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Discussion Starter #1
I am a web developer. I love my work, and love doing side projects.

I would really like to make an open source (ie: free) web site content management system that would make it easier for rescues and shelters to have a web presence. From what I've seen, everyone is using static HTML pages done up by hand by the in-house web guru. I would like to create a system where the web guru could set up a site, and then other staff and volunteers could edit and update the site with ease. Think PetFinder and blogger rolled into one.

These are the current features I am thinking of putting in:
<ul>[*]Animal profile with all sorts of information. Photos, bio, stats, etc[*]Searching animal profiles[*]Featured animals[*]Online donation[*]Online adoption applications[*]Blog[*]News articles[*]An easy means of adding new pages of information (about, guides, etc)[/list]

The only experience I have with a shelter and rescue is from the outside. I know that many of you work on the inside. I'd love it if you could give me some ideas of what would be beneficial for them for improving their websites.

What sorts of wants and desires do you have? If you could have the perfect website, what would it be?
 

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First off - I think it's absolutely awesome that you want to do this and there's definitely a need.

Okay, onto the rest. I think you'll hear differing opinions on this but I am one that thinks the system works best when there's one main search site and that's Petfinder. I remember the days when you googled a million different rescues searching for a dog and PF's one stop shopping is so much better. I know there is Dogs in Danger and a couple other sites that people like but for the most part, I think it's good to have one main site that people know about because when there are a lot of different listings it starts to dilute the effect. But that's just me and there are I'm sure others on here who might disagree.

That said, Petfinder allows you the option to put a scroller of your listings on outside sites, so I think it could be combined with your idea to great effect. So, for me the first two things you mention aren't that helpful because I feel okay with what we've got. However, it would nice to have a good looking site for featuring a particular animal and donations. To me, the most important thing that you've got on your list would be online forms. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have an online adoption application as well as an online rescue screening form for our shelter sites. It would be a HUGE help. My husband is actually a web designer and he does lovely sites and he's been promising me a site with all the above for a year now. Do I have it? No. Cobbler's children go barefoot and all that. I know a lot of people are in my boat or just have no way to build a decent site at all.

News articles, a blog, and additional info pages would also be very nice.


The big thing I find is that I'm sending the same forms out over and over and answering the same questions over and over and as a full time everything I run out of time. If I had a site that had different pages for say, adoptions, rescuing, volunteering, each with their associated forms, and maybe an additional FAQ page with links that would save me a lot of time and energy.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
An easy-to-produce FAQ is a great addition.

I forgot to mention that I'd like to see if I could make it so the animal profiles would cross post to PetFinder automatically. I haven't looked into how PetFinder works, or even if they have an api, so I don't know if it would be possible, but I do want to look into it.

Some rescues put a ton of information about their pets on their websites (especially the foster-oriented rescues), so it'd be nice to allow lots of photos and information.

I may be going over the top, but it'd be cool if adopters could register on the site, and then get the ability to post updates and photos to the animals they adopt. That would make an automatic list of "happy tails". I also think encouraging a community of a shelter's adopters would be nice.

One of the things I noticed was that animals would only go on PetFinder once they've been there a week or two. I'm getting the impression, then, that it's a hassle to add a pet to PetFinder, so they wait so as to not waste their time on animals that get adopted immediately. This makes me think that there is a completely separate process between the web and the shelter's paper work.

The website could also potentially serve as an internal database of information - inventory, applications, etc. Everything I saw was handled on paper and stored in filing cabinets. Would it be better to have an application that could handle all of that in a paper-less fashion? If so, what is the workflow and all the information that rescues and shelters keep to manage everything?
 

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No, I totally agree. I have wanted a happy tails page with a lot more info where adopters could upload stuff forever. I think that would be great. Oh, another thing that would be cool is if there was a way to sponsor dogs and have a nice little pic and thank you to their sponsor. Like "here's muffy! You can sponsor her for $25" and then "Thank you so and so" if the dog is sponsored.

As far as delays getting animals on Petfinder, it's really kind of the nature of the beast. PF's site is incredibly user friendly but when you maintain a shelter site updating can literally take you 8-9 hours straight. Sometimes it's because why add animals that are just going to be adopted but just as often it's why add animals that AREN'T going to be adopted, and more often than both put together it's just not having time.

Also, sad as it is to say, plenty of shelters don't even have paperwork or any real filing system on incoming animals. Often in that case the PF site is maintained by volunteers because the shelter also doesn't have a computer and PF can get delayed because people just can't get down there every day to update.

I'll tell you one thing I really wish PF would add though and that's more hidden fields that are only visable on the admin page. We desperately need a place for notes, for info about vaccines dates, and a line where we can put the name of the rescue interested if there is one. PF has one little Internal blank which we use on our rescue site to list the name of the foster parent and on our shelter sites we use it to list rescue groups, but we could use more space and fields.
 

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Oooh! Thought of something else.

As mentioned above we really need a private database that's only accessible to inside people for info about the animals at the shelter but for our rescue group fosters, I would LOVE to have some kind of (again) private databases for things like veterinary work and a running monthly balance for our group. I'd love it if when foster parents get home from the clinic they had a kind of spread sheet or something where they could upload all their info. We've been looking into that with some of the Googlemail applications but to have something user friendly as part of the site would be very helpful.

A similar info form for donations/payments would be good. Not all our members have access to the PayPal account but since our group includes people working with different shelters it would be nice to have an information clearinghouse so they could see when paymens had been submitted. I realize that's a fairly specific application to the way my particular group works but I bet other groups have similar needs for private databases.
 

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I do some web design (not a whole lot of actual developing) and I have volunteered for a shelter. What I think would be nice is when inputing a listing for an animal, there is some sort of form that contains fields such as call name, age, DOB (if know), breed(s), energy level, health problems, behavioral notes, special concerns, etc....Just something more than one open text box b/c when I'm paging through listings, especially ones from the shelter where I volunteer, I generally know SO much MORE about a dog than the little blurb someone posted. Maybe if there were specific fields, the person inputting the dog would be more likely to provide as much info as possible (and I understand not everything is known or can be disclosed). I think my particular shelter does a very poor job with their PetFinder listings. If you read the charts on the animal's doors or look in their file, there is a wealth of info about the dog, but potential adopters looking online only get a name, size, breed, and blurb about the shelter's adoption policy.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Internal-only type of information is totally doable. It's very easy to set information that is available to only certain "user groups."

Multiple specific fields of information is also quite doable.

The system that I use to create websites (Drupal) would make it actually very easy for a shelter to tweak it here and there for their specific needs. For example, extra data entry fields are a cinch. However, a web guru would probably be needed in order to do those types of modifications.

So - user-entered happy tails, automatic sponsor donations, internal fields related to health, and more specific fields relating to the animal. Great info
 

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Here is another thought for you---do you offer this to anyone or to rescues that are considered reputable, shelters that have best practices, and how do you determine?

A photographer I know of will only take puppy pictures at breeders that he considers reputable, for example.

I know that's kind of out there, but I remember a dog listed in non-urgent where the rescue let the dogs go to homes on chains, and even tested the dogs on chains to see how they did. I think every time you can raise and reiterate standards, people (rescuers, adopters, whoever) get the message.

Just a far out thought! Very neat that you are willing to do this.

What is that one database that does a lot of what pupresq is talking about? Darcy1 would know.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Originally Posted By: JeanKBBMMMAANHere is another thought for you---do you offer this to anyone or to rescues that are considered reputable, shelters that have best practices, and how do you determine?
The goal is that this would be completely open source. It will be built on an open source base (Drupal), and all custom modifications I do will also be open source and freely available. I plan on making a website for distributing the bundled system and a forum for support and feedback.

I will go to a few shelters I have connections with to start it off and see if it actually works. Beyond that, I won't have any restrictions for usage because I will not be restricting distribution.
 

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Quote:I think my particular shelter does a very poor job with their PetFinder listings. If you read the charts on the animal's doors or look in their file, there is a wealth of info about the dog, but potential adopters looking online only get a name, size, breed, and blurb about the shelter's adoption policy.
I know what you're saying but the only concern I have with having a bunch more fields on the public visible page is that people get turned off by some very random kinds of information. Also, some of the info provided by surrendering owners is highly inaccurate as are many of the shelter assessments (training typically in the former case, age often in the latter) but even if it's not true putting it there can mean no interest in the dog.

I don't know. I agree MANY shelter's petfinder listings could be a lot better but I also think that sometimes less is more with some of the specifics because it can hurt the dog. I guess it would really depend on the good sense of the person entering the data.
 

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Right now, I'm getting ready to adopt a dog sometime in August, and rather than go through what I want, I'll tell you what I think petfinder gets wrong:

1)Location of Dog. When petfinder lists a dog, they tell me the location of the shelter/rescue. That isn't the same as the location of the dog. I am only going to adopt a dog that I can meet in person, and I'd vastly prefer not to drive 2+hrs to meet a dog, especially if there are similar dogs close by.

2)standard sizing. Petfinder lists small, medium, large, and extra large. The problem is that there is no criteria for that size. I've seen 60 lb dogs both in the medium and large categories. I'm looking for a big, but not giant dog(60-90 lbs), preferably a guard breed, or at least with a nice, scary baritone bark(but is in reality a mushy lab in disguise) A 45 lb dog isn't a big dog to me, but my local shelter thinks it is.

3)Include activity level. Add a category from rambunctious to couch potato. While I think this might put shelter dogs at a disadvantage if the staff/volunteers don't adjust for the kind of zoomies that occur when a dog only gets an hour or so of human contact/exercise a day, but I still think it is worth including it.

4)Good/bad w/kids tag. A large beef I have with petfinder is their bad with kids tag. I have 3 nieces and a nephew that visit regularly. I can't tell from the website whether the dog is simply too rambunctious to have with children(which can be dealt with), or if the dog has fear/aggression issues which would make having children around the dog dangerous(which is harder to deal with). I would restrict this tag to dogs with aggression issues. If the dog is rambunctious, chances are that any child who is good on their feet(say older than five or six) could coexist with that dog fairly well.
 

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Kudos to the OP for her offer of assistance.

I know that rescuegroups.org http://www.rescuegroups.org/ has something like the OP is proposing. Though theirs is low cost and they also supply the space on a server with their package. We don't use their pet portal as we setup our own website years ago. We do use their voicemail service and they have very good tech support.

For internal tracking, resqtracker is supposed to be quite good and is free to 501(c)(3) orgs. http://www.rottlover.com/resqtracker/
 

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Hi John,
Petfinder is a wonderful organization and has done wonders for pet adoption. What they provide to rescues and shelters is 100% free. Is it perfect no, but what you are looking for is not the fault of petfinder, they provide the space and templates, but Pefinder itself does not create the pet listings. Those are done by employees or volunteers of each shelter or rescue.
 

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No argument at all on the service PF provides. But PF could include a blurb for dog's zip code for the dog, and could offer guidelines for rescues to be more precise in how they list a dog(45 lbs <> Large). Activity level should be included, just like the tags for not good with cats/dogs, etc.
 

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Hi

I am curious as to when this open source/website or system will be avail or where can I find it? Also how all will work as one.

It would be great to have a location for rescues and shelters to have these information and easy to update it at any time.
 
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