As the director of an animal control/sheltering organization, I encourage you to be a good steward. Being a good steward goes beyond being frugal, it means making the best of your resources.
Be a good steward of your community’s resources. Use your tax dollars wisely. Create laws that keep the community safe from animals and keep animals safe from humans. Make the laws fair and balanced. At the end of your budget year, return unused funds, or set them aside for future emergencies; don’t go into a buying frenzy to increase your surplus. I understand that this is difficult to do because future budgets are weighted against past spending. Government budgets cater to excessive spending to prevent a shortfall in a future year. Budgets fluctuate from year to year, but government budget processes don’t adapt to fluctuations.
Protect your community from dangerous animals; do not adopt potentially dangerous animals into your community. Protect your community from pet overpopulation; make sure that all adopted animals are sterilized prior to being adopted. You cannot trust the pet’s new owners to fulfill that duty. It is your duty to keep the owners of dangerous animals in line.
Too often, animal shelters lose their first priories to protect their community. We are under such pressure to adopt any and all animals that we forget that our first priority it to protect our community. It is a hard lesson, but the most effective way to protect the community is to euthanize potentially dangerous dogs. Anytime you consider the adoptability of an animal, you must weigh it against the animal confronting a neighborhood child.
Hire the right staff. Many staff enter our field to protect animals and they need a strong Executive Director to prevent them from making stupid careless mistakes. As an Executive Director, you will often feel alone because the people you hire do not always share your priorities.
Be good stewards or the animals in your care. Keep them safe and provide for their basic needs. If you cannot provide for their continued health, then give them a humane death. Do everything that you can to ensure that stray animals are returned to their owners. Teach their owners what is necessary to be a good pet owner.
Do not adopt good animals to bad owners. The worst that you can do for an animal in your care is to give it to a family that will abuse it. You have a greater priority to keep your citizens safe over any obligation to an animal.
Always remember that your job is to provide temporary care of animals. As such it is a waste to buy the most expensive pet food; but you should not provide the cheapest. Find a well-balanced pet food. And realize that the long-term holding of animals is inhumane. Often our statistics get in the way of being humane.
Be a good steward of your organization’s integrity. Be open and honest with people. Too often we lie about an animal’s prospects to spare the family’s conscience. If we make it too easy for a family to give up their pet, then they are not given the chance to see how the decisions they make have consequences.
When dealing with the media, do not report the good image that you want people to see; but, report the truth. You have to make tough decisions; so, let the media know how irresponsible pet ownership impacts you and your organization. If your shelter is overcrowded, then report the consequences of having an overcrowded shelter. Shelters are more than a “feel good” place, they are frequently the places of tragedy.
Be a good steward to your staff. It is becoming harder and harder to find people willing to work. Today’s schools are teaching students to perform at the level of the lowest performing student and thus are not preparing them for the workforce. You need to quickly identify low-performing workers so that they do not become a burden on your higher-performing workers. The quicker you terminate low performers, the faster they can learn what the world expects from them in the workplace.
The most important resource at your animal shelter is your staff. Although budgeting for your staff was the most difficult task at budget time. The greatest gift you can give to your staff is staff training; but, staff training funds are always the first thing that is on the chopping block. Since training resources are scarce, it is important to let your staff know when attending training that they are an ambassador of your shelter at conferences. I had a whole group of staff attend a conference that embarrassed themselves. I don’t remember ever allowing them to attend another conference after that.
We are experiencing a time in which some employees feel a sense of entitlement to their jobs and feel victimized when they are fired for not doing their job. Your priority is first to your community over that of your staff. It is important to weed out early potential staff who wish to push their own personal agenda over that which is good for the community. The same is true of volunteers who work at the shelter. I’ve gathered an entire chest of war stories about volunteers taking extreme risks with dangerous animals. Again, it is the Executive Director’s job to be engaged enough within your organization to see the warning signs.
There is plenty that can go wrong in an animal shelter. You need to take time to reward those employees who are not trying to drift the shelter into the rocks. Within the groups of employees who are opposed to working, there are members who just live day to day to push their own agenda or look for opportunities to claim they have been victimized. Just get rid of them. Otherwise, you’ll be spending all of your energy dealing with them and not managing your shelter.
Be a good steward to yourself. Do what is right and live a guilt-free life. It never hurts to have God watching your back.