A news story from KOB4 in Albuquerque states, “Workers say some gentle dogs are becoming more and more dangerous.”
This is the whole story. The shelter is taking in normal homeless pets and creating pets with (reversible) behavior issues, causing some to pay with their lives.
Shelters are stressful for pets, but there are tried and effective ways for keeping animals healthy and happy while they stay in the shelter. There are also ways to keep animals out of the shelter. And there are ways to get animals out of the shelter into loving homes.
It requires work, but it’s a lot less, and more rewarding work than killing healthy and treatable pets.
This is not a new problem for Albuquerque. They have had repeated turnover in their management and a history of mismanagement. A few years ago a compassionate hardworking manager was pushed out of the job for trying to save lives while ineffective management has been kept while homeless pets are dying.
The excuse of COVID is convenient for the current population of the shelter. But it’s a red herring. There are programs and services they can implement in order to save lives.
Increase capacity with creative managed intake and foster strategies and reduce the cost of ownership while looking for adopters.
Anyone bringing in a stray can be solicited to foster, even if for a few days. Most homeless pets are lost in their neighborhood. And keeping them close to their original home achieves a much high return to owner (RTO) rate.
Anyone surrendering a pet should be converted to a foster whenever possible. They already have the pet, they already know the pet. They likely already care about the pet. Let them help you to increase capacity and work to get the pet to a loving home.
Reduce adoption barriers.
Get an online application. There are many free and easy ways to move people through the process of adoption. Individual appointments and receiving calls for every appointment are wasting time and resources.
Engage the community
Call the news for adopters and fosters instead of waiting until a crisis that puts you in the news as a poorly run shelter.
Take any volunteer that walks in the door. There is always something that can be done. And if you are worried about some of the more stressed dogs that may need special attention, those can be reserved for employees. Let the volunteers socialize with every cat and dog in the shelter that you can safely allow them to work with.
Ask volunteers to foster once they get to know some of the pets. There are no better individuals to trust than the people that you are working with on a regular basis.
Eliminate reclaim fees if that is a barrier to getting pets out of the shelter.
Reduce or have a free adoption event for a day, week, month.
You can still keep your criteria for adoption to ensure adopters are a safe loving family, but a review of adoption criteria should be reviewed to avoid being adverse to helping people easily adopt a pet.
None of this is rocket science. You can find the basics in the No Kill Equation, HASS has programs that can help effectively address some of these. COVID may have had an effect on animal shelters, but there is no reason for them to simply fall apart and blame the pandemic on ills that can be addressed and lives that can be saved.
Common sense takes care of most of Albuquerque’s problems. What is required to resolve these issues is compassion municipal leadership not in a few months or a few weeks but right now.