. Both activities bring prospective customers into the store and give them a positive impression of the business. Combine each activity with coupons, specials or other incentives to buy on the day of the event and your store will likely see a healthy spike in its sales, both short and long term.
One way to increase your community engagement and reach families with young children is to promote Pets in the Classroom. The school outreach program sponsored by the Pet Care Trust provides grants for teachers in elementary and middle schools to obtain a pet and products needed to house and care for the animal in the classroom. For retailers, participation in Pets in the Classroom is easy and costs nothing. Here’s all you have to do:
Go to www.petsintheclassroom.org to learn about the program.
Download a poster to hang in your store that lets customers know that you support Pets in the Classroom. A tri-fold brochure can also be downloaded to keep on your counter to give to teachers or parents who want more information. Download both at www.petsintheclassroom.org/resources. (You can also request printed copies of both by contacting Nina Bull at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Reach out to the principals of your local elementary and middle schools (both public and private) to let them know about Pets in the Classroom and see if they will promote the program with their teachers. The Pets in the Classroom website has lots of testimonials from teachers with classroom pets that may help you convince a reluctant school principal to give it a try.
Be a source of expert advice to teachers who want to take advantage of the program. Once the teacher has received her Pets in the Classroom grant, she will look to you for advice on the type of pet that might be most suitable for the age of the students, as well as the products and equipment needed to keep the pet healthy and happy.
Teachers who purchase their pets and equipment from you will then return their grant certificate and receipts to the Pet Care Trust for reimbursement, up to $100 for small animals and birds, and up to $150 for fish and reptiles. You have no financial obligation, although many pet stores offer a discount to teachers to help them spread their grant money a little further.
Once a teacher has obtained a classroom pet, keep in touch so that you can answer any questions they may have about proper care of the animal. If the school permits, you may also arrange to make periodic visits to the classroom to bring other exotic or specialty pets for the students to learn about. Lessons on the animal’s native habitat, their diet and housing needs will help students better understand the world around them and enhance the curriculum.
There are nearly 100,000 public and private elementary and middle schools in the U.S. today. Your local community likely has multiple schools serving students in grades K-8. Let’s assume a conservative estimate of six schools in your geographic area, each with 400 students. Wouldn’t it be nice if 2,400 kids—and their parents— knew that your store was responsible for the classroom pet that they love to see every school day? A recent study indicates that for every classroom with a specialty pet, four to six students will get a pet for their home. Wouldn’t you like to be the pet store where more than 500 students bring their parents to shop for their guinea pig, bearded dragon or aquarium?
What better investment in the future of the pet industry is there than helping every school in America have pets in their classrooms.
Steve King is president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association and executive director of the Pet Care Trust.