At a glance

Adoptimize is a software that automates the photo editing of animals entering shelters. Shelter staff workers don’t usually have time to take attractive pictures of them during intake, given everything else they need to do. Sadly, this reduces the amount of interest would-be owners show in animals online. As a result, organizations spend millions of dollars looking after pets that should have found a home – and around 920,000 healthy dogs and cats are euthanized before this happens.

" is the basis of our software. It isolates the subject really well, we add a background to it, and ultimately these better photos get more clicks online."

Jessica Schleder

Jessica Schleder

CEO & Founder of Adoptimize

To fix this, Adoptimize’s algorithm automatically edits photos and removes the often unappealing shelter background from pictures in 5 seconds. This process can double the number of lost and unwanted pets which find their home.

The challenge

When processing animals into shelters, there are numerous things workers need to accomplish, such as checking for parasites and vaccinations, and all in plastic gloves.

They also take photos of animals, often very scared, for registration. But these same photos are the ones that end up on the shelter’s site where people look for animals to adopt or to try and find their lost pet. The photos don’t represent animals in their best light and people are far less likely to adopt them. Fewer come forward to take care of them, shelters get crowded and unwanted animals must be put down.

Current animal owners who have lost their pets, meanwhile, have trouble picking out their animal in a line-up, racking up huge costs for shelters.

Founder, Jessica Schleder, was driven to do something about this problem after she left her career marketing candy bars to volunteer in animal shelters. The end goal was to build an easier way to market sheltered pets looking for love online, creating an animal shelter-first technology that generates high-quality pet photos in seconds.

“It needed to be super, super simple because the people in animal shelters are dealing with severe cases of neglect and sometimes really uncomfortable animals, and really scared animals. It's just a really stressful process that needed to go faster. And automating great photos is one thing that would make it faster.”

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The work

When Schleder launched Adoptimize in 2018, it was on the back of $15,000 she won to build a prototype during her MBA. The original plan had been for a solution that would choose the best image from a video, but Schleder soon found shelters hacking the system to upload photos – and realized that using a still image would be simpler.

Clearly, she needed an easy and efficient way to strip backgrounds from photos with an API to make the service one-click for her clients.

She tried Clipping Magic, but it was a manual service. She even considered having her Maryland development team make an API but found it was “really, really hard.”

At the time, then, proved to be the only option that would automatically remove backgrounds. She began using the service immediately as part of the company’s interface aimed at animal shelters.

“We started using in the infancy of the API,” she says. “We would send photos and get them back. Over time, the training data increased and we have gotten better and better results.”

The resulting algorithm, with at heart, makes life easy for shelters by automatically editing pictures, placing the animal on a colorful background in 5 seconds, adding a shadow, and perhaps adding some fun stickers. It then emails the result to shelter employees to post online.

How Adoptimize works
The result

Adoptimize has increased adoption rates and reduced operating costs for 250 shelters and counting and puts 2,000 photos a month through’s API or around 64,000 animals altogether.

After running the algorithm, animal ads get many more clicks. Cats are 44% and dogs 83% more likely to be adopted than pets without Adoptimize images.

Return rates for lost animals often double since it is easier for owners to pick out their pets with a clearer foreground. Getting pets home more quickly and successfully saved one Texas shelter $200,000.

Along with success comes Schleder’s appreciation of the team.

“It's been really nice to work with them,” she says. “They have given us really flexible terms with our contracts and that has been really, really helpful.”

Ongoing work with the team includes reducing “leash artefacts” or bits of dog harnesses that remain in the shot. Cat photos can always be improved since they are so fluffy! So this is another development focus.

“We're a social enterprise - we're saving dogs and cats, and we're not selling cars and big-ticket items. But you have treated us equally. So I love working with your team,” she concludes.

Before and after using
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