Redemption Screening Tonight in Charlotte

I am taking a wee trip to Charlotte, NC

taking a trip

to attend the premiere of this movie:

finalmovieposter

at the Pease Auditorium at Central Piedmont Community College, 6pm. If you are also attending, please say hello.

To see where the film will be shown in upcoming weeks, check this page.

No Kill Advocacy via Media Outreach in Huntsville, AL

Following the recent news that the city of Huntsville, AL is researching the No Kill Equation for possible implementation at the pound, the group No Kill Huntsville is engaging the community by putting up some digital billboards:

No Kill Shelter astronaut

Image courtesy of Aubrie Kavanaugh

No Kill Shelter salon #2

Image courtesy of Aubrie Kavanaugh

No Kill Shelter girl  dog

Image courtesy of Aubrie Kavanaugh

Aubrie Kavanaugh of No Kill Huntsville writes:

No Kill Huntsville continues to push local elected and appointed officials to embrace no kill programs and to end the destruction of healthy and treatable pets using tax dollars. John Hamilton, the new city administrator, told a media outlet recently that the city is exploring the possibility of becoming a no kill community. This is a degree of forward progress in a city which has known about, but chosen not to implement, the No Kill Equation for more than five years.

Although the city’s recently stated position is seen in a positive light, the members of No Kill Huntsville plan to continue to push the issue in the community and to be the group which seeks to hold city leaders accountable. A huge part of that is reaching the public, many of whom either don’t know what happens at the local shelter or may not realize that there are other ways to function. The latest tool in the toolbox is a digital billboard campaign which is set to run during the months of July and August (thanks to some help from a local sponsor and an animal-friendly advertising company) and a new television PSA (below) getting air time on the local network stations. Although the group has a fully developed web site and is very active on social media, the members acknowledge that the key to change is connecting with the very people who can be educated on what is taking place using their tax dollars and then encouraged to speak out to local officials in support of change.

The hope is to reach a wider audience using visual content which goes beyond the computer screen. No Kill Huntsville is using a degree of humor to reach the community, but there is a method to the madness. Since Huntsville is home to the Marshall Space Flight Center and does, in fact, have a host of rocket scientists living in the community, the group is taking advantage of that. Here in Huntsville, we call ourselves the Rocket City and the Star of Alabama. This region is smart, proud, progressive and creative. If we can support the space program and the international space station, surely we are smart enough to learn from successful no kill communities and stop killing healthy and treatable pets.

Thank you Aubrie for the update. Keep going.

 

Someone is Talking about Ending the Culture of Killing! In the South!

Praise Ponies, this is a nice thing to read:

“When we talk about no-kill, we’re not talking about a definition,” says Aubrie Kavanaugh, a member of No Kill Huntsville. “We’re talking about a culture.”

[...]

“If they’re healthy and treatable, let’s not destroy those animals,” Kavanaugh says. “We don’t need to be spending our money that way. And it’s not consistent with our values.

[...]

“I think it’s possible that we could have a no-kill community in Huntsville in months,” Kavanaugh says. And after that, she says, the culture of no kill could spread to other communities in Alabama.

Sounds sensible, believable and achievable to me.

Thank you Aubrie Kavanaugh for speaking out about replacing a culture of killing with a culture of lifesaving here in the south.  More, please.

LOVE is Positive: An Interview with Ann Brownell of UPAWS, Part 1

Regular readers are familiar with both UPAWS – Marquette County’s open admission, no kill shelter in MI – and its Pet Promoter in Chief, Ann Brownell. For those who aren’t, I asked Ann to preface her answers to my interview questions with a short bio. My questions are in bold and everything in italics was written by Ann. Part 1 of this interview focuses on marketing individual animals and Part 2, which will run next weekend, is primarily about marketing the shelter itself.

ann

Ann Brownell

My name is Ann Brownell and I have been volunteering since 1997 at The Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter. I was at UPAWS (formerly called Marquette County Humane Society) during the years of killing when our save rate as low as 34%. In 2006 our high-kill shelter began making crucial changes which put it on the road to becoming the open admission No-Kill shelter it is today. I am honored to have played a role in that journey and am proud to tell anyone who will listen that in 2013 we are at a 97% save rate.

My volunteering background includes cleaning cat cages for the first 5 years, editor of the newsletter, member of the fundraiser committee, Chair of our largest profit fundraiser Strut Your Mutt, Community Outreach, Website and Facebook page admin, Pet Promotions and shelter photographer. I have been the volunteer Pet Promotions and photographer for more than 10 years. I was on the Board in 2002-2004 and have been currently on the UPAWS Board since 2008 as V.P.

I have 30 years of retail background which I think has helped in marketing and promoting UPAWS and most importantly our shelter pets.
Please read my full bio and background with UPAWS at this link.


1. Shelter pet photos help get animals returned to their owners, adopted, fostered and rescued and they aid in fundraising. In your experience, how does the quality of the photos impact these outcomes?

HUGE!! The quality of the photo can mean the pet lives or is killed in many shelters across the nation! A good quality, positive looking photo is essential to helping pets find homes, being returned to their homes and attracting more supporters. In this day and age, people don’t have to drive to the shelter to see the pets for adoption. It’s as easy as a click of your mouse to see who is available to be part of that person’s life and family. A good photo can draw the attention of people who may not otherwise have noticed an animal and entice them to drive out to the shelter for a closer look. These pets did not ask to be homeless, they long for loving homes. They are not cast-offs and should be given the respect they deserve by showing them as the worthy and desirable pets they are.

In the case of pets being returned to their owners, a good clean photo can focus on the size, markings and weight of the pet, making it that much easier for the owner to identify their pet and get them back home. And contrary to what many people think, anyone can lose their pet – it is irresponsible of shelters to play the blame game. I could lose my cat with every precaution I believe I have taken. The goal of a good shelter is to help that pet find their way back home and part of that solution is advertising the lost pet with a photo and description.

Good quality, happy, snugly, detailed, well lit pet photos are wonderful for fundraising. UPAWS has found that people want to help but they want to see that their donations are going toward saving lives. UPAWS will never, ever play the card of “this poor sad looking pet behind these cage bars” photo plea. We just don’t advertise that way. We found that it turns people off and makes them feel bad and sad, neither of which will make them want to come to your shelter.

In pet adoptions, a positive, clean, clear in focus and well lit photo with good detail will make your pet stand out among the 1000’s of pets available, meaning, that a potential adopter will be drawn to that happy, clear, good looking pet photo which will bring them into your open inviting shelter to adopt, foster, volunteer, donate or just to say hello and visit. All GREAT things! What’s the saying? You never get a second chance to make a good first impression!

Photo by Ann Brownell

Photo by Ann Brownell

2. What specific qualities are you aiming for when photographing shelter pets? What things do you want to avoid in your photos?

A great quality photo will be in-focus, detailed, well lit, happy looking and close up. Bottom line is positivity!! No sad, behind-the-cage, grey, dark, sitting-in-a-concrete-dirty-cold-looking kennel, out-of-focus pictures will make anyone feel good. It sure will be more difficult to get them to want to get in the car and head to your shelter and adopt.

You want to have the person looking at the photo to see that pet as part of their home and as a beloved family member. You want to touch people’s emotions – get them to want to come and meet that positive, happy, clean-looking pet.

For Dogs – have a volunteer or staff member help and take the dog outside on a leash (try to never take the photo of a dog in their kennel – it is very depressing). If you have to take the dog’s photo inside, take the dog out of their kennel and find a colorful background. It has been freezing here in the U.P. One day I had many dog photos to take but it was so cold, we found a colorful blanket in the bedding, hung it up and ta-da, great dog photos!

Photo by Ann Brownell

Photo by Ann Brownell

Make sure to get down to the dog’s level – don’t shoot the dog from a viewpoint hovering above them. Kneel down, lie down, put the dog on a bench, have your helper hold the dog up – bottom line is to get at the dog’s eye level. Use a dog treat or squeaker, or my trick, toss a rock over your head and get ready to get that shot! Get the dogs’ attention!

If the dog is too wiggly or nervous, take the dog for a good walk or run – when the dog returns, they will be more relaxed, panting (which looks like smiling) and all-in-all will be ready for a great photo. If a dog is still not settling down, have your helper kneel down and put their arm around the dog – makes for a nice shot too since it is nice to have interaction with people in your photos.

Photo by Ann Brownell

Photo by Ann Brownell

Get that great close up shot of the dog’s face, eyes, and smile. If you have the ability to have a couple photos, you can add one as a full shot if you want.

Also take the flash off when taking pet photos – you don’t want those shining eyes in the photo. Relax, don’t hurry, and talk in a happy, cheerful manner. Animals know if you are stressed out or in a hurry and this will show in the photos. Keep everything upbeat, positive and have fun…remember, you’re helping save lives!

For Cats – it’s great again to have a helper but it isn’t as necessary as with the dogs. Again, please don’t take the photo with the cat behind bars of the cage. Avoid photos of cats lying in litter boxes. Have someone help you; wrap the kitty in a colorful blanket and have the person hold the cat. Some of the best shots are with people cuddling with felines. Gives the shot warmth and the person can imagine themselves with the kitty at home as part of their life.

bowser6

If the cat is in its kennel, open the door (remember no cage bars!) have a feather wand or bag of cat treats that you wave above your head or just at eye level. This will get the cat to look at you – you want a great close up face shot – the warm, big round wide eyed look of the cat. This again is done by getting the cat to look at you with that feather wand, crinkly toy or bag of treats (make sure to give the kitty a treat though!) Use a colorful blanket as a backdrop for the cat to sit or lie on.

Photo by Ann Brownell

Photo by Ann Brownell

Another trick I have found is if the cat is lying down in their kennel (say on their Kuranda bed) and you are getting the shine off the back of the kennel stainless steel; put a colorful plastic placemat behind the cat (see example). Not only will it pop but it will take away that shiny cold stainless steel look which you don’t want. And again, no flash as we don’t want shiny glowing eyes.

Editing – Once you get your photos, you’ll want to edit them, by cropping them to an appealing size. Editing will take out all the undesirable things such as a litter box in the background, peoples’ legs, leashes, dog drool etc. If you want to go the extra mile, you can enhance your photos by sharpening and brightening them and by adding soft borders. For years I used Microsoft Digital Image 2006 Suite to edit my photos. I still use this but have recently Adobe Photoshop to edit and enhance my pet photos. Add the pet’s name and, if you wish, the shelter’s logo.

There you go…great photos in the making! There you go…saving lives!

Photo by Ann Brownell

Photo by Ann Brownell

There are many great websites to help you with advice on taking great photos. I have been taking the UPAWS photos for 10+ years and have Googled, and learned through reading and gathering information, what works the best. One website that I highly recommend is “One Picture Saves a Life”. Not only does the site have great tips, it goes into the types of cameras and lens that work the best. Please note, you do not need a high-end expensive DSLR camera to take great photos! DSLR’s are recommended and if you or your shelter has one, they are excellent but not necessary. I use a Nikon D7100 DSLR in my photos but have used point and shoots and smart phones in a pinch and they have worked fine. Just keep that flash off and follow the above tips and you’ll be on your way to taking super photos and more importantly, become a part of the solution in helping homeless pets find loving homes.


3. What types of profiles/bios are most helpful in marketing shelter pets?

Keep it positive, happy and upbeat! You want to paint a picture and tell a story of how that pet can become a beloved family member. Describe the dog as a buddy that would love to be your walking pal, snuggle buddy, and best friend, or the kitty as lovely pet to come home to with her calming purr and gentle ways. The reader doesn’t want to be depressed reading the bio. They want to read how wonderful this pet would be in their life. They want to feel good. Tell them how grateful that the pet will be and how it will repay your kindness with hugs, kisses, and unconditional love.

NEVER say this pet has X amount of time or will be euthanized! Don’t threaten or guilt people into adopting. Don’t go on and on with a bunch of negatives like “no kids”, “not house-trained”, “no other animals”. There are ways to address these issues without being negative. The key is to keep it positive. At times switch it up, tell the story from the pet’s point of view. Have the words come from the pet’s mouth.

I learned writing bios the hard way. Many years ago, before UPAWS was No-Kill, some of my bios were angry – not angry at the pet, but angry at the person surrendering that pet and the bios showed that. I even got a few complaints! I really had to sit back, stop, and reflect on what energy and message I was putting out there. Who was I helping writing something negative in the bio? Absolutely no one! Especially not the pet looking for a new home! If what you write isn’t nice, leave it out. Positive, happy, enduring, loving and upbeat are what you want your bios to be, for the pet’s sake.

Our UPAWS staff deserves recognition too as they are always willing to give me a hand with taking dogs out and holding pets for photos. Also our Manager will pitch in and help write bios whenever I need help catching up, or for a fresh outlook or update. We will also do “Staff Favorites” and a staff member will write a bio about why they love a certain pet.

Photo by Ann Brownell

Photo by Ann Brownell

4. You’ve mentioned previously about highlighting a pet’s positive attributes without being deceptive in his profile. Could you give us a couple examples of this?

Keep the description positive and upbeat. Think of ways to say things without being a downer.

Examples:

Dog who jumps on people/has little training:
Zayda is a fun-loving, full of energy, live-life-to-the fullest gal! She knows the commands sit, down and shake and she sure would love to learn more fun tricks with your positive training guidance – especially for a Scooby Snack!

Bounty’s a great dog with a happy-go-lucky, “I love you…do you love me?” personality! Happy, joyful, enthusiastic; this big boy will be up and ready for most any type of adventure! From playing in the yard to chasing a Frisbee…Bounty is ready to go, plus be your faithful buddy all the way! He is smart and eager to learn, Bounty will work hard to please his people pals. He would love to have some training and learn some tricks. He is a fast learner, having learned “sit” quickly and is doing well walking on his leash.

Not good with kids:
He is exuberant with his greetings and a big boy! A home without small children is best for this active, silly boy; he may be a little too exuberant for young ones and possibly unintentionally knock them over.

Separation Anxiety:
Chuck would love his new family unconditionally showing his affection with kisses and tail wags. He gets along with people of all ages and other dogs (loves to wrestle and play!) Chuck would love a person who would be home with him since he loves people so much. Come and meet adorable, lovable, beagle-boy Chuck today.

Yia Yia is loyal, curious and trusting canine. She’ll make a wonderful buddy and would really prefer a home where someone is around with her – she loves her humans so much that she gets sad and has a some separation anxiety when they leave. But she is a very good girl and really just not much out of the pup stage – with a little positive mental and physical training, Yia Yia will be just fine!

No other pets:
Suzie is a delight who loves her people pals and is a bit of a Princess. She longs for a home where she is the only pet, getting the entire limelight to herself; after all, she is a pretty Princess!

5. How do you market shelter pets who are typically challenging to place such as feral cats, dogs who are aggressive with other dogs and elderly animals?

By not writing that something is wrong with them, always look for the sunny side! Here are a few examples:

Cat that is unpredictable:
Bandie has a unique personality and considers herself Queen of the Castle. Bandie likes to do things on her own terms, that including being affectionate with the people she knows and snoozing in her favorite places. Bandie has a personality! She loves to talk and walk around and pretend like she owns the place. She is a fun girl, with a unique personality that deserves a good home. Come meet Bandie today!

Cat that gets over-stimulated easily:
Zilla has a BIG personality!! She LOVES to play and play and play!! Zilla also likes to meet new people on her terms…yup, she likes to be the center of the universe and will let you know that! Zilla likes to be busy…playing, or looking at the birds in the feeder outside the window. Zilla is best placed in a cat savvy home. One who knows cat language – who knows the twitch of an ear, flick of a tail, size of the pupil – and what that means. Most times it means for Zilla – I am done being pet or I want to play and play until I am really tired. We love Zilla and want her to find a great home – she really is a sweet, brave, little gal. This is a best friend in the making, so come meet Zilla if you feel you may be the home for her!

FIV cats:
LOVE is positive…Being FIV or FELV positive doesn’t matter to Jimmy John & Rosie. But you know, being loved does. Caring for a pet with special needs may take less time and money than you think and the love you gain is priceless. They are special kitties and need a special indoor only home – one without other cats or with cats that are also FELV positive.

Dog aggressive with other animals:
Bobby adores all people – all ages, makes, and models! He will play, cuddle, and love you. He wants all the attention and love to himself. Because of this, Buddy prefers to be the only pet. Though he gets along happily with all people, he isn’t too happy with other pets taking his attention, love and food. He wishes to be the only fur-child of the family.

Elderly animals:
Hi, my name is Buddy and I am a 12-year-old, male, neutered, apricot colored, miniature poodle. I belonged to a beloved older couple most of my life – sadly they both have passed away and I am now looking for a new loving home. I was loved all my life and long for the rest of my years to be the same. You know what I miss? I miss sleeping in bed with my Mom – I used to love to snuggle real close to her against her back. She loved that too.

Living in one home since she was a young dog, Lulu had a great life. All of us adore her and are doing all that we can to help her transition (she is now in a caring UPAWS foster home). Miss Lulu is good with children, other dogs and is fine with kittens and cats. Her foster family had this to say about Lulu: “She’s a very quiet girl, doesn’t seem bothered by any of the animals here, enjoys short walks and sniffing around in the snow, hasn’t had any accidents; she slept thru the night with no problems. We haven’t heard her bark, no issues with food. She is a wonderful girl”. Lulu is a gentle soul who will give you pure, unconditional love, kisses and devotion. Lulu has known a family and love for 16 years, and hopes she will be lucky again with a second chance. Open your heart, give Lulu that wish.

Feral or semi-social cats (colony cats):
Grizabella is a gentle little girl with a darling personality. You can most often find her grooming and snuggling with her other feline condo mates. She would do great in a home with another kitty to bond with. Grizabella was found living outdoors with a group of other kitties. It has taken some time for her to adjust to people, but we have slowly seen her open up and blossom. She would need some time to adjust to a new home, but we think after given love and care, you’ll see a wonderful kitty show her true fun and gentle personality.

Thank you Ann for sharing your expertise in shelter pet marketing and for your fabulous photos.

I’d like to interview more people like Ann. If you know a shelter employee, volunteer or advocate who does an extraordinary job advocating for shelter animals, please e-mail me their contact information if you think they might have time to answer some questions about what they do.

The Irresponsible Public Strikes Back – Times Two

The Wisconsin Humane Society took over shelter operations in Racine Co one year ago.  In comparing 2012 to 2013, the Wisconsin Humane Society reports a number of changes:

  • Animals are no longer killed as a means of population control.
  • The number of live released animals nearly doubled.
  • Financial donations were 14 times greater.
  • All animals are neutered prior to their placement on the adoption floor so that new owners can take their pet home as soon as they fall in love with him.
  • Fee waived adoptions for adult cats.
  • A flexible adoption policy allowing more people to adopt shelter pets.
  • Increased promotion of animals and evening adoption hours.
  • Establishment of a spay-neuter assistance program.

When asked about the turnaround at the shelter, WHS communications director Angela Speed told the local paper:

“I think there’s something to be said for community trust[.]”

[...]

“We’re really excited to see such improvement in just our first year of operation, which is totally due to the community’s support,” Speed said.

“We’re very pleased with the first full year of operations. … We have more volunteers, more donors, more adopters. We hope to continue on this trajectory.”

***

This notice was sent out Sunday by the Breckinridge Co shelter in KY:

noname

When the public trusts the local shelter to do its job, they will come out in droves to support it.  When all the public hears from its shelter staff and volunteers is that they are irresponsible animal “dumpers” who “force” the staff to kill healthy/treatable pets, we see the opposite effect.  Which description best fits your community?

The South Will Rise

While places like Union Co, NC continue to go moldy, communities all around the south are defying stereotypes and adopting progressive no kill protocols.

In Spartanburg, SC, city ACOs used to pick up cats and take them to the pound where roughly 8 out of 10 would be killed.  Area caretakers of feral cat colonies had a contentious relationship with the officers who would round up their maintained colony cats, along with other cats, and take them away for killing.

But late last year, Spartanburg Animal Services investigated trap-neuter-return for community cats and decided it was worth a try.  Funded by a grant, the city’s ACOs launched the program in January 2013.  They are on track to meet their goal of providing neuter and vaccination services to 750 feral cats this year.  The feline kill rate has dropped to virtually zero in 2013 thanks to TNR and the relationship with the community has bloomed into a supportive and useful one.  And Spartanburg Animal Services has been educating the masses via its Facebook page on which they document their outstanding TNR success.

In North Carolina, Lincoln Co animal advocates successfully lobbied their county commissioners for shelter reform.  Citing the will of the people to save shelter pets instead of killing them, commissioners unanimously voted this month to adopt the programs of the No Kill Equation:

“We are excited about leading the way in the state of North Carolina, through our commitment to become a no kill municipal shelter,” said Alex Patton, chairman of the county commissioners. “It is the right decision and one shared by the majority of our citizens.”

In Calhoun Co, AL, an advisory board was formed after concerns were raised about animal cruelty and botched killings at the pound.  The county is now slated to turn pound operations over to a non-profit group with goals for significant improvements:

 “I kept hearing from the previous board that it’s impossible to be a no-kill shelter,” [board member and attorney Tom] Wright said. “That’s not right to me, because that should be your goal. That’s what we want to work towards.”

Makes sense to me.

So even as many old-think shelter directors and politicians in the south remain mired in the killing ways of decades gone by, more and more southern communities are throwing off the yoke of archaic practices and starting to look at what makes sense:  Animals shelters should shelter animals. The public does not want animals in shelters killed.

No kill is not only possible, it’s happening in hundreds of communities all over the country.  Regressive directors and their enablers will continue to see their stranglehold on shelters eroded as more advocates take political action and the public continues to be educated about lifesaving alternatives.  And when history reflects upon those who fought to keep killing in the south and elsewhere, they will find themselves a mere Meisterburger footnote at the end of the chapter entitled “Compassion and Common Sense”.

Saving 99% of Intake: How Much Does It Cost at UPAWS?

One of the most common excuses used by directors of pet killing facilities to explain why they aren’t doing their jobs is that saving lives is too expensive. Even in some shelters where the save rate is significantly higher than the national average, there are claims made that saving the last X% is too costly and the resources are better directed toward the many vs. the few.

I wanted to know how much it actually costs to save literally every healthy/treatable animal in a shelter. So I asked UPAWS in Marquette Co, MI about their cost per animal handled since they saved approximately 99% of their dogs and cats in 2012, reserving euthanasia for rare cases when a pet was medically or behaviorally hopeless and suffering.

My original intent was to get a figure from UPAWS and include it in a post. I was going to explain that when looking at cost per animal, one must consider fundraising and community involvement as well since these things directly correlate. I was going to say a lot of things but then something unexpected and exciting happened.

I received from UPAWS a 3 page document explaining in detail what their cost per animal was back when they killed pets for population control (they adjusted the figures for inflation) vs. what it is now that they save every healthy/treatable animal under their roof. Their document is quite a bit more than I expected and says everything I wanted to say so much better.

UPAWS board president Reva Laituri writes:

The figures being provided should be considered as a case study. They represent how things have played out for UPAWS. Our experiences, methods of resolution, and results are most likely unique to us. We are not saying anything we did or are doing is the best way or the only way. Every shelter has its own sets of strengths, weaknesses, and obstacles and the path each needs to travel will be slightly different depending on those factors. What works for one shelter, will not necessarily work for another.

But that does not mean the killing can’t be stopped; it only means that shelters will need to be creative in finding what works for them. There are key areas that every shelter must address in order to be successful. The differences lie in the specifics which vary by shelter.

What is important is the unwavering decision to not kill healthy, treatable, adoptable animals. Once that decision is made and everyone (board, staff, volunteers) are committed to that goal, it can be done. It won’t be easy, there is no cookie-cutter approach, and there is no slacking off. Obviously finances are a concern in running any shelter and have to be taken into consideration, but finances should not be an excuse to stop evolving. Rather they should serve as a prompt telling you that a particular area requires more creative thinking to get what you need.

[...]

In FY 2005/2006, UPAWS admitted 1,456 animals, 530 left our shelter alive resulting in a save rate of 36.4%. Our cost per animal was $190.85. In FY 2012/2013 we admitted 1,620 animals, 1,628 left our shelter alive resulting in a save rate of 100%. Our cost per animal was $207.58, or $16.73 (8%) more per animal. Looking at it from a strictly numbers viewpoint, by killing 63.6% of the animals, we were also basically throwing away the corresponding revenue those animals represented (after all, we didn’t fulfill our mission to save and re-home them). That amounts to $178,636 when for another 8% ($15, 660) we could saved nearly every one of those 936.

But, and this is the reason we don’t look at cost-per-animal, the numbers do not end with expenses. While cost-per-animal rose, two other areas also rose. First the figure of $207.58 includes a number of services and programs we were not providing seven years earlier.

By 2013, we were open seven days a week and one evening, including every holiday except Christmas (instead of being open only five days a week). Advertising animals through the UPAWS website, print-radio-TV media, and social media and keeping the public updated from start to finish in terms of adoptability and outcome, became standard. Pet sponsorships became and continue to play a huge role in getting animals adopted (donors can opt to pre-pay for medical care, vaccinations, or all or part of adoption fees for specific animals). Promotions with accompanying adoption fee reductions or waivers were being used on a regular basis. We had implemented reduced adoption fees for seniors and “Lonely Hearts” (those animals who have been in the shelter 3 months or longer). People willing to adopt animals for what would equate to hospice care had fees waived. All animals were being microchipped and we were Felv/FIV testing all cats and heartworm testing all dogs. In addition, staff and volunteers began making a more concerted effort at reuniting lost pets with their owners and becoming more pro-active in pet retention efforts.

Also, not included in the cost-per-animal, a community spay-neuter program was instituted to assist pet owners in getting their animals altered which ultimately reduces the numbers of litters being admitted and a Home-2-Home program that allows owners to use the UPAWS website to advertise pets that need re-homing, thus preventing them ever being admitted to the shelter. (A number of restrictions were put in place to avoid advertising by breeders.)

The second very important component that cannot be ignored is that while the cost-per-animal rose 8%, we also saw an increase in donations of 43% and a net increase in fundraising efforts of 294% for an overall increase in revenue of 61%. This is where the transparency and trust, mentioned above, enters the equation. Obviously, the increased revenue more than makes up for the cost-per-animal, and has allowed us to implement more services, become pro-active and plan for a future (including plans for a new shelter).

Thank you UPAWS for providing this detailed information. I hope many shelter directors and staff members will read the document and use it as a tool to assist them in developing their own plan to increase their live release rates.  Just knowing that finances are not an obstacle in saving every healthy/treatable pet at UPAWS will hopefully be inspiring for other shelter directors who want to save more lives.

Download the 3 page document in its entirety here.  (Added, November 16, 2013Here is the same document, but on UPAWS letterhead.)

Read about the changes UPAWS made in order to move from killing to saving pets here.

The Public Rallies Around Vandalized Georgia Shelter

A brick and mortar rescue group called All About Animals in Macon, Georgia suffered a tragedy this month.  On the night of October 16, some person or persons apparently went into the no kill shelter and opened the doors on the pet cages.  When volunteers arrived at the shelter the next morning, they found forty loose dogs who had been fighting overnight – two dogs were dead, a third died shortly afterward and fifteen other dogs were injured, many severely.

Since the tragic incident, misinformation has been circulating including that the dogs were released in order to fight other dogs who were brought into the facility by the perpetrators.  An allegation that the dogs were cut is attributed to PETA.  The Macon police department has offered clarifications:

In a statement released Tuesday night, Macon police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet stated there was no evidence that dog fighting was a motive. Police do not believe any other dogs were brought to the shelter to induce the fighting.

“Investigators have found no evidence of dogs being injured by sharp objects,” Gaudet stated. “It appears that all injuries to the dogs were caused by other dogs.”

The public has rallied around the shelter:

Mary Crawford, director of the no-kill shelter, said Tuesday she’s been overwhelmed by the flood of local support. A community vigil last Sunday drew more than 100 people, including Mayor Robert Reichert, to the shelter to remember the three dogs killed — Jack, Butler and Flapjack.

Besides donations of a security system, cash, blankets, dog toys and medical supplies, All About Animals has a stack of dozens of applications from people who want to volunteer with the group.

“We’re getting support like never ever before,” Crawford said.

And there’s more, courtesy of the so-called irresponsible public:

Meanwhile, several Macon-area security companies stepped up to offer a free security system for the facility, which had no surveillance in place when the break-in happened. In addition, two people volunteered to each pay for a year of the monthly security bills.

Others helped out Friday by washing and walking the dogs, which [volunteer Carolyn] Yager said was “extremely helpful.”

Crawford said the rescue group has received at least $2,000 in cash donations, as well as offers to pay for the dogs’ medical bills and boarding. Some people have donated new locks for the facility, she said.

HSUS has given All About Animals a $2500 crisis grant to help with vet bills and renovations.

PETA, an organization opposed to no kill shelters, HSUS and the Atlanta Humane Society have each offered $5000 rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the break-in.  This money is in addition to $3000 contributed by local citizens bringing the current reward total to $18,000.

Anyone with information is asked to call Macon Regional CrimeStoppers at 877-68-CRIME.

(Thanks Clarice for sending me this story.)

Evolving

Shelter pet advocacy is not static in nature.  As the no kill movement grows and evolves, so do we as individual advocates.  As more information and experience becomes available, we may learn better ways of performing tasks and communicating ideas.  While we remain committed to the basic principle that shelter pets have the right to live, our views on the who, what, when, where and why of various details may require reexamination and modification over time.  This is a natural part of the growth of any movement and as challenging as change may seem at times, it’s a good thing.  It means our movement is alive.

For some time, I have been reexamining my view of the 90% save rate which serves as a benchmark for many animal shelters who use the term “no kill” to describe themselves.  Nathan Winograd talks about how the figure became established in a January 2013 post on his blog:

When I worked in San Francisco, we were saving roughly 80% of animals communitywide, but treatable animals were still being killed at the city pound. Because the leadership of the San Francisco SPCA refused to expand the safety-net of care (my plea to the Board of Directors to commit to saving all treatable animals having fallen on deaf ears), I left for Tompkins County to prove that at an open admission shelter could not only save all the healthy animals, but all the treatable ones as well. And while I was there, our save rate hit 93% (about 95% using the methods in vogue today). Reno and then several other communities emulated the model, and, likewise, began posting similar save rates: Charlottesville hit 92% and Reno hit 91%.

But with many communities claiming they were No Kill while still killing half or more of all animals, I promulgated what I called, “The 90% Rule,” arguing that—based on the best performing shelters at the time, along with dog bite extrapolation data and rates of infectious diseases in the cat and feral population—only when a community was saving animals in the 90th percentile range was it likely zeroing out deaths of healthy and treatable animals.

He explains how things have changed in the 10 years since:

We need a language for success, we need a gauge that we can use to help us compare and contrast shelters so that we know what goal we should be striving for, and governments need measurable benchmarks that more qualitative standards like “No Kill” or “saving all healthy and treatable animals” don’t provide. In that sense, giving people a numerical idea of the percentage of animals a community should be striving to save, a benchmark that many other shelters have been able to achieve is important. Before we had such indicators, our mantra was simply “Stop the Killing.” We had no idea, in practice, what that really meant, or how many animals we thought that should apply to. Now we do. But I do not want people to become complacent that it doesn’t matter if a shelter is killing certain animals as long as the save rate for that shelter hovers in the 90th percentile range. I hope that the enthusiasm which motivated people to embrace the 90% benchmark will also embrace the good news that, in fact, experience is proving that that number is not fixed and we don’t have to stop there.

I understand that bureaucrats need hard numbers which can be plugged into colorful graphs and pie charts.  And I’m happy we have these numbers at our disposal on the occasions we need them.  But I am not a stuffed suit in a political office.  I am someone who loves dogs and cats and strongly believes in their right to live.  I can do qualitative.  I can do nuance.

I do not accept that a shelter is no kill based on statistics alone.  Shelters that save 90% or more of their pets are obviously doing very well.  In elementary school, scores of 90% or higher earned us an “A” which was listed on the report card as “Excellent”.  Shelters saving 90%+ of their animals get an A.  I am thankful for them.  I will celebrate them.  But let’s be real:  There is likely very little difference between a shelter saving 89% and one saving 90%.  It’s just that structured benchmarks are required in some areas and so the former shelter gets a B+ while the latter gets an A-.

There are some people who believe that a 90% save rate is “good enough” and that no further information is needed on any shelter which achieves it.  The issue of killing of healthy/treatable pets at such shelters slides into a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell category.   In some cases I think this stems from desperation on the part of shelter pet advocates whose local shelters are little more than pet killing facilities and to whom a 90% save rate sounds like a fantasy.  In fact, like the shelter that is saving 89%, the one saving 90% may be killing a small number of healthy/treatable pets.  The stats alone don’t tell us the shelter director’s philosophy or the level of commitment to every individual animal.

For me, no kill is not a number.  No kill is the belief that every shelter pet has the right to live and is deserving of individual consideration.  Any shelter which in some way conveys to the public a commitment to every individual animal in its care gets my attention.  I will check the shelter’s stats, expecting to see a very high save rate.  To my mind, verifying the shelter’s public commitment to every individual animal along with annual stats which reflect a save rate near 100% is the best an average outsider can reasonably do in performing due diligence.  In order to delve deeper, individual animal records must be examined.

In such cases where more detailed examination is conducted, the key areas which interest me are the circumstances surrounding each animal who was euthanized and whether the shelter appears to be serving its own community first and reaching out to assist neighboring communities second.  The former is simply to verify that animals who are medically (or behaviorally in rare dog cases) hopeless and suffering are being promptly and humanely euthanized and that no healthy/treatable animals are being killed.  The latter is a more complex issue.

My vision for how a grassroots movement such as no kill will spread nationwide is that it begins locally, then extends to the neighboring county and so on.  The reason I see this as so important is that valuing the lives of every individual shelter pet begins at home and is reinforced by helping our neighbors.  This is how commitment to shelter pets as individuals is demonstrated by a shelter.  Animal groups that import so-called high value shelter dogs from hundreds or thousands of miles away while unadopted dogs in neighboring communities are sent to the kill room are ignoring killing in their own backyard.  I do not subscribe to the notion that “A life saved is a life saved” when it is used to justify this practice.

If no kill advocates do not advocate for the right to live of every individual animal, including the challenging-to-adopt pets, who will?  If no kill advocates do not advocate for the animals in their own and their neighboring communities, who will?  It is unrealistic to expect someone else to care about the unadopted pets in our own and our neighboring communities after we have turned our backs on those animals.  And it is inconsistent with no kill.

A life saved is a life saved sounds swell, unless you’re saying it to an unadopted healthy dog in a kill room one county over from a shelter that imports dogs from out of state.  Say it then and the answer as to what we need to do as no kill advocates seems obvious.

Which brings me back to the basic premise that no kill is not a number.  No kill is loving shelter dogs and cats – every one of them – enough to fight for them and to not turn a blind eye when they are being killed.  It’s asking uncomfortable questions.  It’s not giving up regardless of whether you’ve achieved “good enough”.  It’s a willingness to reexamine ideals and change as the movement grows.  No kill is a commitment which does not lend itself to being graphed but shows itself in a community where homeless dogs and cats are truly sheltered and the color of compassion spills outside the pie chart.

Former Rabun Co Shelter Director Indicted

Lowanda “Peanut” Kilby, the former director of the Boggs Mountain shelter in Rabun Co, GA has been indicted on 60 felony counts for her part in scamming the public by using the no kill moniker:

Charges filed against Kilby include theft by taking, theft by deception, computer theft and racketeering.

[...]

The indictment accuses Kilby of funneling more than $10,000 of the Lucky Dog money into her personal PayPal account.

Regular readers will recall that Kilby bilked donors using a pay-to-play, mafia style scam where she would guarantee dogs at the supposed no kill shelter would be allowed to live if they received a sponsorship of $100.  Kilby would pocket the cash, kill the “Lucky Dog”, then send the sponsor a yay-your-sponsored-dog-got-adopted letter.  And on to the next.

Kilby was fired in July 2012 after a tenacious local news reporter received insider info and exposed the scam on the evening news.

To my mind, the first clue that something was amiss should have been the protection money the shelter was demanding in order to protect the pet’s right to live.  No genuine no kill shelter would ever require such a payment to avoid killing a healthy/treatable pet.  This is entirely different from requesting a donation at the time of surrender.  Neither the lack of a donation from a surrendering party nor the lack of sponsorship from a donor should ever compromise a pet’s right to live.  Full stop.

Sadly, since shelter pet killing is not only legal but widely accepted as standard practice, no animal cruelty charges are being brought against Kilby for all the healthy/treatable pets she needlessly killed in order to line her pockets.  As was the case with Michael Vick, we can at least be thankful that racketeering is considered a serious crime under the law.  If the state of Georgia had the Companion Animal Protection Act in place, Kilby could possibly have been charged for the killings as well.

The name Boggs Mountain is no longer used and Rabun Co has since contracted with a group called Paws 4 Life to run the shelter.

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