On March 22, 2010 — just under a year ago — Kay Speerstra resigned as AWLA’s Executive Director. As the animal-outcomes data attest (see ShelterWatch.org), she left behind an organization that dramatically underperformed leading national open-admission shelters when it came to saving homeless cats and dogs. This was in spite of the fact that AWLA had greater financial resources and received fewer animals than most of the more successful shelters. Clearly, AWLA’s lack of commitment and effort trumped its monetary and logistical advantages.
As posts from last summer like where have all the kittens gone? and Arlington’s homeless dogs indicate, AWLA’s animal-outcomes performance did not start improving immediately after Speerstra resigned. But there were hints — an offsite dog-adoption event, an effort to repair damaged relationships with local animal-rescue organizations — that more hopeful days lay ahead.
Those hopeful days are here, and acknowledgement and thanks for that are due to Joann DelToro and the AWLA Board. Many observers assumed the Board would hire an AWLA insider who would attempt to preserve the status quo. Instead they conducted a deliberate national search before hiring Neil Trent from the Longmont Humane Society in Colorado. After Trent arrived at AWLA six months ago, things really started to change.
During his first six months at AWLA, the organization has:
– launched a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program in partnership with Alley Cat Allies;
– expanded its use of social media websites to promote its cats and dogs;
– begun posting flyers to promote its adoptable cats and dogs at local vet clinics;
– met numerous times with leaders of local rescue organizations to discuss how they can collaborate with AWLA;
– begun planning to extend its foster program to include adult cats and dogs;
– begun publishing its animal outcomes data on its website using the standard Asilomar format.
These steps are just a start, but they show that Trent realizes that improving the prospects for the homeless animals in its care isn’t rocket science — it just requires implementing the same kinds of programs that the most successful open-admission shelters have been practicing for years.
And sure enough, AWLA’s newfound effort is beginning to yield improved results:
|Homeless cats||7/09 – 6/10||7/10 – 12/10|
|Died or Lost||1.9%||1.5%||Killed||31.0%||17.3%|
|Homeless dogs||7/09 – 6/10||7/10 – 12/10|
|Died or Lost||0.6%||0.5%||Killed||31.2%||18.7%|
What a difference a year makes.
AWLA’s turnaround is still a work in progress, but it’s clear by now that Neil Trent has set the right goals and has begun to drive the organization toward them.
We look forward to further progress at AWLA, and hope that its local peers like the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria and the Montgomery County Humane Society are taking note. The homeless companion animals consigned to them deserve no less of an effort.
March 9, 2011 by shelterhawk