In my adventures in the field of animal welfare, I found many resources within my community. Follow me as I discovered them.
I started my career in Pullman Washington. This location is one of the best locations to start any adventure. With Washington Veterinary School in my backyard, I found them a wealth of knowledge and resources. I learned the handling of birds and the use of chemical immobilization from them. The school was involved in nutritional studies and I reaped the benefit of having access to pet food that was left over from their studies; for example, they were conducting a calcium study on Great Danes. They used pet food with low, medium, and high concentrations of calcium. By mixing the bags of food, I had a perfect blend of food for the animals in my shelter.
I also engaged in a program with Alpo in which they would offer free dog food to animal shelters participating in halftime adoption events at basketball games. The audience would vote by clapping as to which shelter brought the “best” dog. The winning shelter would receive a large amount of food and the other participating shelters would receive less. Alpo would provide coupons and you could pick up the food from your local grocer as needed. I once found myself with excess food, so I traveled to other animal shelters in my area and distributed my newfound wealth.
In Pullman, I worked in the Police Department. I didn’t have a very good working relationship with our Chief of Police. He had developed a three-year phase-in of computers within the department and the animal shelter was scheduled in year 5. I desperately wanted to use a computer to track the intake of our animals, but it was unlikely that I would get one from him. I approached him and asked about monetary donations to the animal shelter to move the shelter higher on his phase-in plan. He told me that any money donated to the animal shelter was a “police donation” and would unlikely be used for the shelter. So, I found someone in the community who bought a computer for the shelter. That resulted in one of the longest chewings that I ever encountered by a boss. The same lady also provided all of the cat food for the shelter.
Drug manufacturers offer free drugs to veterinary schools. They hope to get veterinarians in training used to their drugs for when they get out into the world to open their practices. The Veterinary College provided me with free vaccinations for the animals at my shelter.
If you have a Veterinary College near you, become their best friend.
In Portland Oregon, our shelter provided a pickup service for dead animals from veterinary clinics in town. Oddly, it was a very popular service. In exchange for picking up the dead animals from the clinic, the clinic became obligated to handle any animal emergency brought to them by one of our animal control officers. It was very convenient for the officers because emergency assistance was always nearby. I remember an incident in which a veterinarian was not fulfilling his obligation. He was turning away our officers. I wrote him a letter and explained that since he was not living up to the agreement, we would stop picking up his dead animals. He came in person to beg me to change my mind. It just so happened that we were dealing with a hoarding situation so I told the veterinarian that if he would assist the officers in making a court case in the hoarding case that he could earn his way back into our good graces.
It is important that animal shelter staff attend local meetings of the veterinary association to see if you can find ways to help one another.
While in Fairfax Virginia, we began working with a Vet Tech College. We gave the students the opportunity to work directly with animals and as a result, we got free veterinary care.
Also in Fairfax, we develop arrangements in which our animals were adopted through various companies in town. We had arrangements at Pet Smart Stores, Veterinary Clinics, and even feed stores.
In Gainesville Florida, I was fortunate to be working near another Veterinary College. Due to a grant from Maddie’s Fund, the College started a shelter medicine course. Veterinary students would visit the animal shelter several times a week to provide veterinary services.
Another advantage of having a Veterinary College nearby is to have access to specialized medical treatments. If an animal came into the animal shelter with serious medical issues, we frequently passed the animal to a Veterinary College to be used as a class assignment. Usually, a vet student would come forward and adopt the animal after treatment.
Once you have uncovered all of your local resources, don’t forget about national resources. Suppose you are engaged in a national disaster. In that case, Pet Smart Charities, American Humane, the Humane Society of the United States, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are extremely valuable. I don’t know what I would have done without them when we were forced to seize nearly 700 cats in Gainesville.
One of the things to keep in mind is that in my career of directing animal shelters, I encountered jurisdictions that prohibited fund-raising. The mindset of these jurisdictions was that by asking for money for the animal shelter, you are announcing that the animal shelter is not properly funded. You can see where public officials might get upset. So, before you start advertising that you are accepting donations, check with your bosses as to how they feel about that.
Times are hard, but resources are closer than you would think.