The first thing removed from the budget during lean times is staff training. It is probably the last place funds should be touched. The best way to invest in your organization is through decent salaries and staff training. A few days ago, the newspaper picked up on a story that animal control staff returned from a conference and wanted to implement TNR (Trap, Neuter and Release) program. The newspaper talked like this was something new and our community would be cutting edge by trapping cats. Communities have been performing TNR for years. The fact that our community is starting it now only means that we are just catching up. If we had invested in staff training years ago and had the will to manage our community cats, we would be further along to become no kill. Conferences are the place where our staff catches up with the rest of the world. It is important to send our best staff to training. If you were to pick a single conference to attend, I would suggest the Animal Care Expo. The best gift that you can give your staff is training. There are not many opportunities for training animal welfare staff, so it is important that you follow when and where the training occurs.
When sending your staff off to training opportunities, it is a good idea to remind them that they are ambassadors of your organization. I have encountered incidents in which a few staff saw training as a party opportunity and embarrassed themselves and our organization. Depending on your staff, you might consider always sending a member of your management team who has the authority to send the offending member of your staff home.
If sending staff off to conferences is outside your budget, providing Animal Sheltering magazine is a good alternative. I would suggest getting a subscription to the magazine for each member of the staff and extras for your volunteers. When you are seeking grants for your shelter, consider obtaining training grants for your staff. Inhouse training can be supplemented by contacting organizations, like Animal Control Training Services (ACT), to conduct various levels of training as needed by your staff. Usually these services discount training costs for the organization that will host the training event. ACT’s website has many resource materials for those looking for a specific need or wishing to create a new form. Another “ACT” is Animal Care Technologies that provides training for shelter staff and volunteers in animal care and veterinary services. If found this online training particularly beneficial in scheduling animal care training to new animal attendants and volunteers.
COVID-19 put a real crimp on annual conferences, but it opened the door to national organizations rethinking their approach to providing professional development to their members. The National Animal Control Association saw that their annual national conferences were no longer viable in today’s pandemic world, so they created online courses. The online courses cannot make up for the peer to peer contact with others in their profession that makes conferences so great, but they provide an economic training opportunity to animal control staff who would not ordinarily be able to attend training.
If you think that staff training is unimportant, remember that much of the problems that the police face is that many of their officers have clearly demonstrated their lack of training when arriving on the scene. As a result, many cities are cutting police budgets when they should be throwing more money towards better staff training. The same is true of giving your staff the equipment they need to perform their jobs correctly. As with the police, the more nonlethal equipment that you give to the officers, the more tools the officer has to bring a peaceful resolution.