you looking for a special someone for long runs on the
beach — or for snuggling together on the sofa,
watching a movie? Do you prefer the strong, assertive
type — or shy and deferential?
answers could help you find the perfect match … in a
new pet-adoption website, PawsLikeMe.com, uses a series
of questions about your personality, lifestyle, likes
and dislikes to find your ideal pooch from adoption
listings across the country. It’s the Match.com for
would-be pet parents.
realized that people had a lot of difficulty finding the
right pet," says Elizabeth Holmes, 41, the company’s
CEO and co-founder, who lives in Cocoa, Fla. For years
before moving to Florida, she ran a dog-rescue group in
people would return a pet because they had made a bad
decision," she says. "Seventy percent of pets
(change families) more than once in their lifetime. We
knew there had to be a better way" — especially
with an estimated 3.5 million pets still being
euthanized each year in the United States.
joined forces 18 months ago with her sister, Marianna
Benko, 33, of Orlando, a clinical social worker; and Dr.
Coleen Johnston, 38, a Palm Bay, Fla., veterinarian.
They came up with an algorithm that finds suitable
matches among dogs at government shelters, rescue groups
and nonprofit organizations in your desired ZIP code.
was their vet," Johnston says, nodding toward three
of Holmes’ four dogs. "One day she and I were
talking, and she said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we
could match people and pets based on personality?’ I
said, ‘That would be awesome.’"
a self-described numbers geek, and Benko, with a
background in psychology, tinkered with an initial
formula, testing and refining it on more than 3,000
people and their pets. The accuracy rate, they say, is
now above 90 percent. Listing a dog is free.
attending pet-rescue conventions, the three woman forged
partnerships with groups across the country, creating a
database of 150,000 dogs. Among the various pet-adoption
platforms already online — Petfinder and Petango, for
instance — the founders say PawsLikeMe is unique.
look at compatibility and people’s environment,"
says Benko, who has also volunteered for dog-rescue
groups and led pet-therapy sessions with patients in
long-term care facilities. "We also really look at
how people relate to their pets."
you care whether your dog messes up your house? Gets fur
on your clothes? Is a slow learner? Do you want an
independent dog — or one that always wants to be at
lot of people — especially first-time pet owners —
don’t think about those things," Johnston says.
the company is just starting out, initial reaction is
bottom line is, if this service helps gets dogs adopted,
I’m for it," says Sean Hawkins, vice president of
the nonprofit Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. "We
believe it’s important to take a lot of time in making
sure the animal is going to a home that fits, which is
why we do a personal interview that can take from 10
minutes to an hour. Our system is really driven by a lot
of gut feeling and the vibe that’s transmitted in a
Hawkins says he’s particularly intrigued by the
opportunity for individuals to re-home their pets — an
often-agonizing process for many pet owners or the
relatives of pet owners who die. Others agreed.
really like that they’re giving people another option
to find a new home prior to coming to us," says
Carolina Devine, marketing and public-relations
coordinator for Orange County Animal Services. "A
lot of times people come to us as a first option for
finding their pets a new home. It should be their
because Orange County, like many government shelters,
euthanizes pets for whom it can’t find homes,
something the new site’s founders are trying to
prevent. Under PawsLikeMe rules, adoptive animals must
be spayed or neutered, which helps fight pet
overpopulation, and the site may dissuade people from
listing animals on Craigslist, where they can fall prey
to abuse and exploitation.
website doesn’t charge anyone to list a pet for
adoption, nor does it take any percentage of the
adoption fee charged by nonprofit groups. For
individuals looking to find a new home for their own
dog, the company collects a $180 fee, which includes pet
insurance, product discounts and guidance for the new
owner. In addition, up to half is donated to local
shelters or adoption groups.
the coming months, Holmes says, plans call for
reincorporating as a B-corporation, a for-profit venture
with an altruistic goal. The trio also will add cats,
perhaps next year.
a lot of work in looking at cats," Holmes said.
"The considerations are totally different. But I
will say there’s a ton of interest."