Director’s Cut

Director’s Cut
Last year we updated our mission to clarify our commitment to helping animals and people in the Rochester community. All of the changes that we have made over the past few years have been focused on concentrating our time and efforts on tactics that advance that mission. We implemented pre-surrender counseling, began scheduling pet surrenders, and commenced pro-active outreach all of which support pet retention or diversion to other organizations with more resources to address particular medical or behavior concerns.

The results have been telling. Our Save Rate continued to rise beyond levels that we thought possible just five years ago. Beginning October 2016 through January 2017, each month saw Save Rates over 90%. In February, the Save Rate was around 87%. Someone asked me if I could explain the decline.

It was just a matter of time before our upward trend took a slight dip. If you compare February 2017 with any of the preceding four months, there was a slight decline in Save Rate. However, compared with February 2016, we were up nearly 6%. For the fiscal year, we are trending 8% higher compared with last year. That’s the thing about being at the top, there’s nowhere to go but down.

It is also worth noting that the only animals not “saved” during the past two years have been ones that are beyond rehabilitation either medically or behaviorally. That means that our success is now largely determined by the characteristics of the cats and dogs received. If we receive relatively greater proportions of sick and aggressive animals during any particular month, our Save Rate will reflect that challenge. Conversely, if intakes contain relatively fewer animals with medical and behavioral concerns, our Save Rate will be greater. That is why we are focusing so much attention on pro-active efforts to share information and connect pet owners with resources that can prevent their pets from becoming casualties.

Another factor affecting the Save Rate involves the declining number of intakes. As intake numbers continue to decline, even small fluctuations in live outcomes will have a more marked impact on the Save Rate. For example, looking at the specifics between January 2017 and February 2017, it seems that the rate of reclaimed dogs and transferred cats were each greater in January compared with their respective rates for February.

Another recent change involves the elimination of breed labels on our reports, records management system, cage cards, and other forms. This change was implemented because we know that visual identification is highly subjective and can be frequently inaccurate. The consequences associated with particular labels can be significant. Renters may be restricted by landlords from having specific breeds. Property owners may have difficulties obtaining home owner’s insurance if they have a pet identified as a “dangerous” breed. Additionally, many shelter dogs may not be given any consideration by potential adopters who see a breed label and disregard the dog because of a particular stigma associated with certain types of dogs.

We are hoping that eliminating breed labels from our operation will shorten the time period for adoptable dogs awaiting adopters. Shortening the length of stay supports the well-being of individual dogs who may otherwise suffer behavioral deterioration related to the stress and barrier frustration associated with longer shelter stays. Length of stay also contributes to population health. Reducing length of stay reduces the levels of disease and stress in the facility, which translates to less illness.

Additionally, we do not want to support discriminatory practices in our community. We hope to reduce the likelihood that dogs adopted from the shelter will be surrendered to us due to insurance or landlord breed restrictions. We do not want to perpetuate the misconception that dogs with certain physical characteristics will behave aggressively. Rather, our goal is to promote the reality that each dog is an individual. Its behavior is a product of many things including genetics, life experiences, training, and socialization, none of which can be determined by appearance.
Whether through sharing information, providing no-cost spay-neuter vouchers during neighborhood outreach, or elimination of breed labels, we continue to work to make Rochester the best, for people and for pets. We appreciate the growing support but are always in need of additional assistance. I encourage you to visit to learn more about our operation and how to get involved.

Christopher S. Fitzgerald,
Director of Animal Services

Disclaimer of Liability and Endorsement: The views expressed in the Verona Street News are those of its authors and do not constitute the views of the City of Rochester, Friends of Verona Street Animal Shelter, Inc. or their Agents. The content herein is provided for informational purposes only. Dissemination by the City of Rochester and Friends of Verona Street Animal Shelter, Inc. does not constitute an endorsement of the author’s views, products or services..