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How a 2023 Open Arms Challenge winner became more accessible and inclusive of its entire community

  • 1.  How a 2023 Open Arms Challenge winner became more accessible and inclusive of its entire community

    Posted 02-14-2024 09:27 AM

    Hi everyone! Wanted to share this story from last year to help provide some inspiration for this year's Open Arms Challenge! Registration opens February 26. We'd love to hear what ideas you have for your organization! 


    During the 2023 Open Arms Challenge, Grand Prize winner Harris County Pets of Houston, TX, (HCP) did its very best to ensure the practices and services offered were easily accessible and did not exclude anyone. Equipped with information from Community Conversations and Maddie's Pet Forum, they were able to make a number of changes that helped them achieve their goal. 

    "We eliminated appointments for adoptions and replaced our adoption application with a simpler adoption agreement that only requires the adopter's signature," Harris County Pets shared. "Our website now includes a volunteer section for ease of contact and communication; and volunteers are able to reach us by email."  

    Additionally, its intake diversion section expanded free/low-cost services to more precincts in their jurisdiction. They even traveled to these locations to make it easier for more people to have access. HCP also made sure the marketing throughout the entire department reflected a diverse demographic. 

    While HCP did not have a way of measuring the demographic makeup of its unpaid staff, this challenge has equipped them with knowledge to identify and eliminate as many barriers as possible. 

    HCP was able to create new partnerships, including one with a local fire department to offer a free vaccination clinic to the public. By expanding its free and low-cost services to more precincts in the county, they were able reach an underserved demographic.   

    "Our 'Aha Moment' occurred during the Weekly Community Conversations. A few of the guest speakers explained how our language impacts others. In the animal welfare community, we use terms such as "forever home" and "foster fail" which can be received negatively. We must be able to see and receive what everyone is able to give."    

    HCP continued, "Sometimes we are not aware that the way we are used to doing things is not the best way or may even be hurting more than it is helping. The Community Conversations during the Open Arms Challenge have been so valuable and informative to our organization."  

    There were definitely challenges, with participation being the biggest one. The organization shared that it is not always easy for some to see the need for change, let alone embrace that change. Thankfully, once the few opposing saw the impact of the changes being made, it was not long before they were on board as well.



    Brittany Ransonet
    Marketing Communications Project Manager
    Maddie's Fund