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

Working with Shelters


Day Four

Subject: Re: CLASS: working with shelters
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 11:08:12 -0400
From: Lila Borge Wills - lborge@VT.EDU

Deb and class,

I exposed a "Rescue" organization that had gone sour recently. I went to the facility, thinking it was an OK situation, though when I arrived to adopt a puppy, I was shocked to see the grounds, and some of the dogs (that I could see). Our puppy was in horrible shape! The problem with this person was that she was such a good talker, had a VERY impressive website, and so people thought she was legit and caring for all the dogs. She was also intimidating enough for people that weren't sure, that they were kind of "scared" to question what really was going on.

What I suggest people do is go to the facility (if possible) and check them out. You can do this as a potential adopter if you think that is appropriate (I think you will get a much better picture of what is going on). Ask for names of people that have adopted and contact them. Contact the local authorities and find out if they do really have all the permits, licenses, etc. that they are supposed to have for your locality, state, etc. If they claim to be non-profit, non-profit/charitable, incorporated, etc. it is fairly simple to check the facts out. If not, make sure you are ready to do something about it.

I think it is REALLY bad that this is all under the name of "Rescue". Hope this helps.

Lila Borge Wills
SW VA mutt and mastiff (MCOA) rescue


Subject: CLASS: working with shelters
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 11:47:09 -0400
From: cindy golos - cmg29@CORNELL.EDU

My first experience working with shelters was working FOR a shelter. I had a negative expereince because the shelter at the time was under terrible management and they did very little for the animals in any way.

I have since had a positive experience with this same shelter years later, even though I was not well liked as an employee years before. I happen to agree that, just like we have seen some snipping towards fellow rescuers on this list, some of the shelter workers can get hardened to their situation too or maybe they just don't have good people skills.

I would think that genuine validation of their efforts, even if on a scale of 1 - 10 they are a 2 or 3 in the effort they put forth with the animals, can go a long way. If you have a negative response from a director, try a volunteer who will work with you (unless they have an absolute policy about release to rescue.) Or if the staff is unresponsive, meet with the director and ask that together you and they can meet with the staff. Try not to alienate one from the other. Complaining about the staff to the director will ultimately not serve your purpose (I did this myself!)

If you really are approaching this the correct way, in your manner of speaking and after making several attempts, you can appeal to the board. This finally worked in our situation and the director was eventually removed but again, always speak on behalf of the animals, never against anyone involved with the shelter. Offer to have someone come and look at your home if this is where rescues are kept or have references they can call, like permanent homes found for some of your rescues. They can only refuse.

If worst comes to worst and they are unwilling to talk & deal, and this will depend on your particular community and their attitude towards animal welfare, you could contact a local newspaper and ask them to feature a piece on rescue and the shelter(s). Make sure that it is presented in a way that the shelter and the rescue are BOTH trying to do a good job but at this time you can't reach a working agreement. A statement explaining that it is unfortunate that the shelter has to be very careful about folks claiming to care about animals only to have ulterior motives. Appeal to the community to work with the both of you so you can reach a working agreement and save lives. Always stress that you are both on the same side of the battle. That way the shelter won't get nasty letters.

It is sort of sneaky because if the press asks the shelter for an interview, it is unlikely that they will say, "Oh, that's not true, we just don't care about working with these people at all." It gives them an out, may foster trust and brings some public sympathy towards the animal's situation. The worst that can happen is, nothing will change. They can still turn you down but now YOU are not the bad guy AND you have the community aware of what's going on. This is similar to what happened here as far as better management and community outreach. Like I said, it will definitely depend on where you live for this one!

Sorry so long!

Cindy


Subject: Re: CLASS: working with shelters
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 11:44:46 -0400
From: Elizabeth Sommers - ESOMMERS@COURTS.STATE.NY.US

Cindy writes:
Sorry so long!

Do NOT apologize for that excellent, thoughtful post! Thank you for it.

Betsy Sommers


Subject: Re: CLASS: working with shelters
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 11:13:29 -0500
From: "Virginia M. Elliott" - vmewlw@ntws.net

Always be prepared for sudden change! Due to the effort of many people rescue has had a great working relationship with one of the shelters in the DFW area of TX. I went in Sat. and there was a new person at the desk who proceeded to tell me things had changed. I went back on Tues. and found out rescue people would no longer be treated and talked to with respect but as "the bad guys". Thank goodness for the posts I had read the night before on CLASS! I kept my cool, treated him with respect and reassured him that I would comply with whatever policies they deemed necessary and swallowed down what I wanted to say to him. The rescue person who is responsible for more dogs getting homes from that shelter was being treated the same way I was and if I hadn't seen that I would have thought it was just me. I took 7 adults and 5 puppies and after an hour of paperwork, we were laughing together.

Sorry about the rambling ... I'm still thrown off balance by this change. We are planning to let things cool down some and then try to meet with the shelter personnel to see if someone in rescue caused this and what we can do to regain the great relationship we had. I know it's a strain on the shelter people also. They were able to call us to take a special animal or help them at any time and I certainly want that trust to continue.

I really appreciate this class and the list. Thank you all.

Virginia Elliott
pekes and all other small dogs
DFW area, TX
vmewlw@ntws.net


Subject: CLASS: shelters and newspapers
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 12:05:14 -0400
From: Laura Georgi - georgil@CLEMSON.EDU

If worst comes to worst and they are unwilling to talk & deal, and this will depend on your particular community and their attitude towards animal welfare, you could contact a local newspaper and ask them to feature a piece on rescue and the shelter(s). Make sure that it is presented in a way that the shelter and the rescue are BOTH trying to do a good job but at this time you can't reach a working agreement.

I hate to get out the ol' wet blanket, but good luck getting the paper to put your spin on the story. IF they cover it at all. Any whiff of conflict or accusation, and that'll be their angle. And after they get the shelter's side of the story, don't count on their coming back to you for a rebuttal, before they rush into print. Don't count on them to check facts (even though it's good journalistic practice, it's their responsibility, and they could get sued for not doing it). Don't count on them to print YOUR letter correcting the misinformation in their article. Do I sound bitter?

L.georgil@clemson.edu


Subject: CLASS: shelters and newspapers
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 12:41:02 -0400
From: cindy golos - cmg29@CORNELL.EDU

Laura wrote:
I hate to get out the ol' wet blanket, but good luck getting the paper to put your spin on the story.

You sound like maybe you are speaking from personal experience or maybe based on someone elses! No solution is clear cut, that's for sure. The wet blanket definitely exists for a reason. Once in a while it's nice to take it out and dry it on the line in the sun, but this depends as much on everyone else's contributions (or lack of) as well as ours, right? It can be frustrating.

Cindy


Subject: Re: CLASS: shelters and newspapers
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 1998 18:23:16 +0000
From: Pam Bishop - dobra@pe.net

Laura wrote:
I hate to get out the ol' wet blanket, but good luck getting the paper to put your spin on the story.

She brings up a good point. Be very careful when talking to any reporter. They are there for a story. Some will pick up on any possible conflict and use it as the "hook" for the story. I've been interviewed many times and have never had a reporter "get it right". And about half were really trying! (vbg). They were dog lovers and wanted to do something to help. But they don't understand and they want a "good story".

The best way to get the word out is to give them a pre-printed "press release" on an event your group is giving. However, I did have one reporter that chose to change everything in that too....sigh.

Before talking to any reporter, think about what you are going to say. Make notes and stick to them. Don't say anything "off the cuff". They can take it and make something the isn't there. A bad story can do more harm than nothing being said. So be prepared, smile and hopefully you're point will get across to the reporter.

Good luck

Pam
Fox Terrier Rescue
dobra@pe.net


End of Day Four

Day Five








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