It’s been almost two months now since Neil Trent joined AWLA as its new Executive Director, and some good things are happening.
For starters, AWLA has taken tentative first steps toward marketing its on-view dogs. Three offsite events featuring adoptable AWLA dogs were held during the last two months. And AWLA seems to be discovering the potential of online marketing. They have yet to exploit Craigslist, but they did send out a broadcast e-mail asking recipients to help find a home for Mya, a young black dog with a bully-breed jaw who’d arrived at the shelter in April, gone on-view in May… and then spent five months waiting for a home. She was adopted in early October.
And while we haven’t seen the outcomes data for the most recent quarter yet, daily observation of the dogs listed on the AWLA website suggests that fewer dogs are mysteriously vanishing a week or two after they first appear on the site. I won’t be surprised if the Q3 data shows that AWLA has stopped killing the vast majority of its pitbulls and other powerful breeds.
Other promising signs: Trent has met with and listened to the advice of local animal-welfare advocates, many of whom have been repeatedly frustrated by their past interactions with AWLA. He has committed the organization to launching a trap-neuter-return program for feral cats, which his predecessor was unwilling to do. And he seems willing to expand the scope of AWLA’s foster program and develop more efficient ways of providing veterinary care for all its animals.
So the early evidence suggests that Trent is trying to steer the organization in the right direction.
A less encouraging observation is that he didn’t bring his team from Longmont Humane with him, which means he has inherited a management team steeped in AWLA’s traditional culture of selective disclosure and a circle-the-wagons mentality. Converting AWLA into a top-tier shelter (like those in Reno, Charlottesville, Ithaca, Richmond, Berkeley et. al.) would be a much easier task if he had a lieutenant or two who understood how these highly effective shelters work.
If Trent chooses to retain the management team he inherited, AWLA’s recently released FY2010 Annual Report demonstrates the entrenched culture he’s up against.
For example, the financial report states that for the fifth consecutive year, AWLA spent more money ($1.427 million) executing its responsibilities for animal sheltering and animal control than it received from its contract with Arlington County ($1.253 million). The report explicitly notes that “The League subsidizes this deficit (of $173,610) with its own funds.”
As we pointed out in our Fun with Numbers series last fall, this is pure fiction. Correctly allocating the fees that AWLA receives from adopting out county-funded shelter animals would go a long way toward erasing this “deficit”. Instead AWLA classifies those fees as “program revenues”. Tuition from AWLA’s summer Kids Camp is another example of “program revenues” that is entirely dependent on the County-funded shelter animals.
The bottom line is that Arlington County subsidizes AWLA, not the converse. Without its County Contract, AWLA would just be one of many local animal welfare organizations. Without a guaranteed revenue stream, it would have to spend more of its time pulling animals from municipal pounds and working to find them homes, because its fundraising efforts would depend on an expanding legacy of successful adoptions.
Much less effort would be devoted to projects that don’t directly save animals, like Kids Camp, Canine Behavior Classes, and Baby-Ready Pets. Without the County Contract, AWLA would have to compete for volunteers, adopters, and donors based on its animal-saving performance, rather than rely on taxpayer funding and a captive supply of animals.
For years, AWLA has essentially been a fundraising organization that uses its stream of animals to achieve its monetary goals, rather than an animal rescue organization that uses its stream of funds to achieve its lifesaving goals.
Or look at how AWLA’s profit of nearly $400,000 in FY2010 didn’t help increase the number of homeless cats and dogs it saved:
|FY 2010||FY 2009||FY 2008|
|Homeless dog outcomes||490||478||432|
|Died or lost||3||7||6|
|Live release rate*||68.2%||69.0%||67.1%|
|Homeless cat outcomes||1079||1145||1125|
|Died or lost||20||21||32|
|Live release rate*||67.2%||67.1%||65.7%|
* = (adopted + transferred) / outcomes
Despite these uninspiring results, I’m convinced that Neil Trent has the motivation and ability to convert AWLA into the resource that it can and should be. But he’ll need plenty of encouragement and help from the outside the organization.
October 29, 2010 by shelterhawk