From Shelterers to Rehomers

with ASPCA® VP’s Emily Weiss, PhD, CAAB and Bert Troughton, MSW

Friday, May 10, 2013, 4-5:30...
community dog or cat who was supported to some extent within a neighborhood.”
A shelter can provide help pet owners by pro...
How Planning Ahead Helps Pets
HSBV has achieved return-to-owner stats much higher than the national average – 70 percent o...
By treating every animal as an individual: If an animal is very stressed or dangerous to handle, volunteers know
not to ri...

And of that information, health was of primary concern (almost 90 percent). Other key information
areas were the animal...
A) Empowers fosters to find adopters for the dogs in their care
B) Keeps dogs out of the shelter while the adoption proces...
Adoption Ambassador volunteers are provided with all the material and training they need to find homes for
the dogs in the...
get lots of foot traffic.
'Adopt Me' Vests
One of the most important things Adoption Ambassadors need are "Adopt Me" vests...

"Adopt Me" vests
Medications such as flea and heartworm preventative
Leashes, collars, an...
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From shelterers to rehomers troughton1

  1. 1. From Shelterers to Rehomers with ASPCA® VP’s Emily Weiss, PhD, CAAB and Bert Troughton, MSW Friday, May 10, 2013, 4-5:30 pm Is our primary goal to provide the best possible care and find the perfect families for the animals in our shelters? Or is it more important to empower community members to provide the care that animals need? And what are the ramifications of landing on one end of this spectrum or the other? In this workshop, we’ll discuss getting more dogs and cats adopted, changing the dynamic between shelters and the people who use our services, and even ways to curb intake. Here are four examples of the research and programming that we’ll review together at Expo as we explore the shelterer to rehomer paradigm shift. 1. ASPCA Research: Who Are the Strays in Shelters? When pets are lost, both the animals and their owners can suffer. But where do they end up? New research on lost pets conducted by the ASPCA reveals that a significant percentage of the stray dogs and cats in shelters around the country may not have someone looking for them. With an estimated 5 million to 7 million dogs and cats entering shelters in this country every year, the time and money spent trying to reunite presumed lost pets with their owners can be significant. But owners who reclaim their pets from shelters are rare – in the U.S. the figure is about 10 percent to 30 percent for dogs and less than 5 percent for cats. The study, which was published in the peer reviewed journal Animals, included 2,666 households. Of those, 39 percent owned a dog or cat in the past five years. Click to view “Frequency of Lost Dogs and Cats in the United States and the Methods Used to Locate Them.” Cats come home, dogs are sought According to the study, of the animals that were lost, 85 percent were recovered. Cat owners were less likely to find their animals (74 percent of cats were recovered) while dog owners had better luck (93 percent.) Owner demographics are not factors in the lost pets or recovery rates, the study found. Of the recovered dogs, almost half were found during a neighborhood search; 15 percent were found because of a tag or microchip. Also, cat owners tend to wait three days before searching for their pet, while dog owners usually act much more quickly – within a day. Of the recovered cats, 59 percent returned home on their own; 30 percent were found during neighborhood searches. 1 What a Shelter Can Do “While we need more research, it is prudent at this point to consider the population of stray dogs and cats in your facility,” says Weiss. Many of the animals “may in fact not be lost, but potentially abandoned, or a ASPCA |
  2. 2. community dog or cat who was supported to some extent within a neighborhood.” A shelter can provide help pet owners by providing information on how they can best find their pets if they go missing. In addition, shelters could institute matching of reported lost pet records with reported found pet records. Veterinaries could offer microchip and identification tag clinics for community pet owners – and make sure their own patients have microchips, collars and personalized identification. Both groups could provide a list of resources and options for advertising lost pets. Beyond that, Weiss says some outside-the-box thinking is called for. For example, greater pet support services – temporary boarding, veterinarian care, food banks and the like – may be needed in communities to cut down on the number of strays. Knowing exact locations where animals are found can be vital to solving the puzzle of where strays entering your shelter came from. One way to target specific locations of found animals is to use GIS targeting, a tool offered through ASPCA research. 2. Fast Pass: Preparing Stray Pets for New Homes A program at Humane Society of Boulder Valley provides for early evaluations of strays, giving some of the animals a "fast pass" to a new home. By law, stray animals at HSBV in Boulder, CO, must be held for five days. That's something the shelter can't control – but it can control how that time is used. Before the Fast Pass program was put in place at HSBV, evaluations didn't take place until day six. Now animals who've been there that long may be ready for spay/neuter or even a trip to the adoption floor. "We're ahead of the game by the time we can legally take action," says Bridgette Chesne, director of shelter services. "Within half an hour of an animal becoming property of the shelter, we're mobilized." Freddie before and after, courtesy HSBV 2 ASPCA |
  3. 3. How Planning Ahead Helps Pets HSBV has achieved return-to-owner stats much higher than the national average – 70 percent of lost dogs are reclaimed, and 20 percent of lost cats – but many animals will default to shelter ownership. If an animal remains at the facility on day three, the staff has learned, the animal will probably be there on day six. By recognizing this fact, and applying Fast Pass as appropriate, HSBV has increased the total number of animals served each year. Selected animals move from holding to adoption areas more quickly, so adoptions can take place sooner. Length of stay is often cut by 48 hours or more, and that's just what the staff wants. The focus, says Chesne, is "How can we make you more comfortable and facilitate your exit more quickly?" Those quick exits helped lead HSBV to a first-place finish in 2010 ASPCA $100K Challenge. How HSBV Makes Fast Pass Work By following key precautions: A highly trained and trusted group of volunteers handles animals in stray holding. When the dogs are taken for walks, the volunteers put safety first. The animals are fitted with proper collars so they can't slip out of them and run away. Walks and playtime are conducted in a fenced area. Shelters hoping to start a program like Fast Pass should check local laws in case of any restrictions on handling strays. By accepting risk: Shelter staffers realize that since they don't have a crystal ball, they may invest considerable time and effort in certain pets only to see them reclaimed by their owners. Still, there's a silver lining: When a dog is reclaimed, his owner is happy to hear that he's gotten some exercise during his stay, says Chesne. And of course, return-to-owner is a positive outcome. By using technology: Each morning, HSBV's behavior and health staff members print reports that determine who's due for assessment. When Fast Pass began, reports were adjusted to flag pets a couple of days sooner than usual. (The shelter uses PetPoint, but Chesne says other software can be used the same way.) Feline-ality assessments are typically conducted on day three, and SAFER or Rescue Waggin' assessments on days four or five. By predicting which pets will remain unclaimed: Fast Pass dogs and cats are chosen on the basis of how likely they are to become property of the shelter. HSBV has learned that the following characteristics mean there's a good chance no one is looking for the stray: • Unaltered • Young adult • Not wearing collar, and no evidence of one being worn • Not microchipped • No phone calls received about pet within first 24 hours 3 To improve the chances of a pet being reunited with his owner, however, the shelter doesn't give a name to an animal that isn't wearing an ID tag – an owner checking the shelter's website for a lost pet could get confused. ASPCA |
  4. 4. By treating every animal as an individual: If an animal is very stressed or dangerous to handle, volunteers know not to risk a walk outside. However, they can still provide enrichment, such as a Kong feeding, treats in a Buster Food Cube, and even clicker training. Those things help occupy the animal's mind and lay the foundation for a relationship. "Once he's made one good friend," says Chesne, "he'll be much more open to making more good friends." Note: HSBV is willing to advise shelters how to adjust reports in PetPoint if they're interested in starting a program like Fast Pass. Contact Director of Shelter Services Bridgette Chesne to connect. 3. ASPCA Research: What Draws Adopters to Particular Pets A melting gaze, a thumping wag, a feline trill: What is it about a particular animal that wins an adopter’s heart? According to new findings from the ASPCA’s department of Shelter Research & Development, it depends on the species and age. In a published study, adopters reported that “physical appearance” is the primary motivator for choosing a dog, while “behavior with people” counted most in adult cats. The study also explored what behaviors animals exhibited with the adopters, what information was most important in making adoption choices, and how important animal behavior was in specific contexts. This kind of information can help shelters know how best to pair animals with people and how to encourage behavior that leads to adoption. What’s Happening The study included about 1,500 adopters who filled out questionnaires at one of five shelters across the country. Dogs comprised 54 percent of the adoptions, while cats accounted for 46 percent. • When asked for other reasons that influenced their choice, appearance, interaction between animal and adopter, and personality were the top reasons people gave for choosing a particular animal. • Adopters reported that interacting with the animal was more important than looking at it inside the kennel. • Adopters said that information about the animal from a staff member or volunteer was more helpful than information on cage cards. • More than 27 percent of dog adopters cited appearance as the single most important reason, while more than 26 percent of cat adopters cited behavior with people. • For those adopting kittens, appearance was the most frequently cited reason (23 percent). Those adopting adult cats cared most about behavior (30 percent). • Those adopting dogs focused on appearance, with 29 percent citing it for puppies and 26 percent for adult dogs. • About 80 percent of adopters said information about their pet from a staff member or volunteer was important. ASPCA | 4
  5. 5. • And of that information, health was of primary concern (almost 90 percent). Other key information areas were the animal’s behavior (about 80 percent), and the animal’s life before entering the shelter (about 60 percent). Among those adopting kittens, 33 percent said the first thing their kitten did upon meeting them was vocalize, while 22 percent of those adopting adult cats said the animal greeted or approached them. Among those adopting dogs, more than 20 percent said the animals approached or greeted them. More than 14 percent said that greeting was followed up by a lick. Who’s Involved The study was conducted from January through May 2011 at five animal welfare organizations in the U.S., two of which are open-admission shelters that perform animal control services for their municipalities: Hillsborough County Animal Services in Tampa, Fla. and Charleston Animal Society in Charleston, S.C. The others are limited intake, privately-funded animal shelters: Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek, Calif.; Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee, Wis.; and the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York, N.Y. Why This Matters to You Understanding why people choose the pets they do can help increase adoption rates by making sure people go home with the right match. “The results of this study give us a glimpse inside of the adopter’s mind when it comes to choosing a pet. The information can be used by shelters to create better adoption matches, prioritize shelter resources and staff training, and potentially increase adoptions,” says Dr. Emily Weiss, Vice President of Shelter Research and Development for the ASPCA. “Additionally, some simple training techniques for shelter staff can be gleaned from this to make sure they are showcasing the wonderful personalities and behaviors of their adoptable dogs and cats.” When appearance is an important driver, your shelter staff can dig deeper to help adopters decide. For example, adopters may be enchanted by the long hair of a collie mix, but what are their expectations in the home, and will the dog meet those expectations? Some behaviors that are considered “bad” – like jumping up – may in fact be the behavior that gets an adopter’s attention. Shelters can incorporate techniques to encourage adopter-friendly behavior from the animals in their care. For example, staff and volunteers can provide treats from cups hung on kennel doors to encourage animals to step to the front of the kennel when people stop by. Such training could also encourage pro-social behavior in fearful animals. And since adopters place great weight on information that comes from shelter staff, empower your staff and volunteers with all the information available about animals in their care. 5 4. Adoption Ambassadors The ABCs of Adoption Ambassadors ASPCA |
  6. 6. A) Empowers fosters to find adopters for the dogs in their care B) Keeps dogs out of the shelter while the adoption process is underway C) Expands shelter walls and creates community awareness in new sectors Research conducted by the ASPCA has shown that this program reaches a different group of people than those who actually visit a shelter. And Adoption Ambassador dogs – who wear "Adopt Me" vests – have their own unique visual appeal, which generates new buzz. The Program's Birth The Adoption Ambassador program was developed at the Louisiana SPCA as part of the 2010 ASPCA $100K Challenge. Louisiana knew it had wonderful dogs up for adoption – but as is true in so many shelters, adoptive families were hard to find. The program started out small, working with seasoned volunteers. But as homes for more and more dogs were found through the program – which is called Fast Track at the Louisiana SPCA – it was expanded and new Adoption Ambassadors were recruited throughout the community. Over time the program gained momentum because it engaged the community, volunteers, and staff on a whole new level. • The community rallied around a program that let dogs be adopted at local parks or coffee shops. • Volunteers supported the program because it gave their favorite dogs new chances of finding homes. • Staff members wholeheartedly supported the program because it allowed them to take ownership of the outcome of one dog at a time – and offered the promise of a happy ending. Dogs placed into the Adoption Ambassador program had a return rate of 2 percent, compared to 10 percent for the control group. Researchers also found that dogs placed into the program reached a new audience: A whopping 70 percent of the people who adopted through the Adoption Ambassador program had never adopted before. They were also located in different areas of the city than those who adopted from the shelter. How It Works ASPCA | 6
  7. 7. Adoption Ambassador volunteers are provided with all the material and training they need to find homes for the dogs in their care and are trained to facilitate adoptions away from the shelter without assistance. What Dogs Are Eligible ASPCA research has shown that all dogs benefit from being placed into this program. Shelters can use this program to find homes for more at-risk dogs, such as those who stay in adoption longer due to breed, color, age, or energy levels. Shelters can also place healthy adoptable dogs into Adoption Ambassador homes in order to relieve shelter resources and free up kennel space. Before launching your program, decide on your own criteria for placing dogs into the program. Some organizations try to place all dogs that are at risk for euthanasia in the program, while others focus on their most at-risk population, such as heartworm-positive or elderly dogs. What Resources You Need One of the many great things about the program is that it requires very few resources outside of volunteer time. Most dogs in the program found homes within three weeks after being placed in an Adoption Ambassador home. Shelters will need to provide everything they'd normally give a foster home – collars, leashes, tags, crates, food, medications, etc. Business Cards Adoption Ambassadors should receive business cards they can hand out on behalf of their dogs. They can be printed business cards for each dog, or can even be blank cards provided by the shelter that the Adoption Ambassador can write on with the dog's information. Hot Spots A "hot spot" list of dog-friendly places should also be provided to give volunteers ideas of where to start looking for adopters. This should be a living document, growing organically as volunteers add locations and notes based on their own experiences. The first version of the list can be compiled with input from your staff and volunteers. Businesses that are dog-friendly should be on the list, as well as parks and public spaces that ASPCA | 7
  8. 8. get lots of foot traffic. 'Adopt Me' Vests One of the most important things Adoption Ambassadors need are "Adopt Me" vests for the dogs. These can be inexpensive and purchased in various sizes online, or volunteers can help make them. Adoption Ambassadors Step By Step First you need a clear understanding of how dogs move through your current system. This is crucial because you want the program to help your organization and not hinder how you operate in any way. When placing dogs into an Adoption Ambassador program you need to ensure they have been behaviorally and medically evaluated, vaccinated, and altered. 1. Identify an Adoption Ambassador coordinator This is an engaging, enthusiastic volunteer or staff member with exceptional customer care skills, who is accessible to Adoption Ambassadors at all times. The coordinator needs a clear understanding of your organization's operations as they pertain to dogs, and be able to interact with staff to facilitate dogs entering the program. The coordinator should also be able to do adoptions and be the point person for those homes who need assistance. 2. Recruit your volunteers, and ask them to recruit their friends and families. Ask for continuous feedback so your program can continually improve. 3. Decide which types of dogs should go into the program All dogs can benefit from an Adoption Ambassador program. Some organizations place dogs in the program after they have been on the adoption floor for a certain amount of time. Others place dogs immediately into the program based on behavior or physical attributes, knowing they may do better in a home environment. 4. Create a plan for moving dogs from the shelter to the Adoption Ambassador homes. Identify the steps they go through in your system – behavior evaluation or surgery, etc. – and at what point the dogs are selected and flagged to enter the system. 5. Email your volunteers with information about the selected dogs. Include photos and complete information about the dogs so volunteers can help determine which dogs are best suited for their homes. 6. Gather all material needed for the volunteers and dogs. This includes: 8 ASPCA |
  9. 9. o o o o o o o o o o "Adopt Me" vests Crates Food Medications such as flea and heartworm preventative Leashes, collars, and tags that have your organization's information Business cards for the dogs Local hot-spot list Behavior and training information Adoption paperwork Camera to photograph dogs 7. Train your volunteers Your volunteers need to be confident and well-informed. You may want to hold small meetings to train several homes at once, or have each volunteer watch an adoption from start to finish before beginning. Marketing of the dog is key to the Adoption Ambassador program, and volunteers should think of themselves as talent agents for their dogs. They need to get the word out about how amazing their dogs are in every possible way. This includes promoting them through social media, word of mouth, emails to friends and family, and by hitting the streets. 8. Determine your time frame Let volunteers know you will check in with them around 3-4 weeks to ensure things are still going well. Volunteers have the option to bring dogs back to the shelter if they feel it is too difficult – you want to keep them motivated for the program. 9. Start saving lives! Place your first dogs into the program, and be willing to adjust the program and your approach based on volunteer feedback and success of finding homes. 9 ASPCA |