In this era of virtual business meetings, surprise appearances by children and pets have added lightheartedness to video conferences from home. Now it’s actually possible to invite a pet to your company’s webinar, and at the same time, support a good cause.
The Connecticut Humane Society’s Pawffice Pals program began about three weeks ago. So far, CHS shelter and foster pets have already joined a handful of meetings, marketing and communications director Susan Wollschlager said.
“There’s about to be a new face in your company’s video meeting,” reads the nonprofit animal welfare organization’s website, in the Pawffice Pals section. “Probably one that’s dozing off, chewing with their mouth open, or randomly barking at your new idea…They’re Zoomin’. They’re Skypin’. They’re making bark meetings the new board meetings,” it goes on to read. “For a small donation that covers their food and care for one day, a CHS pet will listen to your team brainstorm ideas and even mediate some pawffice pawlitics. Some have lots to offer. … It just might be impolite. Don’t be surprised if they start taking a bath in the middle of your ROI review. Others will earn your Laziest Employee of the Month honor when they sit and stare as you ask them a question.”
Wollschlager told the Town Crier that staff picked up the idea from a nonprofit animal sanctuary in Ramona, California, which put its alpacas and other animals on video conference calls. This “Zoom-bombing” became so popular that requests started coming in from all over the world.
CHS staff came up with their own initiative as a virtual fundraiser for foster and shelter pets.
“We have a lot of pets in foster care right now and we figured all these people having virtual business meetings, virtual happy hours or conference calls might like to have a pet join them,” explained Wollschlager. “It’s just a fun way for people to mix up the typical meeting while spreading awareness about our pets’ needs.”
People interested in having a pet join a virtual meeting are asked to visit CTHumane.org to make a reservation request at least three days in advance. The $36 program fee covers the cost of a CHS pet’s food and care for a single day. You will be sent a link to indicate the meeting date and time, the virtual platform being utilized and any other information. CHS staff will reach out within two days to discuss details and match you with an appropriate pet.
It might be a pair of rabbits, a dog or even a litter of kittens, which are in abundance right now.
Pets will be available to join meetings for 15-minute windows of time. Human attendees can choose to go on with their regular business and let the pet act on a whim on their video feed, or interact with them, Wollschalger said.
“Foster parents are more than happy to share what goes into their day-to-day care or talk about the pet’s personality. They are excited to be a part of it and pets get to play and show off how cute they are,” said Wollschlager.
Adoptions are still being facilitated through an online application process while CHS’ headquarters is closed to visitors. There hasn’t been much of a change in the number of adoptions, but there has definitely been an uptick in interested foster pet parents, according to Wollschlager.
“We hope people continue to ask us about fostering a pet or even remember us for next year,” she said.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.