The Director’s Cut
I recently had a conversation with someone who told me that she could not visit the shelter because it would be too sad and she would want to take all of the dogs home. Over the years, I have heard similar statements so it was not surprising or unfamiliar. However, it reminded me that many people in our community are not aware of how far we have come and what our actual challenges are.
Over the past several years, through a series of operational changes and innovative approaches, we have been able to increase live releases while decreasing intakes. That combination is the formula to a desirable save rate. Our monthly save rate is now routinely over 85%. That means that at least 85% of the cats and dogs in our care are being released back to owners, adopted to new homes, or transferred to our partnering rescue organizations. The ones not released are those with serious medical conditions or behavioral issues that are beyond rehabilitation in our shelter environment.
What this means for potential visitors is that the shelter is not a sad place filled with doom and gloom. Most of the stories turn out as happy tails (pun intended). That said, there are still challenges that we face. Maintaining live releases at a pace that exceeds intakes requires a lot of hard work including the daily care and wellness, enrichment and socialization, website and social media promotion, visits with potential adopters, consultations with rescue partners, sterilization surgeries, and conversations with reclaiming owners and new adopters.
Beyond those outcome-related activities, we also concentrate on reducing intakes. Doing so involves a host of other efforts including proactive outreach in underserved neighborhoods, enforcement of animal ordinances, and public awareness efforts such as participation in community events, social messaging, public service announcements, and collaborations with local media. We are trying to work with people to support healthy choices for their pets to keep pets in the homes and prevent them from becoming casualties in the shelter system.
In some cases, we may provide food or flea medicine that keeps a cat from being surrendered due to illness. By covering the cost of spay and neuter surgeries for pets, we are preventing unwanted litters and reducing the likelihood that those animals will roam away from home or exhibit undesirable behaviors, all of which might otherwise lead to shelter intakes. When we share information about dog socialization and dog training and help owners get tethered dogs off of chains and onto trolley lines or into their homes, we may be reducing the chances that such dogs will be surrendered for biting or aggression.
So don’t be afraid to visit our shelter. You don’t have to feel compelled to take them all home. There may be one (or two) special friends just waiting to meet you. Know that we will continue working tirelessly to find homes for the others. We are making a difference but we need your help. You can help by adopting from us or from one of our rescue partner organizations. Spread the word by telling your family and friends about Animal Services programs. Volunteer your time to help at the shelter, at offsite events, or as a foster caregiver. Spay and neuter your pets and license your dogs. Together we are saving lives.