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Shady Characters Inspire Shady Product

Sometimes it takes something really dumb to inspire something really smart.

Sometimes it takes something really dumb to inspire something really smart.


Last summer, staff at the Seattle Animal Shelter noticed that visitors seeking animals for adoption were leaving their own pets waiting in sweltering hot cars. “It was the sort of thing that makes you go, ‘Duuuhhh,’” says Christine Titus, volunteer programs coordinator at the agency. “I mean, of all places. So I was sort of inspired by people’s ignorance.”



A car screen with a preventive message on it. Too big to be missed, the screen simultaneously promotes the shelter and educates pet owners about the dangers of leaving animals in their vehicles.

This lucky collision of form and function has been a big hit in the city: Not only do all of the agency’s animal control officers use them in their vehicles, but when the weather is warm, the public snaps them up, too. At $20 a pop, they bring in almost double what they cost the shelter to make. A local cartoonist even featured them in a comic; the panel depicts the shade displayed in a car, with an admiring dog looking on approvingly.

If you want to try this in your area, Titus says, be careful what kind of screen you choose to get printed. “The ones that fold like accordions make the message look all funky,” she says. But by being picky, Titus found a screen that worked—and if it’s a hit in cool, rainy Seattle, how well might it go over in sultrier climates?

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