Now that things are finally starting to settle down, I wanted to share some things I learned while attending the No Kill Conference. There were so many presentations providing excellent information on just about anything involved with advocating for a No Kill community. Saving Shelter Cats, Saving Shelter Dogs, Saving Community Cats, Pet Retention, Reducing the Length of Stay, Forcing Transparency, Innovative Shelter Designs, and using social networking, blogging, and media to get your message heard. There was also a moderated discussion of Shelter Directors who are saving over 90% of the animals that come into their shelters.
The first class Aaron and I attended was Pet Retention-Reducing Intake. This involves making sure the public knows to come to your shelter with questions and concerns. As our Shelter Director, Karl Brubaker, points out, it takes an average 8 behavior instances for a person to want to surrender their companion animal. If we could get people to understand that the Shelter can be a source of resources and information, we may not have to ever get to that 8th instance. I really liked the idea of getting a Help Desk to be that resource for the community. People can call and ask questions, sort through problems, brainstorm, find resolutions, and get information about spay/neutering options, training tips, lists of landlords who permit companion animals, and resources for financial help with vet expenses. There is an excellent website with information about dog aggression, www.k9aggression.com, that can even provide information if aggression is becoming an issue. Pet Retention all boils down to the 3 E’s- Educate, Encourage, and Enable!
We also attended the class, Shelter Medicine for Non-Veterinarians. This class discussed the ways that shelters can help decrease potential vet costs through using preventative measures such as asking for health records and information about the animal during an owner surrender, treating every stray intake as if they have an infectious disease, and looking for signs of potential disease or illness. It is recommended that an evaluation, screening, testing, and vaccinations be done during intake. Wood lamps can be used to look for small lesions which can be indicative of ringworm.
Here Comes Social Media was an excellent class that discussed how using networks like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and Google + can assist in your advocacy and finding homes for animals. A couple of suggestions given during this class include using Act.ly, Twitter’s petitions, using little links such as bit.ly on tweets to save on characters, and my new favorite lesson is that if you Favorite a tweet, the author cannot delete it as it will become permanently archived.
I learned an interesting statistic during Saving Community Cats. There are currently 82-88 million pet cats in the United States, and 80-85% of them are already spayed or neutered. The National Animal Control Association is a proponent of Trap, Neuter, Return and has information about grants, reducing population through non lethal means, and shows how TNR creates healthier, safer cats who have a lower adverse impact on the environment, and ultimately reduces the number of public complaints. Examples of successful TNR programs include the University of Central Florida, which started TNR in 1991 and within 4 years all the cats were photographed, kittens were socialized and adopted out, and the 96 cats that they maintained is down to a population of 11 cats in 2011. In Ocean Reef, FL, approximately 2,000 cats were tracked and put through a TNR program. There are now approximately 500 cats. In Alachua, FL, of the 2,226 cats, approximately 55% have been spayed or neutered, and Animal Control has seen a 68% decrease in cat intake from the zip codes that were targeted during the TNR. These are all excellent cases that prove that Trap, Neuter, and Return works!
Some excellent tips from Forcing Transparency includes how you can use the Freedom of Information Act or Public Record Act to your advantage in finding out information such as holding periods, medical records, use of controlled substances, staff qualifications, statistics on adoptions and euthanasia, policy manuals, and even Camelian or Pet Point software print outs, which can be used to look for patterns. All public shelters and private shelter with a public contract are required to cooperate. Make sure you send a copy to the legal department of the entity and the Shelter Director. You should also be allowed to view documents at no cost. Online resources include Your Right to Federal Records, and the First Amendment Project, which will even provide information for whistle-blower protection and SLAPP suits. Advice to follow when filling out a PRA is do your research, look at sample requests, find out state laws so you know if they are being broken (i.e.- hold periods), know what you are looking for, and why you want the information, ask for specific documentation and be specific to include time periods as well. If the organization fails to provide the information, file an enforcement action. Attorney’s know how to do this and most of the time you can obtain the attorney fees in the suit. If you can’t find an animal lawyer in your area, look for one that specializes in environmental or employment law as they frequently use PRA’s as well.
With so many classes on a wide variety of subjects, advocates could gain tons of knowledge from the people who have proven successful in their areas of specialty, and after inspirational key notes speeches from Nathan Winograd and Seth Godin, author of many books including Tribes, I can guarantee every person walked away with an even stronger desire to promote change.
The No Kill Revolution Starts with YOU ~Nathan Winograd
See you in Chicago for the 2012 No Kill Conference!