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The Accidental Shelter Tourist

Many shelters make sure their websites offer driving directions or even maps to tell people just how to find them. But some organizations are giving website visitors a sneak peek at just what they’ll find when they get there.

For those who have preconceptions of a shelter as a depressing place or are anxious about what they’ll see inside, a “virtual tour” can ease their worries and encourage them to visit. Online tours can also send a message that shelters are welcoming havens that help animals and educate people.

And who better to lead an online shelter tour than an animal? On the Nashville Humane Association’s site, a former canine shelter resident named Noah introduces site visitors to the shelter veterinarian and shows them several parts of the facility (

The Wisconsin Humane Society enlists three cartoon characters—a dog, a cat, and a beaver—to show visitors the functions of the humane society and provide an engaging running commentary ( One tour demonstrates the shelter’s work for companion animals, in part by showing an abused dog’s journey to adoption. In the other tour, the “wild side,” visitors can learn about the shelter’s wildlife rehabilitation functions and meet a mallard duck named Curly.

Virtual tours don’t need to be fancy to be effective; even a basic website with a few photos can help visitors feel more comfortable about making a trip to the shelter to take a tour of their own.


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