When we last left this topic…
I wrote to Mike Arms after the whole ‘terror at the podium‘ thing, to ask him for his ideas about how we bloggers could help in the bigger picture to improve animal welfare. He was gracious enough to invite me to Helen Woodward for a tour, and then he got me lunch AND a drink.
I mention that last part only because some of you were keeping tabs, so I had to make sure I let you all know he kept his word. 😉 I didn’t have to read the letter again, though he did show me a picture from a shelter in Louisiana that I can only describe as shocking- a reminder why we continue to get up every day and work for change.
I’m not quite sure how to explain Helen Woodward to someone who hasn’t been, because I haven’t seen anything like it- even when I went once in the early 2000’s when it was still in a metamorphosis.
There are animals for adoption (average time at the center: 2 days). There is also therapeutic riding, a state of the art equine hospital, a small animal hospital, a huge boarding facility, a center that educates school kids, a Mommy and Me program, rabbits for therapy, a food pantry, an on-site trainer…I’m sure I’m missing something, but it really is incredible.
More than anything, it is a community destination that is constantly placing itself smack in the center of the community limelight in a positive way, and that is why people come to them when they are looking for a new pet.
Eric Goebelbecker, the great trainer over at Dog Spelled Forward, wrote a post on Wednesday about all the chatter he’s been seeing about the Mike Arms Blog Paws presentation, saying, to paraphrase: “I hope he said more than ‘just rename shelters to centers and all will be well.’ ”
A bunch of people (cough cough) responded, but he did go on in the post to make some really great points about what shelters need to do in order to be better and up their adoptions, showing how Mike and Eric are basically in agreement. It’s a good post and how I learned about the PetSmart Charities research into this very topic.
Some of the core concepts aimed at making adoption rates go up are:
1. Make it convenient. Our local shelter is closed Sundays and Mondays, and when they are open it’s only until 5:30. I actually had a client with a new pet from Helen Woodward just last week. “I went to a poodle rescue event on Sunday,” she told me, “but they canceled it. So I went to Helen Woodward instead, and here we are,” she with a new German shepherd blend.
2. Don’t make it too complicated. Last year I was looking at a Frenchie at another local shelter. I made the 45 minute drive, filled out an application, and met the dog. While thinking about it, the shelter- who knew my job and background- wanted me to come back with my husband, who works past 7 every night, both kids, and my other dog before they would even consider it. Oh, and I only had one day to make that happen. So it didn’t.
I understand wanting to make the right match, but there does have to be some concession to the fact that while we would like every owner to be 100% perfect, there are some really fantastic families out there that are maybe only 80% perfect and can’t do every little bit the way we want them to.
3. Help people make it work. I asked Mike what Helen Woodward’s return rate was, and he said 3%. I don’t know how that compares to other places, but I am guessing that is pretty good. Helen Woodward has an on-site trainer that works with the pets before they are adopted and helps people with the transition, which may play a role in that number.
Let’s face it- EVERY dog, no matter how old they are or where they came from, is going to have some sort of behavior need to address. Some are more challenging than others, but no pet is perfect. Accepting it as part of pet ownership and giving owners the tools to confidently address them goes a long, long way in forging successful bonding.
Obviously that is a gross, gross oversimplication of a complicated situation (read this and this for a better summary), but forgive me as I’m new to this arena. I’m breaking the concepts down into chunks to try and get a better grasp of the complexities: how pets get into shelters, how they get out, and how to make outs = ins.
So let’s begin!
It’s so vast a situation that I wonder what I can possibly accomplish, little old me sitting here with my keyboard. But, you know what, I care. I care about what I saw and what I know to be happening, and if I understand the situation better then I have more to offer the shelters who need help getting the word out. So here I am, wide eyed pupil. And I get to use this graphic which I dearly love.
Task one for me is to learn as much as possible about the various ways in which pets get connected with owners- via breeders, shelters, rescues, and the like, and their reasoning. I’m going to start here.
In the meantime, as a non-representative sampling I’m really interested in hearing how you came about your pets, and why you went the route you did. I hope by getting a better feel about how people make their decisions we can as a blogging community come up with strategies to help more pets find homes.
I’m interested in everyone’s stories, so in order to make this a discussion open to all I’m saying from the get-go, please no flaming or arguing. Even if someone came by a pet in a way you don’t agree with it’s helpful to know why they did, right? How else will you ever change things?Photo credit: “My Little Dog” by -=RoBeE=- on Flickr