Before Asheville, NC, and the surrounding Buncombe County became an ASPCA Partnership community in July 2008, the Asheville Humane Society and the Humane Alliance had enjoyed a good working relationship, and the two organizations regularly shared selected data. Joining forces in the partnership enabled them to start new programs, launch new methods of collaboration and take advantage of technology to focus their efforts.
* 2010 census
What They've Accomplished Together:
- Over the course of the partnership, the Live Release Rate (LRR) has increased from 35.8% to 62.6%.
Challenges They Faced:The Buncombe County partners faced poor RTO rates and lacked a TNR program, and the Asheville Humane Society's rigid adoption screening process and numerous adoption denials needed to be addressed.
In addition, a capital campaign was underway to build a new infrastructure to house both the Asheville Humane Society and Buncombe County Animal Services at one location. "Building two new facilities at the same time took a lot of time and resources," says Jennifer Brehler, director of operations at Asheville Humane Society. "We weren't sure we could meet the demands of building new facilities and strategic planning, too."
"Just like most communities, we had animal groups with different philosophies. While there might be contentious discussions, the ASPCA Partnership and coalition meetings helped us build agreement on ways to save lives."
Getting Set for Success:
When Buncombe County joined the ASPCA Partnership, they began analyzing their data using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS is cutting-edge technology that takes detailed data, like individual animal records with addresses, and plots those points on a map. This can be done for various levels of shelter intake (e.g. strays, owner-surrenders, puppy and kitten litter intakes) as well as spay/neuter services delivered in the community.
The GIS data enabled the Buncombe County partners to identify the high-risk neighborhoods and concentrate resources directly into the areas where they were most needed, and to develop new goals to increase LRR:
"The ASPCA doesn't do the work for you. Instead, they guide you and keep you focused. They
open you up to new ideas and new ways of doing things. We couldn't have
opened a new facility and introduced new programs into the community at the same time without their help."
- The Asheville Humane Society revamped their adoptions program by embracing an open adoptions model. The organization shifted from a strict screening process (which involved a six-page application) to an open conversation with potential adopters that builds trust and understanding, using the ASPCA's Meet Your Match surveys. "It was the single most important step we took toward increasing our live release rates," says Brehler.
"You can collect data all day long, but if you don't know how to use it, it won't get you anywhere. GIS mapping brought our data to life and gave us a clearer picture of the animal problems in our community."
Why It Worked:
-Every year, the partners have reached their common goals, thanks to a new shelter, ongoing meetings, data and GIS map analysis and a well-developed strategic plan, completed through the ASPCA's Logic Model – all of which laid the framework for their community initiatives.
One challenge that remains for Asheville is an expanded TNR program. The partners are limited in what they can do in the community because of state law rabies compendium that makes TNR very challenging. Efforts are underway throughout North Carolina to address the situation.