In this new Adoption Center Model dogs and cats ready for adoption are showcased on the adoption floor in groups of 10-20 in each room. As we covered in the last post dogs and cats not ready for this communal living are sent out of the Adoption Center into rehab.
As a reminder, this is not typical fostering where only room and board is provided. This is rehabilitation.
**** The question now is, Where do we find these skilled rehabbers?
Don’t our shelters already do this?
- Loud environment is a disruptive influence
- Lack of experienced handlers
- Too busy – not enough time to dedicate to animals with problems
- Too many incoming animals for staffing levels
- Not enough staff trainers to deal directly with animals with issues
The problem is twofold – shelters don’t have trained volunteers for this rehabilitation work and any staff trainer is quickly overwhelmed trying to deal with the animals herself. Shelters are overburdened with animals needing some form of rehab. The result? Most of these animals are labeled “untreatable” and killed. The rest are adopted out without their issues being properly addressed. Many of these later are returned or are abandoned away from the shelter. And the cycle repeats.
In the last post I spoke of training fosters to rehab the animals with behavior issues. This is not a quick solution as these volunteers will need careful instruction as they learn to rehab. A better, short-term solution is needed.
It is for these reasons that a better approach must be found than to simply hire a trainer to work with animals individually in the shelter. Or to rely on inexperienced fosters to handle dogs and cats with behavior issues, some of them extreme.
A ready source of experienced rehabbers
A ready source of free rehabilitation skills is in local rescue groups. Many rescuers have developed useful skills in dealing with animals with issues. These experienced rescuers often complain about shelters killing animals they consider to be easily rehabbed and thus, good candidates for adoption.
The problem is these dedicated people enjoy working on their own and most feel they know more about handling dogs (and cats) than do shelter trainers or behaviorists. On the other hand, shelter directors and their behaviorists have demonstrated an overt lack of respect for the abilities of these independent rescuers.
One of the great flaws in our shelters is the lack of cooperation between independent rescuers and the local shelters. It should seem odd to outside observers to see so many independent rescuers working away from the shelters – all trying to do the same work. Can you list all the many shelters and rescue groups in your area?
As a source of experienced volunteer rehab skills, the rescue community is plentiful. Their numbers are growing everyday as word spreads and animal lovers decide to get involved. To get a feel for the energy in this growing field of volunteerism one needs only to go on Facebook and see the new groups forming every day.
The problem is clear: each community will need a leader to bring these two factions together. Setting aside their differences both sides must come together to work toward this common cause. Rescuers could easily step in and provide this desperately needed service for the adoption center. Can they be convinced to give up the autonomy afforded them by their separate organization? Most have gone to great expense and trouble to obtain 501(c)(3) federal tax exemption.
What’s in it for each side?
First, adoption centers (former shelters) will finally be able to save most lives by this approach. Most of the animals killed in shelters are those with behavior issues, as determined by the shelter staff. This can be brought to an end with this program. The advantage in value is clear, as well.
Most medium to large shelters already have a staff trainer or behaviorist. Instead of trying to deal with all the problems herself, this individual can now work with volunteers (both experienced rescuers and untrained fosters) to teach and oversee a hands-on informal rehab program. This is the force multiplier factor I mentioned in the previous post. One trainer creates a hundred other trainers through this innovative effort.
If nationally recognized behavior scientists will offer their assistance, more formalized training programs can be created and implemented.
Second, rescuers get some obvious benefits. They can dissolve their non-profit organization if they choose. All medical care, intake screening, fundraising, advertising, foster recruitment and placement efforts will be turned over to the adoption center.
This frees up the rescuers to do the rehab work they most enjoy and they get to continue doing it in their own home. All the costs each rescuer has covered out of her own pocket will now be transferred to the adoption center. How do you spell relief?
Is this some unreachable utopian dream? Well, yes, given the current state of relations in the animal rescue world. But the simple act of putting the animals’ welfare ahead of our American need for individualism and privacy would make this very achievable. It’s actually rather a simple concept.
The key to this is in bringing both divided factions together in a cooperative effort. Rescuers, by their independent nature will prefer to work away from the direct oversight of the center. The adoption center will have to learn to work in an arms-length relationship with these “rehabbers.” The only real obstacle to this cooperative relationship and sharing of talents and resources is an antiquated attitude. The current divisive attitudes will prevent this from happening. With an inclusive attitude and a higher priority given to saving more lives, this can work well.
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