Small Changes, Big Differences

By: NEFHS Board Member Crystal Arnott, Lowell Humane Society

The NEFed board of directors has been working hard to identify speakers for our 2018 Conference- New Frontiers: Listening, Learning and Evolving. Throughout New England, we’re seeing the homeless pet population in our shelters change and it’s important that we pay attention and adjust our programming to best serve our communities-but how? Unfortunately, I can’t answer that for you! The solution is different for each community and even each organization within a community. You are probably evolving to your community’s needs, without realizing it, by making small changes to your operations.

At the Lowell Humane Society, we strive to help keep families together. When we realized that a significant numbers of surrenders were due to temporary financial issues, we knew it was time to make a change. We were encountering families who loved their pets and had taken good care of them before hitting a rough patch; job layoff/loss, a huge medical bill, car trouble or some other temporary financial set back. They saw surrendering their pet as their only option.  Being faced with surrendering their pet was just another blow to their family. Since the Humane Society was already receiving food donations, offering a food pantry for families to help them stick it out through tough times seemed like the perfect solution. It meant pets could stay right at home where they belong. We have offered our food pantry for 7 years and have been able to see it come full circle. When families are back on their feet and no longer need the service, they often come back to make donations to the food pantry and help others in the same tight spot.

We’ve also modified our policy on intake of stray cats after reading an interesting article called Reunited and it feels so good” by Katie Lisnik of HSUS. With national statistics showing that only 2% of cats who end up in shelters make it back home, it was time to rethink our plan. Studies indicate that when a cat is left in their neighborhood, they are 13% more likely to end up back home! When a healthy, clean, social cat is brought into our shelter, we scan for a chip, we log them in our system with a photo and send the Good Samaritan back out with the cat. However, the cat is now wearing a paper collar that says “Am I Yours” and our phone number, along with an animal id #. The finder then places the cat back right where they found them. If there is no call within a week, they bring them back to the shelter, where we post to social media, create a found flier for them to post in the neighborhood and hold the cat for 4 days. If we do receive a call from an owner, we encourage them to collar/tag their pet with a tag that says “I’m an outdoor cat” and suggest they microchip their cat (at a discount at our facility). If the pet is injured, ill and in poor condition or had to be trapped, we always keep the pet and ask the Good Samaritan to flier the neighborhood and follow regular protocol from there.

You’ve probably already started evolving your programming in small ways too. We want to hear how! Share how you’ve changed your programming to keep up with what your community needs.

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