Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Partnering Shelters Making a Difference

People often ask "why don't shelters work together?"

It's not always easy to answer this question because those on the outside of the industry may not understand all the details that are inside the industry that sometimes prevent organizations from doing the obvious...working together.

There is no standardization of how an animal shelter or rescue is operated. Iowa's laws stipulate some basic care (i.e. food, shelter, rabies vaccination) which is minimal care by most reputable organization's standards. The intake of the animal, it's treatment, temperament testing, number of hours confined, cleaning protocol, medical care, type of food, daily walks, playtime, socialization is pretty much left up to the individual(s) who handle the daily operations of the organization. The philosophies towards animals, and their care, often differ causing organizations to find it difficult to share what is obvious to most...a common goal of saving lives! Then add the politics inside the industry, with many egos, and it becomes just like everything else in life...humans making something simple...more difficult. Only in this costs animals their lives!

That's why RVAS works so hard to work with others. Now you would think that all of those animal lovers who give their time to the animal welfare industry care about animals, right? Simply not so. To some, it's their job...8:00 am - 5:00 pm. To others, it's their life work. Without some form of standardization in the industry humans will continue to get in the way of each other!

But not today! Today was a great example of what CAN happen when people work together.

A dog named Ginger, who is obviously loved dearly by her owners, gave them quite a scare last evening, when she became one of 10 million lost (or stolen) pets in America. While several cars passed her by as she trotted down the highway, there was one that didn't. Afraid that Ginger would get hit by a car, as she walked along a country highway's edge in the dark, she pulled over, and called the dog to her. Frightened and uncertain, Ginger was torn between going towards the stranger for safety, or running to safety.

But the unconditional love of dogs proved to save her life this dark night. She reluctantly allowed the woman, Leigh, to rescue her. Placing her in the back of her car, she took her on home. It was late, it was dark, and she wasn't sure what to do next...but she knew that she couldn't leave this dog along side the highway by herself. And her owner is glad she made the decision she did!

On Wednesday morning Leigh sent an email to RVAS asking for their help. She wanted to get the dog to safety, if possible returned to the owner, but if not, at least to a no-kill place where Ginger would have a second chance at life.

RVAS quickly responded sending Leigh some quick tips to help assess the lost dog. Getting her scanned for a chip to find her owner is always a first option. Sending a photo with details immediately so that RVAS could begin networking. Calling the local authorities where the dog was found and placing a FOUND REPORT trying to see if there is a LOST report that matches. Even posting it on Iowa Pet Alert!  was just a few of the suggestions given to her. Leigh did them all. Once RVAS received the photo, we immediately began networking it through emails and posted it to Facebook. We also sent out the all call to have it tweeted, all with the hopes that someone would see her and either claim her, or know her owner!

At the same time, a frantic owner was calling her local police and searching in the area for her beloved canine companion. With no initial sighting she continued her search by contacting H.E.A.R.T., a fairly close shelter to report her missing dog. Amy, Executive Director of H.E.A.R.T. asked the owner to send her a picture with information on the dog. Then, like RVAS volunteers did, Amy sat down to post the missing dog, with the same reunite pet and owner.

As she fired up her computer, loaded up facebook, right before her on her wall, appeared a photo of a dog posted by RVAS that had been FOUND. This dog looked just like the photo she had. She compared the photos, her's being past, the one on the RVAS wall being present, and was pretty certain it was the same dog. She contacted RVAS immediately. And when RVAS Director Linda and Amy began comparing notes, they both were pretty certain, that they had a match.

Within one hour, Ginger's owner found relief, as good citizen Leigh contacted her, shared specifics of the dog, and determined that the dog, indeed was probably "Ginger", the missing canine companion. With photo ID, vet records in hand, and proof of ownership, Ginger will find her way back home. Frantic owner, Lisa will be forever grateful to the one person who stopped...and to the two animal welfare organizations, who despite operating individually, took a little "extra" out of their day to make a match.

So Amy contacted the owner, while Linda contacted Ginger's finder. And through guidance, arrangements were made to meet so the dog could be returned to it's owner. Both parties felt a sigh of relief and we have no doubt that Ginger will be happy to go back home, too!

I asked Amy once, what she says when people ask her, "Why don't organizations work together!". Her response was short and to the point: "The reputable ones, DO!".

Our answer is in agreement with Amy's. After all, We Have Living Proof...There is a Better Way of saving lives!

Remember those organizations who do work together, who go that extra mile to make things happen, who put animal welfare first...who put aside all differences for the betterment of the animal. Remember, to say "thank you" by offering your time, your resources, your services or in-kind donations. It could be your animal someday...wouldn't you want the same?

Statistics on lost and stolen pets can be found here

Tips to help you with a Lost and/or Found animal.


  1. Great story! It's nice to know that people are still willing to work together to save lives!

  2. This is so gratifying to read about. I am fortunate enough to live in Buncombe County, NC, a county in the western mountains of the state. Although we have not yet achieved "no-kill" status with regard to homeless animals, we are working toward that goal and getting closer each year. Crucial to achieving that goal are a number of factors: good spay/neuter programs, trap/neuter/return programs for feral cats, an increase in people willing to foster animals as well as in those willing to adopt them, education about responsible pet ownership -- and intra-community cooperation among organizations.
    Here in Buncombe County, we have many animal rescue organizations of varying sizes. Most of them cooperation with one another informally, but some of them have a formal partnership. The Asheville Humane Society and Buncombe County Animal Control partner with Brother Wolf, the Animal Compassion Network and the Asheville Humane Alliance (a pilot project that teaches how to operate spay neuter clinics nationwide. This has made a lot of things possible that would not happen were each organization to function independently of the others or, worse, in competition with the others.

    I am so glad to see an increase in cooperation in Iowa, with Raccoon Valley (RVAS) and H.E.A.R.T. leading the way to better things. Thank you for writing a wonderful article that so clearly demonstrates what can happen when agencies and people cooperate.

    God bless you!

  3. I love a happy ending. I love it when it has a moral even more! What a great example of teamwork and keeping the real goal of both organizations in mind. Great job Linda! Great job Amy!