Apparently I’m not the only one who is a proponent.
Christie makes some good observations on “What opponents of free pet adoptions don’t get.” Check it out. It’s from 2012. Change is slow in animal welfare.
Got questions about Clear The Shelters and who the people are who adopt at this event? Are you worried that shelters are giving pets away to dog fighters to be used as bait dogs or to satanists for torture? Well, take it from me, that’s not the case at all.
Sure, The first year I volunteered at Clear The Shelters, I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew I had to see for myself. And I was very glad I did, and pleasantly surprised.
The people standing in line in the heat for hours to adopt a pet were overwhelmingly entire families, lovely young couples, and senior citizens. That trend continued in 2015, and again yesterday.
Clear The Shelters is the day where kids who have been clamoring for a pet for years finally get one. It is the day when the entire family comes to the shelter to make sure they get the pet that is right for them. It is the day when whole families get up at 5 am, make breakfast tacos, and camp out in front of the shelter for hours to be the first in the door. Clear The Shelters is the day where people wait an hour or more in the heat just to get in the door, then another hour in line to complete the paperwork. It is the day when senior citizens on a fixed income are able to come and get a little dog or fluffy kitty to keep them company. It is the day when many children begin to learn the responsibility and commitment it takes to properly care for another life. It’s the day before the night when children first learn the joy of sharing their beds with the cute kitten or puppy they dreamed of.
Clear The Shelters is the day when people keep coming, and keep adopting, even after all the free pets are gone, even if they have to pay a fee, even if the pet they want is still on stray hold, and even if they can’t take their pet home that day. Clear The Shelters is the day when people learn what we do in animal welfare, and the challenges we face. It is the day when all fee-waived pets are already altered, vaccinated, and micro-chipped. It is the day when people are told right up front that these pets are not to be yard dogs, tethered, neglected or handled inappropriately. It is the day when everyone is reminded that we have the right to deny any adoption that we are uncomfortable with, and that as the current guardians of these pets, we strive to make decisions in their best interests.
Clear The Shelters is the day when 65 volunters from DAS and DCAP supplement the DAS staff; when Animal Control Officers are stationed in the parking lot and in the main lobby to greet adopters; when Animal Control Officers are undercover throughout the facility keeping an eye on things, and when 65 DAS and DCAP volunteers supplement our ad0ption staff and get to know our guests. It’s the day when everyone leaves with a smile on their face.
Clear The Shelters is the day when the kennels are empty and hallways quiet; when thousands of pets finally get forever homes; when thousands of lives are saved. That’s a good day.
Tomorrow is Clear The Shelters day. This will be my 3rd year to be a part of this amazing event! Last year at Dallas Animal Services 209 pets found new forever homes – in one day. Public support for the event is tremendous. The staff and volunteers love it. But every year there are a few naysayers, usually someone new to animal rescue that has heard the horror stories older rescuers love to tell – like badges of courage they have earned over the years. But the animal welfare industry is constantly in a state of change, with large national organizations leading the way thru research and development, annual conferences that teach new and innovative ideas, and the constant need to save more lives.
My personal experience with CTS has been all positive. Most of the people who participate don’t do so because of the waived fees – they do so because they enjoy being part of such a huge, nationwide, life-saving event. Every year we’ve done the event, we’ve run out of fee-waived animals but people continued to adopt from our Lost & Found section at regular price. And we’ve tracked returns every year- they are the same as any other time. Plus at DAS we have an added advantage – we involve our animal control officers, so anyone who we suspect has ill intentions gets to deal with them.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out what the leaders in the industry have to say about fee-waived adoptions. Then volunteer to help out one year and see for yourself.
The HSUS article quotes Ventura County Animal Services (VCAS) director Tara Diller, “Because the event was so fun and lighthearted and interactive, it brought … a sense of life into this organization,” Diller says. The overall effect was nothing short of transformative, she adds—boosting staff morale, showing off the shelter’s fun side and promoting the idea of fee-waived adoptions.
That pretty much sums it up for me.
Goodie bags and promotional items are the hallmark of conventions, especially in animal welfare. Conference sponsors and organizers want the biggest bang for their buck – that one logo-branded promotional item that everyone will keep and use. Clips are big – for chip bags, or with magnets to hand on your fridge. Travel items are timely. Cell phone stands are popular and inexpensive. Magnets – easy-peasy. But what about something that truly can save lives and promotion your organization? Take a look at this:
It’s an auto alert thermometer that hangs on your rear view mirror and monitors the temperature inside your car. When the temperature gets too hot for your pet to be in the car, the black circle disappears, revealing a warning message. And it’s got a nice printable area on the back for your logo.
They’re available from Promotions For Pets:
The Dallas Morning News Scoop blog, unlike the Editorial pages, is based upon fact, research and true, old-school journalism. In this very insightful article, Dallas Morning News reporter Marc Ramirez takes readers on a journey into the life of one of Dallas’ 30+ Animal Control Officers, Esteban Rodriguez. [I know Esteban and have worked with him, and can attest to the fact that he is a hero doing a difficult job and putting his heart and soul into protecting the citizen’s of Dallas].
Today the Dallas Morning News published a Letter to the Editor authored by Skip Trimble, well-known attorney, former City of Dallas Animal Shelter Commission Chair and THLN co-founder; Jim Hanophy, Executive Director or Operation Kindnes, Texas’ oldest and largest No Kill shelter, and Mary Spencer, former City of Dallas Animal Shelter Commission Chair and Dallas Companion Animal Project Co-Founder. It’s well worth your time – find it here: http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20160518-trimble-hanophy-spencer-how-dallas-animal-services-helps-dog-owners-take-responsibility.ece
The way we solved DAS’ decades low Live Release Rate was when we realized DAS couldn’t do more than they were doing without help, and we needed to get the community involved instead of demanding DAS “do something” as we’d done in the past. LRR went from 20% to 70%+. Lesson learned.
The way we solve the decade’s long loose dog problem isn’t demanding DAS “do something” either. It’s getting the community on board and involved, and working together. But as long as there is negative publicity springing up from individual factions working against DAS – whatever their reasons are – the big grants and private funders will not come to Dallas, and without them the taxpayers will be left to reluctantly foot the bill. For years after 2010, we couldn’t get any major funder to even look at Dallas, but with perseverance they returned and progress was made. Now they are pulling out again. Best Friends has turned Dallas down. PetSmart is out of Big Fix. At least they gave us their reasons – one of which was the negative publicity from the Dallas Morning News. Even the smaller, local funders are beginning to hesitate because some of the local activists have called them directly spreading their angst and misinformation.
Activism that incorporates personal attacks, demands on organizations, and negative publicity doesn’t work when it comes to animals. Instead it brings about unintended consequences like loss of funding, loss of experts who know how to fix the problem, lack of support from the community, lack of support from the City. It took myself and others like me decades to get City Hall to take animal welfare seriously and now here we are, having come full circle, with activists making rescuers once again look, to the public and City leaders, like “crazy animal people.”
How much more money and how many more lives do we lose before people figure out the ones they are hurting the most are the animals? Some of those who have been around longest already know the scorched earth, force-them-to-do-what you want approach doesn’t work, but apparently don’t care. Maybe that’s why they’re not working in animal welfare anymore, I don’t know. Some of the activists don’t understand this because they’re unfamiliar with all the complexities of animal welfare. I get that. But how sad for the animals that they weren’t willing to invest the time to learn?
The Dallas Morning News had an opportunity to be the guiding force behind real, sustainable solutions to loose dogs by helping publicize the available resources and by mobilizing the community – but they blew it. They blew it because they based their reporting on people who have never worked in a shelter, never managed a 501c3, never worked cooperatively with the City, and really learned what it takes day in and day out. When did we start basing our news on those who know the least about any given subject? It really is a sad, sad day.
In July of 2011, then Code Compliance Director Joey Zapata asked me to chair a City task force to take on the job of pulling together a group of local animal welfare leaders to create a blue print to get Dallas to No Kill. The task force looked at what cities and towns around the country had done, and learned what had worked and what hadn’t. We undertook an extensive survey to see what resources, both private and public, were already available and in play.
On January 12, 2012, “A Strategy for Transforming Dallas into No Kill Community” was published. It was an aggressive 5-year plan that relied heavily on community involvement, education, spay/neuter, and community outreach.
Just this past week I was looking back at that plan, remember the ways things were then, and I couldn’t help but notice the first paragraph of the plan – the background. It reads, “By the end of calendar year 2010, the No More Homeless Pets of Dallas Coalition reported over twenty-two thousand (22,000) dogs and cats were killed in our community, euthanized because they were not adopted, redeemed, or otherwise rescued. Many of these innocent animals were healthy and well adjusted pets simply in need of a new home. For Fiscal Year 2010-2011 Dallas Animal Services reported killing 20,684 of the 28,392 dogs and cats received at its shelter, a staggering and unacceptable annual euthanasia rate exceeding 72%.
So isn’t it ironic then, that just this past month, Dallas Animal Services set a record live release rate – the highest in their history – of just over 72%.
Have we reached our goals? No, not yet. Is everything going according to plan? No, but a lot is going according to plan. Are we making progress? To go from a 72% euthanasia rate to a 72% live release rate. Yes, yes, I’d say we were.
Congratulations to the DAS staff and management team, the City of Dallas, the community, the volunteers, the supporters, and ALL the partners, corporate and non-profit. This is a victory for the animals – and for all of us.
Let’s take time to be proud and to appreciate ourselves and each other. Together We Do It Better- it’s not just a hashtag.
The Dallas Cowboys may be big hulking guys, but when it comes to the subject of pet adoption, they are softies at heart.
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