Even before entering the ASPCA Partnership, the Cleveland partners – Cleveland Animal Protective League and Cleveland Division of Animal Control Services – had a strong working relationship. However, they felt their collective work could be more effective if they had more resources and funding to develop and expand programs in the community, and they wanted to become more proactive in addressing community animal problems. With those goals in mind, the Cleveland partners joined the ASPCA Partnership in July 2008. They have made many improvements and have increased their combined live release rate by 18%.
|2011 Total Intake||13,145|
|2011 Targeted Spay/Neuter||5,607|
What They've Accomplished Together
- In 2007, the partners placed 7,081 cats and dogs through adoption, Return to Owner and transfers. By the end of 2011, 7,936 lives were being saved annually – an increase of 855.
- The partners sterilized 5,334 community cats and 273 pets by the end of 2011 – a total of 5,607 animals – while in 2007, they performed only 339 sterilization surgeries for owned animals.
- The live release rate for cats was 54.6% in 2007, and in 2011, the rate had risen to 57.6%; the overall Live Release Rate (LRR) rose from 51.3% in 2007 to 60.4% in 2011.
- Return to Owner for dogs and cats has gone up from 731 in 2007 to 801 in 2011, a 10% increase.
Challenges They Faced
- Dogs are transferred from Animal Control Services to Cleveland Animal Protective League and other agencies for adoption. Unfortunately, due to lack of resources, dogs at the animal control facility often developed kennel cough and other infectious diseases during their stay, making it difficult for other agencies to accept them.
- Local and state laws (which were later changed) automatically defined pit bull terriers as dangerous and vicious. Because they were common at the partner shelters and ordinances made it difficult to find potential adopters, pit pulls and pit mixes often didn't make it out of the shelters alive.
- The spring/summer influx of kittens – who are quite often neonates, requiring bottle feeding every few hours, or sick kittens with upper respiratory problems – was a significant challenge for the Cleveland Animal Protective League.
Getting Set for Success
Using their 2007 baseline data and the ASPCA Logic Model process, the Cleveland partners set key goals:
- Increase dog Return to Owner rates in 2012 by 7% over the previous year through the ID ME! campaign and returns of properly identified pets with ID tags or microchips in the field
- Create a Foster-to-Surrender program at the Cleveland Animal Protective League
- Improve the image of pit bulls and prompt changes in local and state breed-specific legislation
- Increase the number of spay/neuter surgeries performed
- Although Animal Control Services could hire only two of the five additional staff recommended by the ASPCA, the time-saving cleaning strategies they learned still saved them hours a day and enabled them to get the job done with their limited resources.
- In 2011, Cleveland overturned its breed discrimination ordinance, bringing an end to the decades-long ban on pit bull adoptions or transfers from Animal Control Services. The agency now actively works with volunteers and rescue groups to transfer adoptable pit bulls out for adoption. In 2012, state lawmakers followed suit, overturning the state law that defined pit bulls as "dangerous and vicious."
- Although a new Foster-to-Surrender program got off to a slow start, the program eventually became more successful and has affected the lives of hundreds of kittens each year in Cleveland. As many as 300 cats are in the program during the year.
- The partners had initial concerns about significantly reduced or fee-waived adoption promotions suggested by the ASPCA, but agreed to test out this adoption model on a trial basis. To their delight, adoptions increased as a result of the events, and return rates didn't increase.
Why It Worked
Early in the partnership, Animal Control Services began vaccinating all dogs upon intake. This practice turned out to be the game changer needed to increase the LRR in Cleveland. Animal Control Services was able to decrease the length of stay for dogs, open the door to more strays and reduce disease transmission, which allowed for more transfers to the Cleveland Animal Protective League and other agencies.
In addition, the Cleveland partners began combining their data in a community format, which gave them just the kinds of data they needed to save more lives.
"Looking at the community numbers was a good wake-up call for us to increase daily transfers from the city to our shelter," says Harvey. "It heightened our awareness of the work we needed to do together and continues to serve as a top-of-mind reminder of what we are trying to achieve every day."
After graduation, the Cleveland partners will continue to provide data to the ASPCA for the next five years as well as pass on lessons learned to communities new to the ASPCA Partnership.
One of the partners' major goals is to reduce relinquishment by helping pet owners keep their animals when times are tough. One of their developing safety net initiatives is Peticaid. Working with a local private veterinary practice, they provide access to treatment for pets of qualifying residents who are seeking to surrender them to the Cleveland Animal Protective League for treatable medical reasons.
Watch the ASPCA Partnership agencies in action in Cleveland.