During my career, I had the opportunity to manage operations undergoing major organizational change. Both cases involved humane societies ending their contract of managing the local public animal shelter. Both had their own private shelters and used their contract to pick the best animals from the public shelter for adoption in their private shelter. No adoptions were occurring in the private shelters. The animals that were not moved to adoption were euthanized. Both organizations refused to work with outside groups to ease the high euthanasia rate at their public shelters.
The first shelter was in Georgia. A group of rescues joined together to approach the county to rebid the animal control contract. With a 90 percent euthanasia rate at the public shelter, something had to change. I was hired by the rescue groups to oversee the transition. I was amazed at the phone calls I would get from the board of directors of the humane society claiming that stray dogs are just not suitable for adoption. They had to feel justified in their management style of the public shelter. That style lead to outside organizations wanting to colaberate and take over the public animal shelter.
The second shelter was in Virginia. The humane society was taking critisim because they claimed to be no kill, but failed to calculate in the euthanasias performed through their contract with the local jurisdictions. They treated each entity as a separate organization, reporting separate statistics: their private shelter had great statistics, but their public shelter had horrible statistics. They too, had shut the door to outside groups because they saw those groups competing for the best animals and donors. Trying to maintain positive organizational PR can be a fickle thing.
Both organizations were so busy trying to make themselves look good, that they missed the big picture. In their effort to “appear” to look, like a progressive no kill organization, they discovered that their communities were a lot smarter than they gave them credit for. They had become arrogant in their public image and lost out on a large source of public revenue and public good will.
It is a hard game for private rescue groups to stay viable. In addition to the local competition for donor funding, they have to deal with the constant television ads from national organizations asking for money. The fact is that people are more likely to donate to an organization that calls its self no kill, and many people have the false assumption that their donations to the national organizations will funnel to their local humane society. It is easy to see why a local humane society might “stretch” the truth about their live release rate.
It has been my experience that major organizational change occurs when the organization is caught in a lie. Organizational integrity is the foundation of any organization; if you weaken it, you will loose the support of your community. It isn’t enough to appear good, you must be good.
Pet overpopulation is still a real thing in our country. The solution requires multiple hands in the pot. I spent most of my career on the public side of running an animal shelter, because I wanted to focus on how I was going to get my animals into new homes and not worry about where the money was going to come from. I attribute my successes to seeing the benefit of working with rescue groups, even the ones that were difficult.