PASS: Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender


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Presented at the American Pets Alive No-Kill Conference 2014.

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  • In January of 2012 three of us went down to San Antonio to start SAPA. We walked into a 30% save rate. One year later we left and they had reached a save rate of 83%.
  • Good Working Relationship With Shelter Staff & Volunteers:
    The most critical first steps in setting up a Pass Program are establishing a good working relationship with the shelter, familiarizing yourself with their policies and procedures and then educating yourself on all the resources you intend to provide.
    From the shelter aspect it is important to set up some place separate from, but close to the surrender or intake office. You should be the first person people see when they come to surrender a pet. Ideally this should be before they get into the actual room where the pets are surrendered and away from the shelter staff who do intake because once inside that area it is too easy to bypass the person doing Pass and just get in the surrender line. If they have to actually speak to you before they can surrender they are more likely to give you their attention and to accept your help.
    Hotline and Email Program:
    The second step is to set up an email and phone hotline and you can do this through google mail and google voice. All of the emails and voicemails will come into google mail and can be handled from there. It is a good idea to put an outgoing message on the voicemail encouraging people to email and only leave a voicemail in the case of an immediate emergency like a sick animal, etc.
    Volunteers to man the hotline and be at the shelter:
    Pass Volunteers need to have more people skills than animal skills. Most of your interaction will be with people of all ages and personalities, some nice and some not so nice. Some who care about their pets and some who view them as nothing more than lawn ornaments. A Pass volunteer has to remain tactful, educational, and professional with each client. Not doing so can sometimes make things worse for the pets involved.
  • 1. Hotline Volunteers: People who can commit 4 or more hours at a time, one or more days per week on a consistent basis to the hotline.
    2. Shelter Volunteers: People who commit to at least 3-4 hours at a time, one or more days per week at the shelter.
    3. Network & Resources: Some of your main key players will be your network. I found, created, and then maintained a relationship with good facebook rescue pages and reliable rescue people who help me daily. I did this by going to their pages and sites and responding to their needs. Once you create a network of respectable rescue people you have hit gold!
    Both your hotline volunteers and your shelter volunteers need to have good people skills. They also need to be able to handle sad and sometimes aggravating situations in a professional manner.
  • Enormous Success on Hotline and presence at the shelter: We have had an enormous amount of success on the hotline and at the shelter in re-homing pets so they never have to enter the shelter system. On the hotline we ask that people send us pictures and behavior info on their pet so we can place ads and postings. Our ads go out on craigslist, facebook, to listserv’s and to different rescues.
  • Not all rescues and animal sanctuaries are created equal. If you have not visited these places yourself you need to contact people who have and make sure they are safe, well run facilities. Don’t operate on the “I heard they were wonderful” recommendations. I recently sent a dog to someone who came highly recommended to me by a rescuer I have great respect for and who had known this lady for years. Later I found out my friend had only known her through phone conversations and facebook posts and this woman was actually overwhelmed and nearly to hoarder status. The dog was removed luckily, but it taught me a valuable lesson.
    Beware Of The Crazy Facebook People! If you are going to place ads on facebook be prepared to baby-sit them. I have people from all over replying to my ads, trying to transport my dogs to Canada and out of state. These people will talk amongst themselves and be arranging transports before I even have time to screen them. This is true with rescue facebook posts as well and people will be calling the shelter from out of state and out of the country to adopt, inundating the shelter with calls that are not welcomed and can adversely affect your working relationship with them.
    Beware of hoarders and abusers on the rescue sites. Everyone wants to trust people simply because they are posting on a rescue page and you can’t do that. I still ask for references and I will want to “friend” them and check out their page before even talking to them about a dog. You can tell a lot about a person from their facebook page!
    Temporary Boarding For Emergencies: We have had further success with finding temporary boarding for pets of people in hospice, people in domestic violence situations, and more that have kept pets out of the shelter and in some instances kept them from being euthanized. We have boarding facilities that provide us with 30 days free boarding per year in lieu of free advertising once a boarding assignment is complete. Obviously you have to be careful how you advertise if the reason for boarding is domestic abuse.
    Keeping Pets Out Of The Shelter By Offering Food And Medical Assistance: Additionally we have been able to save pets from the shelter by offering people free dog or cat food, free litter, kennels or crates, and low cost medical treatment through our community hospital.
    Keeping Pets Out Of The Shelter By Offering Training Resources
    Another great avenue for keeping pets out of the shelter has been a program called The Schrodi Fund that people here can apply for and if they are approved it gives them free training for their pets. This has kept a lot of behavior cases out of the shelter. We also have a list of training facilities in our area that are low cost and specialize in aggression cases.
  • PASS: Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender

    1. 1. P.A.S.S. (POSITIVE ALTERNATIVE TO SHELTER SURRENDER!) The Pass Program seeks out ways to help keep pets of the public out of the shelter by providing resources, education and sometimes by placing ads for people who are unable to do it for themselves.
    2. 2. PUTTING A PASS PROGRAM IN PLACE CRITICAL STEPS Good Working Relationship With Shelter Staff & Volunteers Hotline and Email Program Volunteers to man the hotline and be at the shelter
    3. 3. KEY PLAYERS AND DUTIES IN PASS 1. Hotline Volunteers: 2. Shelter Volunteers: 3. Network & Resources:
    4. 4. SUCCESSFUL ASPECTS OF THE PASS PROGRAM Re-homing pets through ads: Success on Hotline and presence at the shelter Pass Facebook Ad Examples:
    5. 5. RESCUES AND SANCTUARIES Not all rescues and animal sanctuaries are created equal Beware of the Crazy Facebook People! Beware of hoarders and abusers on the rescue sites Temporary Boarding For Emergencies Keeping Pets Out Of The Shelter; By Offering Food And Medical Assistance: By Offering Offer Training Resources
    6. 6. Rescue Craigslist Ad Example Don't Think She Has EVER Known Love!! Please Help Little G.S. Mix!!! (TLAC) Date: 2011-06-15, 6:07PM CDT Reply to: your anonymous craigslist address will appear here Princess was surrendered with TEN other dogs, all scared, all shut down. Obviously none of them had ever known a day of affection or love. Some were worse off than others. Princess is one of those. She is absolutely PETRIFIED at the shelter. She cowers and acts like she is afraid she might be hit or hurt. When you touch her sweetly you can see the relief fall across her face. She really loves and values any affection she can get, even if she doesn't quite trust it yet. If you take her out of her kennel the big, scary, loud dogs that bark and lunge at her thru the kennel doors make her cower and pee on herself. She is just so very afraid here. This sweet, gentle dog needs someone who can show her that she doesn't have to be afraid. Please come get her out of here. This girl will never ever get better in this kind of atmosphere.  Princess is 3 yrs. old and deserves a great home. She definitely needs someone who will have patience with her and understand that for awhile all she might want to do is curl up beside you and feel safe. I can see a happy dog in her though, and with the right kind of love and patience I can easily see her bouncing around someone's home and through their yard and maybe even at the dog park someday. She just needs time. What she doesn't need is a family with a dominant dog or with kids. Princess is scared of dominant dogs and tiny little toddler hands coming at her from all directions would not make her feel safe right now. Can YOU help Princess? If so, she sure would like to get out of this scary place ASAP!! Princess is in Kennel 51 A602658. Town Lake is open from 11:30-7 for adoptions! A medical eval will be done before adoption can be confirmed.