The Director’s Cut
It was a busy spring as usual with increased shelter intakes, planning and execution of our fun-filled annual event The Fast & The Furriest®, and the closeout of another fiscal year. In May, I had the honor of being invited to participate in a seminar on the community outreach efforts of municipal animal care and control agencies at the Animal Care Expo in Kansas City, Missouri, organized by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
HSUS has a Pets For Life program that uses innovative strategies to extend the reach of animal-related services, resources and information to underserved areas. The program serves animals by empowering the people who care for them.
Recognizing that Pets For Life had been around since 2012 and other agencies have been providing similar outreach over the past several years, I decided to gear my presentation away from the “how to’s” and instead share the journey we have taken here in Rochester as our agency evolved into the progressive service organization that it is today. That journey began in July 2000 when the City assumed operational control of Animal Services. At that time, shelter intakes were over 6,000 and the save rate was around 40%. Of the 700-800 pets adopted annually, only about 100 dogs were sterilized prior to release.
While working to boost adoptions, we began planning to establish a spay/neuter clinic at the shelter. With support from two grants, we were able to get the clinic operational in July 2004. A month later, we commenced our Low-Income Spay Neuter (LISN) program to provide a reduced-cost option for Rochester pet owners.
In 2005, the Friends of Verona Street Animal Shelter (d/b/a Verona Street Animal Society) formed and in 2006 held its first fundraiser. Such fundraising has supported spay/neuter, adoption promotions, foster care, shelter enrichment and veterinary supplies, among other activities and programs.
Our participation in the ASPCA $100,000 Challenge in 2011 served as a catalyst for significant changes to protocols including pre-surrender counseling and reduced reclaim fees for income-qualifying pet owners.
In 2012, two low-cost spay/neuter clinics opened up for owned pets and feral cats, one at Rochester Community Animal Clinic in the City and the other at Lollypop Farm. Now there were other options for discounted spay/neuter services besides our LISN program and two partners with which we could collaborate.
In 2013, we added a free rabies clinic to The Fast & The Furriest® event and offered microchips for $20. That marked the first time we had run a vaccination clinic for owned pets and that feature has continued and expanded to now include rabies, DAP-P and microchips all at no charge.
In 2014, I attended a conference in Syracuse focused on community cats organized by HSUS and PetSmart Charities where I obtained the Pets For Life Community Outreach Toolkit. That manual has proven to be an invaluable reference in developing our own outreach program.
I gleaned a wealth of information and experiences from the presentations focused on community outreach at the Animal Care Expo in 2015. After the conference, I began working on developing our program starting with the community assessment, then goal setting and staff training. In September 2016, we commenced door-to-door outreach. We share information and provide pet care supplies. We began with donated items but were able to purchase additional pet care supplies thanks to a grant from Maddie’s Fund. Since 2016, we have also received support from Best Friends Animal Society, ASPCA, PetSmart Charities and our partners at Verona Street Animal Society to provide no-cost spay and neuter surgeries.
Our work caught the attention of HSUS and led to support from the Elinor Patterson Baker Foundation. Ultimately, we teamed up with Lollypop Farm on a collaborative project following the Pets For Life model, which kicked off in February.
Returning to the Animal Care Expo gave me another opportunity to share our experience while also learning from others with a similar focus on proactive support. Now I am working on incorporating updates into our outreach program so that we can better serve animals and people in Rochester. To learn more about Rochester Animal Services, our outreach program, or to get involved, visit www.RochesterAnimalServices.com or contact AnimalServices@cityofrochester.gov.