Sunday, June 21, 2009

Irresponsible pet owner's wrongs don't make our shelter's wrongs right

Two wrongs don't make a right. And I, for one, am tired of the excuses, posturing, defensiveness, deflection and egos that stand in the way of progress. At some point SOON, we have to change the nature of the conversation and our efforts and actions in animal welfare in our community. We are literally spinning our wheels here.

Everywhere you turn these days, our local leaders and newspapers are using what amounts to faulty logic concerning the conditions and operations and high kill rate at our animal shelter: that because our shelter takes in an average of 1000-1400 homeless animals a month, it excuses our leaders and shelter from addressing the alarming and legitimate issues in their own operations and treatment of these animals and the way they engage with the general public. This is nothing more than a political cover-up and ploy to completely deflect attention away from legitimate issues that are raised and a way to avoid addressing each and every issue and topic.

It's like putting a clean blanket over the poop in a kennel or cage and continuing to cover up the next mess using this same tactic. In the end, all we have is more piles of poop and dirty blankets, and nothing is addressed or resolved.

I am also tired of this old cliche they repeat constantly: "Our community has an overpopulation problem and if only people would spay and neuter and care for their animals, we would not have this problem". Well, first of all ... DUH! We and the rest of this nation have the same issues to deal with, and of course we would not have this problem if all people were responsible. That they are not is a given, and animal shelters are made to be safety nets for animals in times of need. If that weren't the case, rescues and shelters would not be necessary, and we could close them all down and fire all our high-paying shelter directors and their staffs.

This faulty argument simply states the obvious. We do have problems. What many of us advocates are saying is the day has come that we learn to face issues more proactively than we have done in the past. If our shelter facility cannot adequately handle the number of animals coming in, they either have to upgrade the facility to meet the demand or come up with targeted methods to start decreasing the intake at the shelter. Intake at the shelter is not simply about spay/neuter; they also need to look at why AC departments are hauling animals in and assess if this is the only or best option in all cases. For hundreds of cats, for example, this should be the LAST option. They also need to look at many of their other efforts, such as helping people who are looking for their lost animals find them in their facility. This part of our shelter's customer service, in particular, is horribly lacking. There is little in terms of information-sharing, giving sound advice, and genuinely helping people or welcoming them.

All our leaders and newspaper stories also point to only spay/neuter and adoption as the answer to our high kill rate. They all ignore or can't be bothered to learn about the other parts of the lifesaving No Kill Equation that -- when implemented correctly -- is having great success in other areas of our nation, with more success stories added each year. They simply don't get it. They especially do not get that the shelter has to have a complete philosophical and attitude adjustment before we can engage the public in ways that make a difference.

For those who do not believe that our community has the compassion and will to make change, look no further than this past week's story in the paper where the shelter was supposedly going to be forced to put down 50+ dogs by this weekend to make room for 12 court-hold pit bulls. First of all, this story came out at the last minute when I'm sure the shelter and AC department were aware of the issue long beforehand because the pit bull's care relied on grant funds that were going to end on July 1st.

Nevertheless, when the story came out, complete with pictures of mom dogs and puppies slated for almost immediate death, the community responded overwhelmingly within ONE DAY. This was a very positive response to very negative and incompetent messages from the shelter's director and other leaders in our animal-welfare system peppered throughout the news story. Imagine what kind of a response we could get if we engaged people positively and proactively and with enough time and a specific plan ahead of time? I have no doubt our community could face these challenges more effectively if led to do so by professionals who know better and understand how to meet challenges instead of those admitting they don't know what to do about the situation.

Essentially what our leaders are doing with this simplistic straw man tactic is closing the opportunity of any detailed conversations about known issues, much less the hard work and action it would take to address the issues with specific solutions. When our leaders simply point or wag that finger at only the irresponsible public, they miss the entire boat. They are forgetting the rest of us ... the majority of us who do not represent this irresonsible segment of the population. We, the majority, are individuals and groups that can become part of the solutions.

I imagine using this argument also helps them sleep better at night even though the evidence from multiple written assessments of our shelter over the past few years tells one story very clearly -- our leaders are doing a very poor job of running our shelter, and little has changed with the hiring of a new shelter director last May, which is also the same story repeating itself. We've been there and done that time and again.

Those on the ASCMV oversight board that cannot be bothered with the details of what is going on at our shelter have no business serving on that board; them not holding their agent in charge of the shelter accountable for the management and operations is not acceptable, no matter who that individual is today or who it will be tomorrow. Don't let them fool you into thinking that because they have so many animals to deal with and such a hard job that the blind eye they turn to issues is acceptable. It is not, and it has never been!

It's time for any animal-welfare advocates that are fed up to join forces and come forward with a more organized and targeted approach as well. Anyone interested in helping us along these lines, please contact me at

There are a few of us that are tired of this revolving door and ongoing issues that never get addressed by our leaders. It's time we come up with a new approach to let these leaders know that not only are we not going anywhere, we see through these political arguments and cover-ups, and we are going to continue to demand change and action and solutions. We are not ignorant, and we are well aware that there are more complexities to the causes and solutions of the problems in our system. We want progressive animal-welfare services and sheltering, and we are not going anywhere until the step up to this challenge or find someone who can lead us in that direction.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What our community needs to focus on next

I'm sorry to interrupt my No Kill Conference 2009 workshop summaries, but some important things came to light in our community this past week that I wanted to share. I will continue writing about the conference and sharing information given to us in our CD packet in the next few months, but there are times that local matters must be addressed.

Challenge to Our Local Shelter and AC Department Leaderships

In an e-mail message sent out to about 130 people this past week, our shelter's executive director implored us to become part of the solution and take actions instead of waste time. She had received a personal message from myself and an individual rescuer to our personal network of animal people; we were trying to save a few dogs in danger of being killed at our shelter. It seems when anyone tries to address issues in any real, meaningful or detailed way, they are accused of being part of the problem. I have experienced this directly myself and have heard it time and again from many who work in animal welfare.

That's where I form my opinion about our current shelter leadership and how it reflects going up the ladder to our ASCMV governing board. I honestly don't think we are doing all that we can to enrich and save more lives at our shelter, and I have every right to that opinion. I also have observed far too many times where our shelter's leadership and staff have been very unprofessional in their dealings with animal groups and individuals from the public, and I think this is uncalled for and the main reason why we cannot progress.

For example, this one paragraph in the director's message shows how far we have to go as a community. First of all, it is insulting to many of us as it slaps us in the face and acuses us of doing nothing to help solve our community's animal issues. This came to us from a hired individual who is paid a good salary to run our sheler and has only been here a little over a year. Yet, she said this to some rescuers who have been here working for years on these issues. Her message and demeanor also show how horrible the lines of communication are between our shelter and the rest of us out here working hard most of our free time in doing just what she asks us to do. Overall, it's sad and tragic to see how out-of-touch our shelter's leadership is with the community it serves.

Many of us are out here working directly with normal people and helping them become responsible pet guardians. We are not stuck in a myopic view behind the walls of an overburdened facility pointing fingers outward and circling those wagons. Some are out here helping people spay and neuter their animals, some are trying to find alternatives to pet relinquishments at the shelter by re-homing animals, some are operating non-profits and rescues, but there is no doubt in my mind that we are all working hard ... most of us for no monetary compensation whatsoever.

On top of that, there is another whole large part of our community that we have not even started to tap into nor have we begun to harness the overwhelming compassion that is out there. We forget that for every bad, irresponsible pet owner, there are tens of hundreds more normal people that are good guardians and who provide well for their animals and have a strong bond with them. If not, Americans would not be spending billions of dollars on animal care each year. It is these people we have to reach out to and invite to become part of the solution as well as those who we can educate and turn around. Ironically, most of what shelter leaders who are regressive do is point fingers at people, treat them suspiciously, and turn them off, which directly affects the programs and services the shelter can provide for our homeless animals. It's akin to a police officer who treats every person as a criminal.

The other day, I was walking my dog in what many would consider a more poor area of our city; then we went to the dog park and then another city park after that (it takes a long while to tire him out!). I have been making it my duty these days to take a mental "pet guardian" vs. "pet owner" count as I'm out on my daily tasks. I often notice the difference between beloved family dogs vs. resident dogs tied out with zero socialization ... and everything in-between. I do this to not get lost in the negativity that can sometimes come from animal-welfare work and to keep a bigger perspective.

From these observations, it is clear to me that nothing is black and white. In this one outing, I saw about five dogs outside whose owners were playing and hanging out with them in the yard; I saw a man feeding a cat on top of an abandoned car in his yard and petting him/her; I saw one tied up, pathetic resident guard dog; and then I saw about 10 to 20 pampered pooches at both the dog park and regular park I went to as well as several people walking their dogs on leashes or riding with them in their cars. Once you look at the big picture, you realize how colorful it really is.

That's not to say we don't have issues in Dona Ana County; it would be an insult to say that as well. I just think we have alot of untapped resources to deal with the issues more creatively and successfully. And, we are never going to get to a time we turn the tide around until there are clear, open, transparent lines of communication and partnerships between us animal-welfare volunteers and non-profit groups and the shelter's leadership. Then, there needs to be the same openness and partnering with these groups and our AC departments and between the shelter and each AC department. If the shelter tries to do it all alone, it will take a longer time to reach success, and they will probably never get there.

A good case in point is information our director revealed to us in this same e-mail about their increasing transfers of animals out of our area and how that reduced our kill/euthanasia rate from the horrible 70-80% rate to actually matching the national average of around 50%+ in April 2009. That's great news, and that is the kind of success that everyone who works with animals in our community should know, and we should know if we are maintaining that success from here on out or not and look into why we are or not. However, unless we can make it to one monthly morning ASCMV board meeting held on a work day (at 9 a.m. the first Thurs. of each month), we are in the dark. And, that one meeting is not conducive to working through any details or for back-and-forth communication and problem-solving.

In the end, our overall kill rate cannot be reduced by any one effort or program alone or any one facility, group, or person alone. We still have a long way to go. The national average kill rate of 50% is still a tragedy. It takes the whole village and whole slew of efforts to create a No Kill community. It is being done in more and more communities in the U.S. each year, and it is up to us to decide to join that movement now or later. I have no doubt that the nation will reach No Kill sooner or later. When will we join the shelter reform movement?

For us, it's the flow of communication and information I challenge us all to improve in order to help save more lives and in order to come to the day when our shelter's staff does not have to make those daily, harsh decisions of who lives and who dies. Yet, even those decisions need to be made equitably and after fair, documented behavioral and medical assessments.

What kind of information will help us? How can we begin to share it better and start mending these broken relationships? How can we move on from the past?

We all talk about the horrible overpopulation issue in our community and the high intake rate at our shelter. That is an issue we can all agree upon and want to do something about. However, that is still a very big-picture view of the situation. Each non-profit group and individual rescuer is trying their best to make a dent in these numbers, but we also spin our wheels alot because we lack the information of where and how to best target our efforts. No story is that simple, and the more detailed information we can share, the better off we all will be.

Here is some food for thought for us all moving forward:

  • If the AC departments and the shelter shared some of their database information with animal groups, we could start targeting our efforts outside the shelter to those areas in most need first. For example, from what exact areas (by zip code or other identifier) are the most strays picked up? Where are the mom dogs and cats coming from with their litters? These are the areas that groups can target for public outreach/education and that can be targeted with special spay/neuter efforts. For example, Albuquerque's Animal Humane has a program that offers free s/n services via their mobile van in only one zip code of their community from which the most homeless animals come.

  • Another useful piece of information would be to know the predominant breeds and "types" of animals coming into our shelter. From my experience there in the past, I saw that we got many chihuahuas and mixes, pit bulls and mixes, and too many stray/feral cats. These figures can help us develop incentivized efforts to make a dent in these populations first. In some areas, they have programs that fix pit bulls for free or for a small "reward". Also, the shelter's leadership should be at the forefront of lobbying for legal changes in our system to deal with cats in the community in better ways than hauling ferals in to be killed within hours of reaching the facility. Of all groups, the shelter should understand this is the last place any feral cat should be, and they should be giving educational presentations throughout the community about community cat programs that work and are now endorsed by every major animal group in the nation.

  • With the large intake in our one municipal shelter, it is obvious that one facility is not enough. What about starting a capital campaign to build another facility -- perhaps one run as a private, non-profit that can take up some of the slack and offer/model progressive sheltering programs and services? Or, how can we build a larger foster network to help ease the burden at our shelter? We need foster homes that number in the hundreds if not thousands, and with a community that has so many military families, why not target a P/R effort to these families to help them understand the benefits and rewards of fostering animals? I know that most people in the general public do not understand what fostering animals entails; it's a foreign concept to them. Many people love animals but cannot make a lifetime commitment at this time -- those are the ones to steer into fostering. News media can help by featuring stories about families who foster as well.

  • We need a PR campaign that educates the public that the animal shelter should be the place of LAST resort for unwanted animals. When possible, we need to help people work through issues with behavior modification, etc. We also need a shelter staff that does more than repeat one sentence to anyone relinquishing an animal, "We don't have space right now, so if you leave that dog/cat here, the chances are it will be put down immediately." We need to sit down with these people, get as much information as possible about each animal to make better adoption matches, and we especially need to start sending a message back to the public that dumping an animal is not something you can do in five seconds. Make it as important event as it is, and also remove the option of people stuffing animals into a cage when no one is around. Until we in animal welfare start treating each animal like his/her life matters as much as the one that came before, the public won't get that new message either.

  • We need to find a way to provide socialization, training and enrichment to our shelter animals as they are going through the system. We need to do more than figure out their outcome; we need to be responsible about the quality of their lives in the system, too. This is also one of the biggest efforts in disease control because stressed animals have depressed immune systems. It is not enough to follow shelter medicine cleaning protocol while you restrict access to animals and then provide zero enrichment. This is an outrage, and it needs to be addressed. We must employ the Five Freedoms in the least (see the last part of this blog posting for a definition of this concept), and if the shelter staff cannot do this alone, we need a plan of action to get people in there who can. This is especially true for any animals held long-term, such as those pending cruelty court cases.

  • When it comes to increasing animal transfers, we can still do much more. The animal-welfare network in Las Cruces should be fully vetted on which rescue groups our shelter works with and not, WHY not, and the process by which rescues are contacted or when they are allowed to come look through the shelter. We need to be sure it is against the rules for the shelter to kill any animal a rescue is willing to take. We need to be informed about the policies in place and when and if there is logical flexibility around these policies. For example, many reputable, dedicated individual rescuers in our area do not have official non-profits and do their work out of their own homes/pockets. We need a work-around for working with these individuals as well as those networks that help only with transport. We also need to start branching out to surrounding areas and partner with those on the border facing similar issues, such as all the groups in El Paso--not just one or two.

  • We need to develop partnerships with human-services groups and agencies, such as juvenile and adult detention facilities and prisons as well as places like La Casa, which probably need help developing a foster system for abused spouses who don't want to leave their situations because they don't have anywhere to go with their furry family members. I'm sure that those groups and agencies that service various low-income individuals have similar needs, such as programs to match and support pets for home-bound seniors, etc. The possibilities of these human/animal-welfare partnerships are endless.

The single greatest need is for us all to sit down together, roll up our sleeves, get to work, and share essential information. I openly challenge the shelter's leadership (oversight board) to be the leader in these efforts; after all, it is our shelter that is ultimately responsible for the animals that enter their system. They also have the most pertinent information because they are the only large facility in our area at this time that takes in the majority of our animals.

I know myself and others are willing to pitch in and work on areas that will make an impact. Alternately, we don't want to go in and work in a restrictive, negative, unprofessional environment that does not allow us make much of a difference; that is a waste of time for us and does nothing to positively change things for those we all care about -- our homeless animal population.

Why we should push for the Five Freedoms for all long-term sheltered animals

It is animal welfare's dirty little secret because the general public is not aware of this issue, but it is high time for anyone who loves animals to speak up against the horrible intense confinement of animals long-term in sheltering facilities here and nationwide. This happens in our system each time someone is busted for animal cruelty and their animals are removed pending case resolution. It also happens to any sheltered animal that remains in intense confinement long-term for whatever reason, such as undesirable breeds or other special-needs animals that take longer to place or for which special efforts are not made to adopt them out. Whatever the reason, living in a small cage or kennel with little or no breaks from that stressful environment is unacceptable in this day and age.

The issue goes all the way up the ladder to national groups like the HSUS and PETA; these rich animal-protection groups raise millions of dollars each year to fight animal cruelty, as they should. However, shouldn't those of us giving our money in the name of fighting animal cruelty also call for alternatives to the intense confinement and subsequent death that many of these victims of abusers face after they are taken away from their horrible conditions? This is the height of irony for the victims in these cases ... that they continue suffering and being victimized after being "rescued" from their abusers.

Look no further than our community. There is only one choice for long-term care, and that is our shelter. Dogs are placed in kennels, and cats in cages, and they go crazy in no time in this environment after even a short period of time, much less long stretches in time. Some look emaciated from the stress, or they jump in circles of panic all day long, or they go as far as to gnaw on concrete and destroy their own teeth or gnaw/lick themselves raw. Sometimes these cases drag on for months-to-years. Conversely, look at the serene environment of the long-term care at our one animal sanctuary which often provides a home to animals for years. There, dogs live in bigger pens with companions and are much happier and cats live in an enclosed cattery (much like the way they are housed at Best Friends Animal Society in UTAH). There is no reason why each community should not have a peaceful alternative to the intense confinement for any animals being held pending cruelty case resolution or adoption/transfer.

For all the animals who are housed for any period of time, the standard of the Five Freedoms must be applied. These freedoms were developed with factory-farmed animals in mind, but they apply equally as well to companion animals in shelters:

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
2. Freedom from discomfort
3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease
4. Freedom to express normal behavior
5. Freedom from fear and distress

Our local shelter and AC leadership must also focus on animals' quality of life while they are being housed for whatever reason. Any animal lover who contributes to animal-welfare organizations--especially the big, rich and powerful ones who have the money and clout to change things--must lift up their voices to say that it is negligent and unacceptable to forget the other part of the animal-cruelty crackdown equation ... that of the victims who are rescued from one horrible environment to be placed into another stressful one awaiting a usual sad outcome in the end. We must demand better care and treatment for all of these animals, including equitable assessments, opportunities for survival (a second chance), and the well-being of all the animals in a facility--not just a token few or favorites or "special cases".

Monday, June 1, 2009

Conference Workshop: Overcoming Internal Obstacles to Success, Part I

The third workshop I attended at the No Kill Conference 2009 was wonderful. It was packed full of useful approaches and advice for any shelter director trying to work toward No Kill. Segments were presented by seasoned, successful shelter directors who are well-versed in coming into shelters such as ours and turning things around within a year.

Susan Cosby was just hired as the CEO of the Pennsylvania SPCA--congrats, Susan, and what a boon to that community! Susanne Kogut has been running a successful No Kill shelter at the Charlottesville SPCA for years (one that also contracts for municipal sheltering services); Bonney Brown has made great strides in a community much like our own in terms of human population and animal intakes; the Nevada Humane Society is saving more than 90% of the dogs and more than 85% of the cats that enter the entire system; and Abagail Adams is the director at the Tompkins County SPCA, a longtime No Kill success story as well. (My only regret is that each presenter had so little time...)

So, how did they do it? What's the secret to their successes?

A huge part of what they all did was look inside and identify and tackle each and every internal obstacle to success. Many seasoned shelter directors don't do this important exercise because they are stuck in the old-guard sheltering rut of pointing fingers outside of their own organization and blaming all the killing on the irresponsible public alone. Then they circle the wagons on and on and staunchly defend even their most outdated practices, and nothing changes.

But, I ask: What industry has ever prospered or changed for the better that did not take a critical eye and look inward and closely at what parts of their own operations are in serious need of fixing or updating? How could any industry that has operated the same way for so many decades expect to get different results? Are all of the ideas and policies that are ingrained in old-fashioned sheltering based on sound ideas and data or simply part of the failed industry philosophy of "we do it this way because we've always done it this way"?

Susan Cosby on NOT Writing the Book Based on Worst-Case Scenarios

Shelters are very guilty of instituting knee-jerk, blanket, restrictive policies based on worst-case scenarios that either actually happened within the shelter or -- worse yet -- are part of the mythology/urban legend that is carried forward by animal-welfare people themselves and not based on any known facts or cases. Thankfully, some organizations are asking themselves tough questions or posing new ideas and then testing whether something new might work better.

A case in point is a recent study done by the ASPCA on a free adult cat adoptions program instituted at the Wisconsin Humane Society and other test shelters. Challenging the long-held humane notion that you have to charge an adoption fee in order for an adopter to value the life of a cat or dog, a complete study was done on this program to track--after the fact--how the adopted cats were faring in their new homes. Contrary to our humane urban myth, what the study overwhelmingly found was that those that adopted these free cats did not value their lives any less than those that adopted cats for a fee. All the cats adopted out went to good, responsible homes. (If you are interested in reading more about this study, see this link: ASPCA PRO.)

Although Susan Cosby didn't talk about this program in particular, what she did talk about reminded me of it. She pointed out that a shelter director with new ideas will not always be popular, especially when you are going against long-held myths held by animal lovers themselves.

However, in order to save lives, shelters must start trying new things ... maybe not all of them will be successful, but you learn and move on. When faced with working against the mantra of "it can't happen or work here" for whatever reason, a director has to be strong in his or her resolve to focus on lifesaving and not let themselves get derailed by worst-case scenarios or naysayers.

Instead, open yourself up to people in the community. Reach out for help and support using all means possible, including Facebook, Twitter, and Craigslist! Challenge the myths with well-thought out programs and services, and then track the data for each to see why it was or was not successful.

Most importantly, never write or administer policies at your shelter based on worst-case scenarios. By doing so, you'll be so restrictive that you end up weeding out all the good people/good homes and supporters in order to avoid one possible bad thing that no one can see coming or that maybe no one could have stopped anyway.

There is no doubt that it is sad when you hear of an incident like one that happened in El Paso not too long ago -- where the soldier from Ft. Bliss beat and killed a puppy he and his family had adopted from Pet Guardian Angel -- and injured a second puppy. However, because this happened does not mean that this shelter should expect it to keep happening or blame themselves. Maybe they missed a red flag during the adoption process or not; if so, learn from it in a measured, logical way. All you can do is your best and not punish yourself and everyone else in the public for the actions of one sick man. It is very hard to identify who might be capable of such violence; we can't even determine that in human abuse.

No matter what the pressures from the outside after an incident like this, resist that urge to change all your policies and how you deal with the public based on cases such as these. You could end up killing more animals in the long run if you become restrictive and rude instead of open and welcoming. You can do both -- be open and welcoming and still administer adoption counseling that will ensure good matches and also reveal most red flags ... an adoption policy and process that best serves both the needs of people and the welfare of animals.

Susanne Kogut on Staff Obstacles

Most of these successful shelter directors had a similar message that is not going to be well-received by seasoned shelter staffers ... the fact that staff turnover is often necessary to make the changes needed to save more animal lives. Sadly, some of the negative attitudes are so institutionalized in staff that many will not be able to learn how to function successfully in a progressive shelter and many may put up huge roadblocks or be openly insolent.

When Kogut started her first shelter director job at the Charlottesville SPCA, she thought she'd be walking into a professional environment with a strong work ethic. She thought everyone who works at a shelter must be passionate about saving animals' lives. Why else would they work there? Her strategy was to get down and dirty with the staff and work side-by-side with them to earn their trust and respect.

The reality of what she encountered was that even after some time, she failed to gain respect. Most of the people on her staff were not excited about nor supportive of changes. They were not only sadly disinterested in saving animals' lives, they were much like a very dysfunctional family.

She quickly learned that she had to establish who was the boss. She looked and planned to the future, and she started to focus on the positive. She started engaging with staff in a different way. For one, she did not accept gossip and instituted a clean slate. She never allowed complaining unless it came with a suggested solution. She eliminated all of the negatives in the vocabulary used in the shelter as well.

Her key ingredients for surviving these trying times were faith and courage in herself and in her commitment to save lives. She maintained the positive attitude in the face of all obstacles, and she was willing to make difficult and unpopular decisions. She was confident and decisive and held people accountable, including herself. Yet, she was willing to make mistakes and learn from them. She employed constant innovation and determination, and that started to turn things around.

Her motto for running her shelter is a simple mantra of, "Have fun! Save Lives!!" She worked hard with her staff to finally get all the right people on the bus. Once on the bus, she worked quickly to ensure each person was on the right seat of the bus (that the roles they held matched their strengths and passions). She also got all the wrong people off the bus.

She recounted one day when she came into the shelter to find a whole room of cats had been moved and was missing. One staff person told her the cats had been taken back to be "euthanized" at the vet's request. Kogut chased the trail around and found the cats at the brink of death. When she questioned the vet, she found that her staffer had lied to her .. the vet did not order the deaths of the cats. Kogut ordered her staff to put the cats back where they were and got to the bottom of who was responsible for the decision and for giving her the run-around. Those individuals found at fault were held accountable; they were fired for making a decision that went against the shelter's new grain ... that of saving all the lives possible and only ending the lives of any animals deemed truly vicious after behavior assessments and those deemed irremediably suffering or with a poor health prognosis by the veterinarian.

In order to save lives, Kogut said, you have to shake things up. Look at your programs, policies and operations and make needed changes. Employ new ideas, and don't give up. Review programs constantly and keep evolving your policies as needed. Don't get stuck in a rut, especially not the negative rut of sheltering past.

Susanne suggested a book for managers that I have heard others mention often: Good to Great by Jim Collins. There is a social sector addition to this book that was completed later. I have started to read Good to Great, and it is fascinating. It is based on a decade-long study Collins and his fellow researchers did to see what sets companies apart -- those that excel and reach success and then stay up there in the great realm. They are few and far between, so they wanted to see how they made the leap from good to great and how they stayed there for years and years.

Kogut's last words were about the staff and expectations. The biggest part of change is letting go of the past. Anyone on a current shelter's staff that can do that can embrace the changes and move forward. Increase your adoptions and other lifesaving programs. Have fun at all times. At the same time, demand excellence from yourself and your staff. Be professional; be courteous; and be helpful. The rewards for these changes are immense.

Part II of this workshop conference summary will be next--Bonney Brown on overcoming obstacles with boards of directors and other shelter stakeholders and Abagail Adams on overcoming government obstacles.