In each organization that I ran, I encouraged initiative. I attempted to teach my staff how to make the right decisions. I carefully walked through each thought process in hopes of creating a staff who could respond to every situation. I failed.
I had very smart people working for me, they just were not prepared for the flack of making a bad decision. Animal welfare is a tough profession and mistakes can be tragic. You are frequently put in positions of making life or death decisions on sick or injured pets. In each case, you could have been relieved of that decision process, if the owner had only placed identification on their pet.
Too often medical decisions become so costly that the owner chooses to not reclaim their pet and your animal shelter has to cover those expenses. Employees just don’t want to have those decisions hanging over them. The cost of working in such a volatile field is that I was frequently called at home to make a decision. The staff needed someone they could point to deal with the potential fallout. Too often, failing to ask the right question led to the wrong decision. It is easy to screw up… too easy, even when you are working with correct information.
Often, a person will bring in an injured animal into the shelter. After a careful medical screening we try to make the decision that is right for the animal and cost effective for the shelter. So often we decide that we cannot cover the medical cost and make the decision to euthanize an animal. Soon after, the person who surrenders the animal returns and becomes upset that their pet was killed. The person could not afford medical treatment themselves and thought that the shelter could fund those expenses and they could return later to adopt the animal back into their family. Making decisions become more difficult because of the misinformation that we have to work with.
For some reason, many pet owners wait until the expiration of their pet’s holding time before looking for their lost pet. No matter how long the hold period is, an owner will wait until it is too late. I have yet for find an owner who recognizes his or her negligence for failing to look for their lost pet; for some reason they believe that shelter personnel would realize that eventually an owner would come forward; they do not consider the fact that their pet could be sitting sick or injured, or that there is no kennel space for an animal showing aggression. When the owner finally arrives, they want an explanation and that is the reason that employees do not want to make decisions. As they always say, “That is the reason that you make the big bucks.”