Sandy was having a tough time. Even the best shelters can be stressful for pets, and after a year at Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS), her behavior began to deteriorate. She was afraid of meeting new people, preferring to hide in her kennel. Then LAAS started the Get ‘Em Home Challenge, and things began to change for Sandy.
During the Get ‘Em Home Challenge, LAAS adopted out 435 dogs and 259 cats with shelter stays of over 30 days! This is a 90% (dogs) and 158% (cats) improvement over where they were at the start of the challenge.Their Strategies
LAAS made several critical changes during the Get ‘Em Home Challenge. They empowered volunteers to work with more long-stay dogs, enabling them to spend more time out of their kennels, practice obedience training, go on outings outside the shelter and get great photos, videos and information for their adoption marketing. The shelter began doing play groups with dogs listed as “rescue only,” inviting rescue partners to come see how the dogs play. LAAS also held themed adoption events to highlight populations that may have longer shelters stays, such as senior dogs.
The challenge also encouraged communication between Los Angeles Animal Services’ six shelters. They increased communication, shared ideas and began transferring pets from one to another to see if a change in scenery would inspire new adoption interest. “One of our biggest challenges is being such a large organization with six shelters that takes in approximately 60,000 animals a year, it can be difficult to have everyone organized and on the same page,” says Ramirez. “That was one of the great things about the Get ‘Em Home Challenge. It allowed staff and volunteers to work as individuals or groups and brain storm and compete with one another.”
“Due to the new roles we saw a lot of volunteers stepping in to really work with the dogs that have been with us for a long period of time to get them out of their kennels, build the dog’s confidence, get some exercise and network them,” Ramirez tells us. “This has helped the dogs with getting a lot of their energy out so they show much better in the kennel…we have continued to do off-site outings at parks to take the dogs on hikes and get them out into the community, and this is a program that the community can really get behind.”
“Staff and volunteers are able to network and promote the dogs with the information we gain during their outings which helps us with placing them into appropriate homes. Having photos of the dogs in a different environment that people can relate to and see how the dog can fit in with their lifestyle has been a tremendous help as well,” says Ramirez.
Helping More Pets
LAAS continued the outings after the Get ‘Em Home Challenge and throughout the year. The $7,000.00 grant they won for winning first place on the Impact Award has helped them purchase much-needed supplies for their outings. This enabled them to make the outings successful and expand them to multiple shelters with more volunteers. Ramirez tells us, “The program has expanded from holidays to almost every weekend!”
As for Sandy, play groups were the key to finding her forever home. “She found quite a few dogs that she really enjoyed playing with,” says Ramirez. “Videos of her playful nature outside of her kennel were what finally got her adopted.”
“The best part of the challenge has been the impact on staff, volunteers, the community, and of course the animals that are benefiting. Seeing dogs that have been with us for close to two years finally get homes of their own because of everyone’s effort to exercise, engage and train has been tremendous! We would definitely recommend day outings and day fosters to any organization that is not sure if it is a good idea,” Ramirez says.
One of the biggest takeaways for LAAS? “Have the community be a part of your organization,” Ramirez tells us. “They can come in and foster for the day to take a dog on a hike, a walk at the park or for a Puppuccino! One of the lessons we learned was that we can trust the community to do the right thing and our animals depend on it!”
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Nice job LAAS!
I'm so glad to see this coordination between the shelters! Too many in animal rescue view it as pure competition. While a little healthy competition makes it fun for participants, ALL the animals win when the shelters work together and have a shared goal. Well done! <3
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