New Hampshire and No Kill

Dug, ID #19254, as pictured on the NH SPCA website.

Dug, ID #19254, as pictured on the NH SPCA website.

Transparency is a hallmark of the no kill movement.  All shelters claiming to be no kill should either have their annual statistics posted online for everyone to see or provide them without delay upon request.  Questions regarding the shelter’s policies should be answered in a timely manner.  Anything less is unacceptable.

Although I have come across occasional claims that New Hampshire is a no kill state, I have never seen any evidence to back up this claim.  Given that this blog is dedicated to no kill and that any state in our country becoming no kill would be monumental news, I have tried repeatedly to substantiate this claim on my own.  Sadly, I’ve never come close to doing so because most of the shelters do not have their stats posted online nor will they provide them to me upon request.  But since the claim persists, I again attempted last month to obtain the stats and get questions answered from a number of NH shelters.  I’d like to share what I’ve learned.

On February 19, I contacted the New Hampshire Federation of Humane Organizations to request statistics from its member shelters.  I received a response from Marylee Gorham-Waterman which reads, in part:

We do not have the 2013 statistics noted on the actual website, if that is what you are looking for. There is complete transparency form those that report – you can click on the members and go directly to their individual websites for annual reports which will have all the information you seek.

As instructed, I clicked on several of the groups at random but did not find any stats on any of the sites I visited. I decided to directly contact the eight shelters listed as founding members of the NHFHO. Between February 23 and February 25, I submitted inquiries (mostly email, two were website contact form inquiries) to the following shelters:

Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire (formerly Manchester)
Pope Memorial SPCA (formerly Concord SPCA)
Eastern Slopes Animal Welfare League
Monadnock Region Humane Society
Nashua Humane Society
New Hampshire Humane Society
New Hampshire SPCA
Upper Valley Humane

I requested the same information from each shelter:

Would you please send me your comprehensive annual stats (detailing all intakes and outcomes, including feral cats and all other animals) from your most recent year on file? I also have some specific questions I’m hoping you can answer:

What is your shelter’s feral cat policy? Are healthy/treatable feral cats ever euthanized?
What is your shelter’s policy on cats/kittens with URI? Are cats/kittens with URI ever euthanized?
What is your shelter’s policy on euthanasia? Are healthy/treatable animals (any type – e.g. dogs, rabbits, wildlife, etc.) ever euthanized?
What is your shelter’s policy on spaying pregnant animals? Are pregnant animals ever spayed?

Jen Corbin of the NH SPCA promptly responded to all my questions and provided me with the stats I sought (2013 incoming animals here and 2013 outgoing animals here). Here is her email in its entirety:

Subject: RE: Request for statistics report
From: “Jen Corbin” jcorbin@nhspca.org
Date: Thu, February 26, 2015 4:37 pm
To: eiderdown@yesbiscuit.com

Hi Shirley,
Thank you for your inquiry. We’re happy to hear from a fellow animal lover! Our current ‘Year End’ statistics for 2014 are about to go to print and you can access them through our Newsletter on our website www.nhspca.org when they are published, which will be in the next few weeks. Let me know if you have any trouble with that.

In the meantime, I have attached our most recently complied statistics from 2013. Let me know if you need any clarification or have further questions. We are proud of our successes in NH but they are hard won and not without struggle and daily determination to save and improve lives. At the NHSPCA our goal is a loving home for every pet and we care deeply for those in our care. In addition to our dedicated staff, we support and are aided by a pet-loving community and a thriving volunteer/foster parent program; an active humane education department; and diverse pet training/retention program.

Our live release rate is currently 94%, we are an ‘Open Admission-Unlimited stay’ facility. The pets we have lost to euthanasia or death fall into two basic categories of aggression and/or extreme illness/suffering unlikely to recover.

I have answered your more detailed questions below in blue.

Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Jen

Jen Corbin
Director of Animal Services
NHSPCA
PO Box 196
Stratham, NH 03885
(603)772-2921 x115
http://www.nhspca.org

What is your shelter’s feral cat policy? Are healthy/treatable feral cats ever euthanized? We believe that the shelter environment is no place for a feral cat so for the most part we refer those cats to local ‘community cat’ support groups who do TNR. That being said, when we are brought feral adult cats we do spay/neuter/vaccinate and either transfer them to one of the ‘community cat’ groups or keep them until we find a ‘barn home’ for them. We also readily take in and socialize many feral kittens through our foster program where they learn about life in a real home environment (I am a feral kitten foster myself-they’re my favorite foster opportunity). Most feral kittens become loving ‘inside only’ pets. A healthy/treatable feral cat is never euthanized, with time we can find an appropriate placement for every cat. That’s what we mean by ‘unlimited stay’.

What is your shelter’s policy on cats/kittens with URI? Are cats/kittens with URI ever euthanized? URI is an unfortunate consequence of the sheltering environment when you’re trying to save every life you can have a lot of cats in close quarters. We have an isolation unit where we quarantine and treat cats who contract URI. Very occasionally a geriatric cat or underage kitten will become so ill that they cannot recover and it becomes kindest to euthanize, but that is rare now since we’ve upgraded our ISO unit; for the most part, once they recover they are returned to the adoption floor.

What is your shelter’s policy on euthanasia? Are healthy/treatable animals (any type – e.g. dogs, rabbits, wildlife, etc.) ever euthanized? Our euthanasia rate is about 5%. We spend a great deal of energy, time and resources bringing surrendered and rescued pets to a healthy, or manageable adoptable state. We treat every animal in our care as an individual. No pet passes through our doors that we don’t develop an attachment to.

What is your shelter’s policy on spaying pregnant animals? Are pregnant animals ever spayed? Known pregnant animals are placed into foster care to birth and raise the off-spring. Rarely, a very early stage pregnancy is spayed when it is only discovered on the operating table.

It sounds like the NH SPCA is doing excellent work and the transparency is impressive.

I also received a response from Beth Brayman at the Upper Valley Humane Society on February 26. She directed me to the 2013 annual report posted on the shelter’s website and I have grabbed the relevant info to share here:

uvhs2013

Screengrab of a portion of the Upper Valley Humane Society’s 2013 annual report, as posted on its website.

Ms. Brayman stated she had forwarded my email to her senior managers to get answers to my questions. I have not heard anything further from anyone at the Upper Valley Humane Society.

I received no response of any kind from the following shelters:

Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire (formerly Manchester)
Pope Memorial SPCA (formerly Concord SPCA)
Eastern Slopes Animal Welfare League
Monadnock Region Humane Society
Nashua Humane Society
New Hampshire Humane Society

Note:  The executive director of the New Hampshire Humane Society is Marylee Gorham-Waterman, who responded to the inquiry I made to the NHFHO.  I did write to her again and specifically requested the NHHS stats and asked my questions.  She did not reply.

Glass half-full: There is one open admission shelter in NH that I feel confident in standing behind as no kill: NH SPCA. There may be others. If there are, I would love to blog about their success but can not in good conscience make any claims about what is happening in open admission shelters and/or NHFHO member shelters without having the information to back up those claims.

There are many shelter directors in this country who do not believe no kill is possible, simply because they haven’t reviewed the available data that proves otherwise.  There are a small number of extremists who continually look to discredit the no kill movement.  Donors in the internet age are very interested in performing due diligence before making donations to shelters and want to know their donations will not be used for killing animals.  For these reasons, and primarily because it’s the right thing to do, transparency is a key component of no kill sheltering.  And it follows that it is irresponsible and damaging to claim a shelter, let alone an entire state, is no kill without having the documentation to back that up.  To the best of my knowledge, NH is not a no kill state.

Another photo of Dug from the NH SPCA website because obviously.

Another photo of Dug from the NH SPCA website because obviously.

A Promising Start in Fremont Co Delivers Hope: An Interview with Douglas Rae

When we last checked in with the Humane Society of Fremont Co in Colorado, the place was a hot mess.  State inspections revealed that the facility was killing animals before their legal holding period expired using inhumane methods, including heartstick, performed by untrained staff, leaving sick and injured animals to suffer without immediate vet care, housing cats in cages that were too small and had mesh flooring, and using the surgery room as a cat intake/holding area as well as an isolation area for sick cats.  Local advocates were calling for a new director to bring reform.

Douglas Rae, director of the Humane Society of Fremont Co, with friend. (Photo courtesy Douglas Rae)

Douglas Rae, director of the Humane Society of Fremont Co, with friend. (Photo courtesy Douglas Rae)

On September 24, 2014, advocates’ efforts paid off when newly hired director Douglas Rae started on the job.  I recently interviewed Doug and learned that under his leadership, the HSFC is now saving nearly every animal in its care.  And it’s not being done at the expense of cats either since HSFC isn’t a participant in the War on Cats, choosing instead to reunite lost, friendly, outdoor cats with their owners or find them new ones if needed.  Feral cats are neutered and returned to their place in the community.  And the only time HSFC performs owner requested euthanasia now is when an animal is medically hopeless and suffering.

I asked Doug to describe his first day at the Humane Society of Fremont Co:

I was greeted with a large sign on the front door that said, “Welcome Douglas Rae To Our Shelter.” A volunteer was at the front counter when I walked in, he recognized me, and he greeted me straight away before I could introduce myself. I talked with this volunteer at the front counter for almost 30 minutes. This volunteer (and his wife) took me and Lynn (my wife) out to lunch on my first day.

After speaking with the volunteer that greeted me, I immediately went into the cat adoption room and introduced myself to every cat. “Hi my name is Doug, I’m getting you out of here.” After the cats, I had the same talk with every dog in the building. And then the rabbits. And then the cats in intake. It’s a ritual I do in every shelter on day one.

When the Board flew me out for in Interview in August, I spotted several changes that needed to be made. So I had noted many things I would address on day one if I were selected as the new director.

We had signage seemingly on every wall inside of the shelter. I took every sign on the walls down but one, the pricing structure, which I relocated to a better area.

In the front lobby, we sold urns, lots of them. To me, it looked like death with all of the urns on display. I understand why the urns were out for display, I simply didn’t want others to think what I did when they walked in the shelter for the first time. The last thing I want people to think is about is “death.”

So we moved the urns out of immediate eyesight, put nice pictures on the wall in the front lobby and the hallways, moved a couch with pillows into the lobby, added a giant and soothing waterfall in the front window. and made the front area look nice and homey We also started playing soft music and piped aromatherapy through the ventilation system in week one.

In fact, as I write this, over one hour after everyone has gone home for the night, not one dog is making a sound. Not one dog is howling or crying. Not one dog is barking. If dogs were barking tonight, the aromatherapy was not changed out from the previous day. Silence is golden in an animal shelter.

I have a volunteer willing to help us with easy yet potent protocols utilizing homeopathy, essential oils, flower essences, herbs, etc. There are several, easy-to-use remedies that can help calm, ease anxiety, and relieve stress for animals in a shelter. Diffusing oils in both the front area and the kennel area would be very easy and helpful as well.

Individual dogs will also receive homeopathy and other remedies that are good for them specifically – post surgery, digestive support, skin support, URI, UTI, lameness, wound healing, eye issues, arthritis, etc… and guess what, volunteers are all over this making it happen for the animals.

We made a lot of changes straight away because I have high expectations for how a shelter should look. But especially in Canon City, where the shelter had been under such scrutiny. Getting the building to where the community needed it was a priority on day one/week one.

I want the lobby to be warm and inviting. Heck, I want the entire building to be warm and inviting. For the month of October the shelter was decorated for Halloween. It was scary spooky in here. The day after Thanksgiving, Christmas decorations went up throughout the entire building. Including dog and cat cages. It was quite something to see.

Animal shelters need not look and smell like an animal shelter.

I filled a notebook on day one with things we needed to address. But I always do this in new jobs. A lot of notes were written that day.

Since no kill deniers often falsely claim that shelters can not be open admission without killing animals for population control, I asked Doug if HSFC was still contracted to provide animal control services:

Yes. We are contracted through Fremont County, CO and the cities of Canon City, Florence, Coal Creek, Williamsburg, Rockvale and Westcliffe, CO.

There were months of discussion of pulling the contract. Once my appointment was announced online, and after several people who wanted the contract canceled but were now advocating that the contract remain in place (after my announcement and one month before I started), the council decided to not pull the contract.

I also asked about the facility’s budget:

The combined per capita number for all cities and the county we are serving when I started was $1.07. We are still at $1.07. Though I desperately need more money to manage this shelter, I have not received more contract dollars.

Our donations decreased a good deal due to the shelter’s recent history and the medical expenses increased after my start, as we treat all animals requiring treatment, no matter how big or how small the bill (we do not have a vet on staff).

Although much ado is made by some animal groups about length of stay for shelter pets, Doug is not overly concerned with that number at HSFC and doesn’t track it:

Some people think an animal living in a shelter for longer than 7 days (or whatever that magic number is) should be moved out; I guess through the back door, but I don’t. Nor will I ever.

If we have to keep an animal for 30, 60 or 90 days to find that animal a home and ensure life, then we will. We kept two dogs for over 30 days because they needed to be kept together. They were adopted and are now alive in a loving family. Other shelters might have split up a bonded pair of dogs and adopted each individually, or worse, killed the animals if they couldn’t be placed within a designated time frame. Not here, ever. We treat all animals as individuals.

HSFC has been returning lost pets to owners at an impressive rate since Doug started:

We have a 37% Return to Owner rate in my 3 months.

We have a detailed list of lost animals at the front counter, we have a lost and found bulletin board in the shelter, we have a “lost animal found” Facebook page where strays are “immediately” posted online at intake, we scan for micro-chips on intake, we check the Colorado lost pets Facebook page to see if animals match any in our shelter.

We literally have had ACOs bring in a dog and the owner and dog were reunited in less than 30 minutes.

Adoption promotions run continuously:

October, National Shelter Dog Month: half price adoptions. Half price adoptions for rabbits. Half price adoptions for cats. November Adopt a Senior Shelter Dog month $25. Black Friday $25.00 adoptions.

Our shelter was incorporated December 26, 1950. Adoption prices this 12/26, and adoptions always on 12/26, will be $19.50.

Currently we are doing “Gas prices have dropped, and this week…so have our adoption fees for dogs!”

We are always doing something.

Doug attributes credit for saving almost every animal at HSFC to the so-called irresponsible public:

In October (my first month) we saved 93% of the animals, November 99% and December 100%, with a $1.07 per capita and close to being 300 operational hours short.

What we have accomplished over the last three months may not be noteable when compared to other shelters doing the same thing in other cities, but it is historic in this County. And not because of me. I am simply fortunate to be sitting in the drivers seat as this bus makes its way down the road to bigger and better things. My team has made everything happen and because of that teams efforts, Canon City is now on the national life-saving map.

I have never had such a committed and focused group of people saving lives before and I have had a few solid teams in the past. Volunteers from around the state of Colorado (and beyond) have reached out and asked me how they can help.

Volunteers drive two hours one-way to bring animals to a rescue. Volunteers have written a check for $900 to cover a cat’s dislocated shoulder, as quickly as they buy a cup of coffee in the morning (and without my even asking for a penny).

Volunteers raised $400 for a dog’s eye surgery in less than 24 hours (again, without my asking them to do anything). Volunteers completely manage my rescue program. Volunteers take and upload pictures of adoptable animals onto the website. Volunteers foster pregnant dogs, and bring back healthy puppies for people to adopt 8 weeks late. Volunteers save neonatal kittens when they need to be bottle fed by taking them into their foster home. And so much more.

Volunteers are the absolute foundation for what we do in Fremont County. I simply could not be prouder of this team. And really they seemingly were behind me on day one. Sure, I reached out to several people at the start, meeting everyone one-on-one, but folks that were not currently volunteering at the shelter embraced life-saving with little to no direction from me at all.

Rather than clinging to the old/failed ways, which we see so often in animal sheltering, Doug embraces change and sees it as an indication of progress:

If we are not changing, we are not getting better.

Thank you Doug for bringing hope to the lost and homeless animals of Fremont Co. Thank you to the animal advocates who campaigned for reform. And thank you to the irresponsible public for making lifesaving the priority at the Humane Society of Fremont Co. It would be hard to imagine a more impressive turnaround or a more promising start. I hope the future holds continued success.

Commerce Mayor to Public Meeting Attendees Supporting No Kill: Shut Up and Get Out

A public meeting of the Commerce city council in Texas was held last week. Dozens of people showed up in support of no kill, some planning to address the council during the public speaking portion of the meeting. They intended to speak about the needless killings at the Commerce pound. But they were denied that opportunity when the city council skipped the portion of the meeting where the public is allowed to speak. After the meeting was abruptly adjourned, taxpayers asked why they were denied their right to address the council.

“This is an issue that does not have to be brought forth,” Commerce Mayor John Ballotti said. “I get to pick what items we go over. That is the end of the discussion. You may all leave.”

Members of the city council hid from the media after the meeting and the city manager confirmed that the mayor is the Supreme Picker of Who Gets to Talk and When They Get to Do It.

The city later issued a statement regarding the pound to the media. You can read it in full here. The gist of it:

  • The irresponsible public is all the irresponsible.
  • Animal Control workers have a hard job.
  • Everything at the pound is fine.
  • Killing is a kindness.
  • PETA kills 90% of the animals it accepts and you know they’re ethical because it says so right in the name.

So there’s that malarkey.

Here’s my question: Are taxpayers in Commerce truly only allowed to address their city council at the whim of Mayor Supreme Picker?  Can anyone point me to where it says that in the law?  If such a law does exist, I would raise hell about that if I lived in Commerce.  If it doesn’t exist, I would raise hell about the mayor and the city manager disenfranchising taxpayers of their right to petition government for redress of grievances – which by the way is a right guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which Mayor Supreme Picker must uphold even if he hates it.  End of discussion.

(Thank you Patricia for the link.)

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.

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