Meet Joe Kay, the Man Behind Your Favorite Dog Adoption Videos on TikTok
In its earlier stages, Joe Kay's TikTok account (@adoptingdogs) was the subject of some ridicule from his coworkers around the Wayne County (Ohio) Humane Society offices. These days, his tracking shots of the shelter's orange "hold" cards arriving at the cages of excited, soon-to-be adopted dogs have been viewed hundreds of millions of times.
Frankly, if you're on TikTok and like dogs, it would be shocking if you haven't seen one of his posts.
Like this one: a teensy pit bull puppy who finds out she's going to her new home the very next day. Videos like that—happy dogs wiggling their butts enough to make you want to keel over or cry—generate the expected views, likes, and comments from dog lovers. But more importantly, they also allow Kay, the society's adoption coordinator, to educate followers about pets in animal shelters.
"If you wait, you can get the dog of your dreams and it can be a rescue dog and it can come from a shelter," he tells Daily Paws in an interview. "You don't have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars."
To his point, take a look at some of the dogs on his account: a Cavalier King Charles spaniel (named Ann), a husky (aptly named Balto), a standard poodle (sweet Rachel), and a golden retriever (the gorgeous Starlight). These are not your stereotypical "shelter dogs." That's because the humane society rescues from overcrowded shelters in the region, which can sometimes only do so much with limited resources, and from puppy mills.
"We take our van, and we say, 'Who's next?' or 'Who's going to be euthanized?'" Kay says. Then he says they fill the shelter vehicle with as many at-risk dogs as they can carry.
Two of the adopted dogs Kay says that he'll always remember came from a puppy mill. He says he sought out one of the "worst" puppy mills in his area and told the owner that if he needed to give up any of his dogs, he would take them to keep them from being euthanized.
A week later, the man called Kay and gave him three Old English bulldogs, including Winnie the Pooh and Bailey, whose extremely wiggly adoption video generated a staggering 99.3 million views on TikTok.
Kay's found that the videos he spends less time editing—meaning the ones he's most excited to post—gain the most attention on TikTok. He's been posting his follow-the-orange-card videos since at least September 2020 after deciding he needed to do more happy videos instead of only sad puppy mill posts.
If you watch enough of these videos, you'll start to swear the dogs know what's happening. Some are definitely just responding to Kay's friendly, cooing voice. But he thinks dogs who've been in the shelter long enough, who've seen other dogs get their orange cards, know what's happening.
Adoption rates, he says, have been up at the humane society since he started his account. While it's impossible to directly connect the videos to the adoption rate, he's heard from people across the country—as far as states like Texas, Florida, and California—who are interested in adopting dogs he features. One woman saw a dog he featured and flew in to adopt the pup all the way from Maine.
If these heartwarming adoption videos are tugging at your heartstrings and want to adopt a dog from the Wayne County Humane Society, keep an eye on its website. In a lot of cases, the dogs Kay features on TikTok have already been put on hold or adopted.
But if you're not looking for a new companion, then you can just sit back and enjoy the daily serotonin hit via TikTok. That is, until you realize northern Ohio actually isn't that far of a drive.