By Bonnie Martinolich
The animal welfare field has changed dramatically and continues to change and improve every year. Can you imagine what might have been discussed at the first few Annual Conferences over a decade ago? What was the animal welfare field like back then? It was, no doubt, very different than it is today.
Looking back into my history, my little sister, Elsie, was the first dog rescuer I knew – even before that term was ever coined. A little more than 30 years ago, Augie (as I named her) was freezing in the parking lot at a supermarket in Long Island, New York when my sister spotted her. Elsie opened the van door and, much to my sister’s surprise, Augie jumped in. Elsie brought Augie home, told me she was in the garage and to please keep her company — the “dog catcher” (that’s what we called them then) was coming to pick up Augie. Elsie was sure that such a nice dog must have a family that was missing her. That family didn’t materialize and Augie eventually came home with me — she was an incredibly kind and gentle soul. My first encounter with rescue (although not called “rescue” at the time) was a success and, as for Elsie, she continued to look out for any stray or neighborhood dogs that were in need.
Fast forward to now — “dog catchers” are called “animal control officers” and they participate in training programs to become ACOs; they also have to maintain a certain number of continuing education credits. Animal shelters are being transformed into safe havens for animals where they receive medical attention, training and enrichment. There are organizations that call themselves rescues — typically without a physical shelter, rescues are an organized network of dedicated people working together to save animals and improve their lives.
How can we keep up with the changes in the field — the science, the people, the innovations? That’s where the New England Federation of Humane Societies comes in — the Fed’s annual conference is a place where leaders and innovators in the animal welfare field gather over a 3-day period to help the rest of us catch up and keep up with what is happening in New England and across the nation.
It is also a place where people, like me, who have come to animal welfare with a rescue background, can learn about the challenges faced by shelters and how we all — rescuers, shelter people, animal control officers, veterinarians and anyone else that touches the lives of an animal — can get to know each other, share our experiences and learn from one another.
We have a great program lined up for this year’s Conference — please be sure to say hello if you join us this April in Nashua, New Hampshire.