There’s No Going Back
It was 16 years ago, but I can still feel the adrenaline rush. We walked big, black, crazy Lab-mix Ralphie down the shelter hallway. But for once, we didn’t stop at the euthanasia room, we kept right on walking out the back door. Ralphie was our shelter’s first experiment in foster care for adolescent dogs. After two days in foster care, Ralphie had settled down. After four days, he had been adopted. Bingo…light bulbs…and no going back!
It would be another four years before we had developed the capacity to save every Ralphie, but something big happened that day when we realized our new potential: Hope got its foot in the door. After that, determination and ingenuity pushed the door open.
This past month, 32 shelters in the ASPCA $100K Challenge saved 2,193 more cats and dogs than last August. Individual agency increases range from 1 to 148%.
For these shelters – now that they know what they can achieve when they rally their communities – there’s no going back. Can they sustain the nosebleed pace of the Challenge? Maybe not. But now that the leaders, staff and volunteers at these organizations know exactly how they can increase adoptions, returns-to-owners and TNR’s, their plans and strategies will shift accordingly. More importantly, their expectations have already shifted.
What’s more, Challenge contestants have bravely set a new bar for our whole field. Challenge shelters from every region of the country have blasted through their previous adoption records for single days, for a given week and for the month overall. In Alabama, Greater Birmingham Humane Society staff achieved a first when they transferred cats in from eight other shelters and STILL “ran out” of cats in their adoption ward on a summer day in a southern shelter!
Challengers are testing new policies and practices, and they’re working with their communities in new ways. And every month they’re submitting detailed data so that when the Challenge is over, we’ll be able to critically evaluate the success of various strategies, making the lessons learned available to the whole field.
You don’t have to wait; you can see exactly what Challenge shelters are up to every day right here. Oh – and for sure you’ll want to see who’s in the lead so far in breaking through our old expectations – check it out!
Photo 1: Courtesy of istolethetv on Flickr.com
Photo 2: N.O.A.H. Adoption & Spay/Neuter Center staff
Photo 3: Greater Birmingham Humane Society