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Week Five:
September 28, 1998 - October 2, 1998

Working with Shelters


Day One

Subject: CLASS: working with shelters
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 11:36:39 +0000
From: Pam Bishop - dobra@pe.net

Classmembers....

For many of us, the majority of the dogs that we handle come from our local animal shelters and humane societies. So a good working relationship with them is very important.

Animal control is just that, it is owned and run by the city or county. It is there to control the animals of that community. Many are run by caring people who want the best for the animals, but just as many are not. This can be very difficult for those of us doing rescue. Humane Societies are private organizations owned and run either by an individual or as a non-profit organization with a board of directors. A Humane Society may or may not have a shelter. It also can have the animal control contract for your area. So these can overlap. It's important to know the dog laws in the area you are working in and to understand the make up of the shelters you hope to work with.

Most shelters, epecially with animal control contracts are "kill shelters". That means that they have more animals coming in than are going back to their owners and being adopted. That means that they must put down those animals. A Humane Society that only takes in owner turn-in animals can be a "no-kill" shelter as they can control the amount of animals coming into their facility. They do have to turn away many that end up in "kill" facilities. One way or another, there are too many pets and not enough homes.

That's where Rescue can help. We can take some of those animals and find good homes for them.

Many shelters are happy to work with rescue groups, others either don't care what happens to the animals or don't trust the Rescue groups they have met. So it is VERY important that you make a good impression on the people at the shelters. They have the dogs and the control. If you want to help the dogs, then you will leave your ego at the door and go there willing to do what you need to, to work with that shelter.

Usually paid staff, are terribly overworked, so they simply don't have the time to deal with Rescue. It will be the volunteers that will be your contact. Take the time to find out who is the best volunteer contact for each shelter. Work with that person. Ask them "what do I need to do to be able to work with your shelter". Then do it. Sometimes you will be treated with respect and consideration and sometimes you will be treated terribly and rudely. Keep your cool! You are there for the dogs and keep that upmost in your mind at all times. If you are met with resistance, beat them down with kindness. That still works..:-}}

Now...lets hear from some of our "ole timers" on suggestions for working with shelters.

Pam
dog rescue class
dobra@pe.net


Subject: CLASS: working with shelters
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 16:09:12 -0400
From: Elizabeth Sommers - ESOMMERS@COURTS.STATE.NY.US

Pam,

I truly don't think there is any advice from this "ole timer" (do I count?) more important than the piece that you gave:

Ask them "what do I need to do to be able to work with your shelter". Then do it. Sometimes you will be treated with respect and consideration and sometimes you will be treated terribly and rudely. Keep your cool! You are there for the dogs and keep that upmost in your mind at all times. If you are met with resistance, beat them down with kindness. That still works..:-}}

It just does NOT work to be critical, superior, rude,etc. and I see it all too often. I tend to be one of those easy-to-get-along-with people and in general have quite cordial relationships with the shelter people that I come into contact with. I wish that half of my time didn't have to be spent re-polishing the image of rescue and hearing about instances of demands, rudeness, criticism, etc. that other rescue people have been guilty of, which I really can't defend. No matter HOW angry you get, acting on it is not going to accomplish one blessed thing!

ASSUME that the shelter is going to do something -- many things -- that will offend you, seem wasteful, seem downright wrong. I always try to keep in mind that if *I* ran the place -- with the demands of board and community, the limited budget, and the often not highly-skilled staff -- day after day and year after year, I might not be doing so great either. Seriously, would you really want the job? How long do you think you could sustain the fire of reform and making it a showcase?

I'm trying to think of a decent analogy: Try this. You are running a busy rescue organization and juggling everything, some of them life-threatening, as best you can, when along comes someone who *really* cares about collars. They want to know what kind you use, why you haven't considered _______ (prong, slip, buckle, whatever). They want to know if you are aware of the dangers/advantages of _________(fill in) and have you heard of the stories about deaths associated with the use of ________. They ask for an accounting of which dogs have the good kind of collars, where you intend to get ones for the dogs that don't have them, how soon you are going to do it. And then they get offended and indignant when you finally say "Look, I've got to get down to the shelter and evaluate a dog and then go to a home visit, feed my current crew, and visit with a family whose dog is too aggressive for us to take in -- I'll think about collars tomorrow!" It's not that you even disagree with that person, and of course collars are important, but.....

I'm involved in Golden rescue -- and if I go to a shelter and see a pregnant Golden who is about to deliver in a filthy pen or an unneutered purebred male Golden about to be adopted out to someone that I know is "aiming" to start a puppy mill, I frankly don't SEE or CARE about anything else in that shelter at the moment!! ------ But for the person who has the power to hand me that pregnant bitch so I can get her to a warm whelping pen (or to keep her in the cold cage), or stop the adoption and maybe save 100s of other Golden puppies being born in misery (or to let the male go with Mr. Wannabe Puppy-Mill), those are merely 2 dogs out of many that are his or her responsiblity. And there are all the other issues of supplies, staff supervision and demands, Board politics, and the rest, in addition to the dogs. ----- For me to go running in and yelling "stop everything, you've got to give me that bitch and keep that man from adopting the male!!!" is like that collar-fanatic crashing into your place while you are bathing a flea-infested dog and talking on the phone to a good adoptive home to tell you everything must stop this instant because an incoming dog waiting in your outside pen has on a slip collar. No, he shouldn't have one on, but......

I have been told, on good authority, that there are some shelter managers that are, well, sadistic -- and I guess every profession attracts its worst stereotype. I don't know that I would care or choose to get buddy-buddy with them. But most aren't -- and the very best thing a rescue person can do is go into the waiting room, just watch and observe for a minute, and think -- honestly -- how you would "manage" all the chaos that goes on. Talk to the manager and more important listen. Put yourself in your shoes and try to think about what YOU would want from RESCUE if you had to run the shelter.

I'm not directing this post at anyone, by the way -- it's a lecture I give myself often. We all need to keep it in mind.

Betsy Sommers
GRROWLS-NY
Golden Retriever rescue, Albany, NY


Subject: Re: CLASS: working with shelters
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 22:23:25 EDT
From: Janine Peters - NenePeters@AOL.COM

Pam that was an excellent explanation of the rather variable setup between animal controls, humane societies and the blends that are in some areas!

One thing that is a source of sensitivity in Kill shelters is that often Rescue people have the attitude that they are "rescueing " FROM the shelter!!!!! Most often these people feel that, even if they have to kill them in the end, they saved them from a much worse life and death, of starvation, car accidents, etc. It is insulting for them to hear us say "I rescued him from such and such Animal Control."

Stress that they started the Rescue and you will be there to help with the end of the Rescue. You do not see them as the Bad Guys, but understand that they have a really tough job and it is "our throw away, irresponsible society" that is the Bad Guy! You are on the same team, just another position on the Good Team!!!!

Even if someone seems to be a real hard case, try this angle anyway. One Director that seemed so hard and cold, after a while told me that she did not raise the orphaned babies or get attached to any of the dogs or cats, because she had so many times nursed the babies or hurt animals back to health only to be the one that ultimately had to give them the final needle. She would NOT do that ever again! She would give people suggestions about raising orphaned animals, at which she was quite famous, but NEVER, NEVER AGAIN WOULD SHE DO IT! IT HURT TOO MUCH! Understanding that, I saw her "coldness" as self preservation. I respected her for that!

They are NOT the enemy-- well, maybe a few are, but if you act like they are the good guys you may find that they are and just see it from an angle you never saw it from.

Janine Peters
Louisiana


Subject: CLASS: working with shelters
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 22:23:39 -0700
From: Denise & Scott Lewis - lewisk9@FOTO.INFI.NET

As a person trying to start a rescue, my question(s) would be why would a shelter want to work with rescue groups? If they turned over a dog to rescue would that not be a loss of an adoption fee? If the rescue did pay the adoption fee, most rescues "charge" more for an adoption? The only time I can see a shelter possibly wanting to work with rescue is when they get to the overfull point and need to put down dogs, which would be an added expense to them.

Again, I am just trying to understand and establish what a good working relationship would be and how it would be beneficial to both shelter and rescue. Any help or pointers you can give me will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
Denise Lewis
(Golden Retriever Rescue group in the making)


Subject: Re: CLASS: working with shelters
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 21:44:01 -0500
From: gryhndmom - gryhndmom@earthlink.net

One thing that is a source of sensitivity in Kill shelters is that often Rescue people have the attitude that they are "rescueing " FROM the shelter!!!!! Most often these people feel that, even if they have to kill them in the end, they saved them from a much worse life and death, of starvation, car accidents, etc. It is insulting for them to hear us say "I rescued him from such and such Animal Control."

This is a good point, and one of the things that touched me so much about a post from a shelter worker. And they do feel that putting an animal to sleep is much preferable to the animal starving, being abused, hit by a car, etc. I tend to agree with them on that. The description by this worker was heartbreaking to read. The point was basically, which would you prefer, death in the open, or death in the arms of somebody that cares?

So keep this in mind when working with the shelters/animal control facilities. They too are fighting the same battle we are, and are not the enemy. If we feel overrun at times, imagine how they must feel!

Betsy (GryHndMom)
Visit us at: http://home.earthlink.net/~gryhndmom/
CUR #349


End of Day One

Day Two








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