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Can Your Staff Do This?

Bert Troughton shows how a staff empowered to solve problems can result in lives saved.

Last week somebody in Miami found a lost dog. The family liked the dog and they were interested in keeping the dog, but they also recognized that somebody might be looking for her, so they took her to Miami Dade Animal Services (MDAS). So far, there’s nothing overly unusual about this story. But here’s where it gets interesting…

When the family explained their interest, a quick-thinking staff member recognized that the family was sincere and fully capable of helping the agency and the animal. So the family was enlisted as a foster family for this dog. The dog was photographed and ID’d in order to get her into the MDAS lost and found system, but rather than spending a week in the shelter where she’d be exposed to loads of stress and potentially disease while she waited either for reclaim or for her new family, the dog went right back out the front door with her new foster family. It took this staff member a bit more time to work this out than it would have taken to just admit the dog and put her in the stray kennels according to normal procedure. Smart! This resolution is better for the dog, better for the other dog(s) in need of shelter, and way better for this family who are now part of the safety net for animals in the community – and happily so. And the ultimate payback? Potentially a life saved!

This kind of smart thinking is only possible when agency leadership ensures that staff and volunteers are clear on the agency mission and priorities, and have been trained to use good critical thinking skills to solve problems. Sometimes I’m tempted to cringe at the term “empowerment” because it seems to be overused, but this is one instance where it seems like the perfect word. MDAS empowers their staff to solve problems and save lives, resulting in more than 2,000 additional pets finding homes this year. Can your staff do that?


Related links:
Programs like this: Adoption Ambassadors
ASPCA Partnership Community: Miami-Dade County, FL



One of the things Miami Dade Animal Services is continually working on is 'team building' between departments.  For instance they know it's important for Intake personnel to know what a complex job kennel technicians have to make room for additional animals, keep them clean and healthy as well as happy.  They are working to sustain an attitude of 'staff without borders' that encourages all personnel to see how their piece of the sheltering puzzle is vitally important to the work thier colleagues do in other departments and ultimately to moving their animals through the shelter safely and more quickly into homes.


I think it is a wonderful way to help those animal that are lost or not having a family . Forster a animal is always garantee that the foster parents will adopet de animal and also saving the animal from been in such stress and possible euthanesia .

Well done Miami Dade Staff 


This is a good idea.  What about having a scanner in shelter, like vets have, that allow to see if have an implant

about their owner?  There are more than 1 company in USA that does implants, so is there a way to check all at one time? 



Protocol at most animal shelters require that they scan the animal for a microchip and there are universal readers.


Actually, I have some questions  This stray dog was immediately fostered out with this wonderful family.  My questions are --what are the following procedures that give exposure to the public that this dog is availale for adoption? How do meetings take place?  How are behavior assessments done and by whom?  I'm also assuming that a medical exam and vaccinations were done before releasing this dog to the family?    At our shelter dogs have to be held for a number of days to see if the owners come to look for it--during this time the dog cannot be adopted nor fostered.  I love your system!   Any guidelines for us??


Hi Mary Dana - yes, my understanding is that MDAS conducted all the normal "intake" procedures for a stray, which would include scanning for a microchip.  great thought - and important for shelters to remember for all intakes!  Bert


Hi Jeannie - they logged the animal into their online system so that her photo, descriptive info, place found, etc. were available to staff (and public, I believe) searching through lost/found reports.  I'd be happy to hook you up with someone at MDAS who can give you more info on the specifics of their processes.  Just email me at and I'll get you introduced.  Bert


Or like my experience years ago...I found a dog, and called the SPCA to see if they had someone looking for this dog.

I was threatened by the SPCA that I could be charged with theft of the dog.  I hung up.


Right away I think to myself that this is potentially dangerous. Sorry. I know that it is much better for the dog to be in a foster situation but your intake/front desk staff knows NOTHING about this dog. Could have food aggression, underlying illness, other hidden behavior issues that a proper evaluation would reveal. I know this is not a popular response to this scenario. I just think it's safer to keep the dog in house until the stray hold is over, do the medical and evaluation giving the finders first look if they want fill out an application...


Hi Kim - no need to apologize.  I think it's good to acknowledge the inherent risks in all of our different approaches to the complicated work of sheltering and saving lives.  It's better to identify those risks so that the organization and staff (and community members!) can make the best decision in each situation.

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