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How to get an animal shelter to change?

  • 1.  How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-26-2018 08:11 AM
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    I volunteer at my local county shelter in Dayton, Ohio. It's called Montgomery County Animal Resource Center. The Live Release Rate has never gone over 60%, despite them operating in a very nice and spatious 5.5 million dollar building.  The processes inside the shelter are so bad, there's a Facebook page called "Injustice at ARC: Exposed." Part of the reason why the LRR is not improving, is because euthanasia is their go-to solution. The director, the veterinarian, and the vet tech do not make an effort to place animals and avoid euthanasia. They all know better, because they've been to Maddie's Fund events and No Kill conferences. The director, Mark Kumpf, has even spoken several times at Getting2Zero conferences in Australia (on tax-funded business trips!)  The public and even internal volunteers and employees have been advocating for change for the last decade, and nothing has changed.  I have even attached an example where they euthanized a four-month old Shar Pei puppy because it supposedly bit a 24-year-old employee at intake while she was trying to tie a collar around him. A rescue tried to get this dog, but was denied.  We have collected dozens of cases like this, documented.

    We have written the county commissioners, and we have been ignored - for years. They are foxes guarding a hen house.  We have stood outside the shelter with signs, begging for change. We've gotten the Sherrif department involved, but they only investigate what's on the surface (sherriffs are not looking at day-to-day operations, plus they don't even know what LRR means). The only thing we are doing right now is pulling public records and shining light on it via the Facebook page called "Injustice at ARC: Exposed."  We don't know what else to do.  We want the needless killings to end.

    Does anyone have suggestions on what we can do? 



  • 2.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-26-2018 11:29 AM

    I am following. I feel your pain. Being involved in animal welfare for the last decade (nearly) in the South has opened my eyes to much of what you are referring to at your shelter.  I tried to create change as a volunteer, as a foster, then founded my own dog rescue and tried to impact as a rescue partner. Seeing those that are in charge of these animal's lives not really caring is HARD. I have no answers at this point. I have worked with enough shelters to know that there are many who truly do the best they can. Then there are others who do not. At this point, my only advice is to keep your heart and head healthy for the animals. The more transparency and the more voices that speak out for improving conditions HOPEFULLY the sooner they will see results. However, I am all ears to see what other folks can advise.


  • 3.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-27-2018 10:57 AM

     As peacelover says,  stay the course.   Eventually, public and social peer pressure will start to aide change.   You are not alone but more and more organization are getting on the 21st Century bandwagon and those that aren't on it will be pressured to by their constituents.  


  • 4.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-26-2018 05:12 PM

    Each community is different, and it's going to be very difficult for any outsider to give you particularized advice based on a brief summary of what's happened. If I were in your shoes I would call in a consultant to make a thorough assessment. Best Friends has a group of top-notch regional directors. Humane Network has amazing people with proven track records. Target Zero has had success in some tough communities. You might also reach out to shelter directors in No Kill communities in your region.

    One thing that has worked in many communities is to start a non-profit to help the shelter. Austin Pets Alive!, the Jacksonville Humane Society, and First Coast No More Homeless Pets are examples. In other places, non-profits have been formed that have bid successfully on the shelter contract and then made it No Kill -- examples are Atlanta and Kansas City (MO). You might also try attending the HSUS EXPO, Best Friends, and American Pets Alive! conferences for ideas and inspiration.


  • 5.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-27-2018 07:09 AM

    Thanks for the advice. Yes, we have nonprofits surrounding us who even tried to help this shelter become No Kill in 2012-forward but it didn't work out. Relationships the local nonprofits and the shelter are very strained. Our director and veterinarian have been to many conferences like HSUS, Best Friends, etc. and it's like the information goes in one ear and out the other. 


  • 6.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-27-2018 06:39 AM

    Hi Dori, I believe the county must be listening because they recently scheduled a shelter assessment with Dr. Sara Pizano and myself for the week of November 26th. During our visit, not only will we provide a comprehensive analysis of the shelter, we will also meet with elected officials and stakeholders in the community to discuss opportunities for collaboration and how to implement change. Following our visit we will provide a written report outlining action steps needed to implement best practices. We have had a lot of great success in other communities around the country and especially in helping the leadership team and decision makers understand what changes are needed and how to make them happen. You are welcome to reach out to me at if you want to discuss more in depth. Change can be very slow and I can totally appreciate your frustration. Stay positive though and I do believe our visit will at least provide a road map that will back up the positive changes your community wants.


  • 7.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-27-2018 06:59 AM

    This response brought tears to my eyes. They haven't said anything about an investigation by you and Dr. Pizano! They mentioned that Purdue University was going to do one, which is where I lost hope because Purdue is a stakeholder. To hear that a third-party is coming through is a huge relief. I can't wait until you come! Thank you. 


  • 8.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-27-2018 07:12 AM

    Dori, our assessment will be in-depth and very concise as to what changes are needed; however, we must do this in a positive fashion as to not alienate the decision makers. We've learned through the years that we have better luck implementing change when we approach this with a clear plan of action, data to back it all up and support for those involved. I would suggest you rally your community to get behind the changes we are going to recommend and be ready to step in to assist. I'm sure you are already doing a lot, but remember it's easier to make change happen when people are willing to work together to make it happen. It truly does take the entire community (and not just the shelter staff) to change the animal welfare landscape. It will happen though! 

    We are planning to host a Best Practice Presentation that will be open to the public (shelter staff, government leaders, volunteers, donors, rescue organizations, other shelters, concerned citizens, the general public, etc) one evening during our visit. This will help everyone learn about the proven strategies that are saving lives in shelters and how we can work together to make it happen in your community. I will make sure you have the details once we set this up so you can help us share the word.


  • 9.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-31-2018 01:03 PM

    Hi Cameron, What is up with the negativity on Dr. Sara Pizano on the internet? I hope this isn't a big deal? She received a lot of criticism while she was director at Miami-Dade.


  • 10.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-31-2018 01:28 PM

    Dori, there is nothing to it and if you ever have the opportunity to meet or work with Dr. Pizano you will definitely see it for yourself. Unfortunately there are a lot of hateful people in this world that target shelter directors for no good reason at all. We see it all over the country - Memphis is another great example of an amazing director being dragged through the mud when everything she did was actually on point with best practice and their lifesaving continued to increase. Hillsborough County (Tampa FL) is another great example. This type of negativity is such a barrier to lifesaving. Susan Houser has written a great blog about this very topic - you should look it up. 


  • 11.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-31-2018 01:35 PM

    That's what I figured!  Very unfortunate that this happens. I am sending you an e-mail.  Corey


  • 12.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-27-2018 08:32 AM

    This is great news!


  • 13.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-28-2018 07:39 AM

    Hello Susan,

    I signed up on your blog post and left questions. How long do you and/or your staff take to respond? Lookin for a list of exceptional no kills to transfer 12 very adoptable dogs out of New Mexico. 




  • 14.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-29-2018 06:45 AM

    Hi Jojo -- I sent you a response a few days ago, sorry you didn't receive it. I suggested that, based on your location, Colorado might be a good place for you to look for receiving organizations for your dogs. Colorado takes in tens of thousands of transported dogs each year, and because many people there have an outdoor lifestyle, large dogs are in demand! One good way to get started would be to make contact with No Kill shelters in your region and ask them for advice on receiving organizations. And you can contact Colorado organizations directly, of course. Stats for Colorado shelters and rescues are available under the PACFA law and the stats for 2017 were just posted recently.


  • 15.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-29-2018 07:06 AM


    Thank  you! Did you respond directly to me??

    Sorry I missed it but thank you for this!


    fascinating new world for me!!!


  • 16.  RE: How to get an animal shelter to change?

    Posted 08-27-2018 06:48 AM

    We have had several shelters change management (which is what is needed) in Michigan through advocacy but it takes time and work.  Advocacy cannot be a letter to the County Commission or attending a meeting or two.  It involves organizing those that want change.  It involves attending every single meeting of the County Commission with a group of people and have each one speak under public comments.  It requires educating your Commissioners that the shelter is inappropriately spending tax-payers funds.  It requires getting your shelter facts - which may involve obtaining records via FOIA.  It involves advocates asking for one-on-one time with their County Commissioner to explain your cause, concern and goal.  It involves meeting with the media.  It may involve backing a "change friendly" candidate if it is election time.  Picketing along the way may also be part of the plan.  Being professional at all times is required.

    In every case where these types of efforts have been employed, change for the better has occurred.  It is a matter of perseverance.  It MUST get to the point where the elected officials insists there is a change because they - - - for no other reason- - - want the advocates to stop attending their meetings and that is the only way they will stop.

    Where this method has been used it takes between 18 months and 2 years. = Yes every single meeting - with at least 5 - 6 people speaking.