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What We’ve Got Here Is Failure To Communicate (Not)

Dave Betournay gets strategic on how to best put a dry erase board to work at your agency.


Communication tools—everybody has them, everybody needs them. But there is a big difference in how everybody uses them. Shelters, rescues and clinics all have some need for in-room, editable visual tools for people to communicate the status of an animal and easily modify that tool with new or different info as needed. Many use a custom-formatted dry erase board for this function, and in all of the shelters I have been in, I have never seen two boards exactly alike—because what people want and need to convey is always a little different.


Six Questions To Ask When Planning Out Your Board Design

When helping to craft tools like this, ask yourself the who, what, when, where, why and what for—before designing the tool for each room or function:

  • Who will use the board—who will write on it, and who will be reading it?
  • Why do these people need this information?
  • When is information being added, removed, utilized or modified?
  • Where is the information going to be used? Where is the optimal location for this information to be maintained?
  • What is all of the information that needs to be conveyed?
  • What for? What will the person reading the information do with the information?


When you have answered each of these questions, you can decide if a dry erase board does the trick. If so, you can determine what size you need and how to lay out the information. Most people utilize a grid system and abbreviations for all common terms (with an abbreviation key posted next to the board). The grid can be drawn with dry erase ink, permanent marker or thin electrical tape, but be prepared for some adjustments as the board becomes utilized and the need for any modifications becomes apparent.


Florida Keys SPCA uses a large dry erase white board that includes columns for training, walking, quiet time, play time and in-kennel enrichment—their way of making sure that all dogs get individual attention each week and volunteers know who to focus on.


Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society’s custom dog walking board displays a handy overview of the kennels, allowing volunteers to see at a glance which dogs have been walked and when.


Alternatives to Dry Erase Boards

Other options to consider include custom cage cards, printed on card stock or laminated, with all of the same needed info. You can also use color coding (e.g. blue dot or clip is for an animal on medication, red for an animal who has exhibited aggressive behaviors, and so on). 

If you are ready to go high tech, you’ve got lots of options. There’s the in-room tablet or computer with access to your organization’s shared drive, animal management software or an Excel workbook with your searchable information.


Dave Betournay, Senior Director, Community Outreach, has more than 25 years of animal welfare experience and works with ASPCA Partnerships and Initiatives in Charlotte, NC, Miami, FL, and throughout the northeast.



Related Links

Free Download: Communications Survey


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