Public perception regarding Broward County Animal Care and Adoption Division (ACAD) may be lagging behind the innovative lifesaving practices that are now in use at our shelter.
Although an ever-increasing number of dogs and cats are getting a new chance at life (generally mid-80% live release rates during January-August, 2019 compared to the mid-70% approximately, same time frame a year ago), outdated narratives are still referenced.
The reality, however, is that the county has responded to public demand and the Board’s request to achieve the community-wide No Kill goal. ACAD now uses best management practices that focus on what happens to pets after they come to the shelter. These practices have tested the limits of the facility and stretched staff’s ability to keep up with the never ending influx of lost and homeless pets. However, under the guidance of our new Director (with over seventeen years of experience at one of the nation’s premier No Kill facilities) and recently hired Assistant Director, the county’s shelter has taken important steps to transition to a welcoming place for pets to receive temporary housing while they get the treatment or medical care that they need while waiting for their new forever home.
An assessment, requested by our ACAD leadership, by Best Friends Animal Society’s Shelter Outreach team highlighted work performed by ACAD “…that is going notably well and can serve as a model for other communities.”, including staff that are caring, genuinely want to achieve no-kill, go above and beyond for the animals and provide overall great client services.
Yes, there is more work to be done. We are ready to confront this challenge head on, but we cannot do it alone.
We offer this update because a big part of why shelter populations inflate is poverty, with an estimated one-quarter of shelter pets surrendered because of family dysfunction or financial pressure. Fully engaging the community is needed to address the connection between pet and human struggles to prevent so many pets from coming in to the shelter.
By providing current information, we look to change the way that the community talks and thinks about pets, so we can continue our work to build a foundation for a more productive conversation that engages and leverages the strengths and talents of the whole community.
How does ACAD propose we update the narrative?
- Overall live release rate is up approximately 10% from a year ago (from mid-70’s to mid-80’s). In 2018 the months of October, and December, and in 2019 the months of March, and April were the first known occurrences of the live release rate for dogs at the County shelter reaching the industry “No Kill” benchmark of 90% or higher. For March 2019, the live release rate for both dogs and cats was above 90%.
- Adoptions from January 2019 through July, 2019 up 6.3% from same period a year ago.
- 350 active volunteers, from a baseline of 35 before a Volunteer Coordinator was hired June 2018.
- In-take/admissions for canines are down 13.6% from January, 2019 through July 2019, compared to the previous year time frame.
- Thirty (30) staff hired since March, 2018, when the new Director started. The newer hires and previous staff are fully dedicated to achieving the community “No Kill” goal.
Through outreach events, social media, local networks, community meetings, and other platforms, ACAD will extend the reach of our communications and messages to diverse audiences throughout the county.
Field staff and trained volunteers will help educate their networks, help reframe the discussion surrounding homeless pets, and recognize individuals and organizations that are helping solve pet overpopulation issues and implementing best practices to increase pet retention.
Increased education about spay and neuter, more information about training, and more access to spay and neuter through community clinics and mobile vans. Financial assistance to pet owners who are considering surrender, including vouchers for vet care and reduction/elimination of reclamation-related fines.
At ACAD the average length of stay in the shelter for a dog is just about 18 days. However, some of our big dogs wait for several months before being adopted so we are implementing our programs to help keep the dogs housed on any given day at ACAD happy and healthy until they go to foster or adoptive homes.
- We “play group” dogs. We run play groups for our dogs five days a week and most new dogs are evaluated in play groups. Longer stay dogs get to play often if they like other dogs. Not every dog gets to play group every day, but that’s our ultimate goal.
- We let dogs choose their roommates. Co-housing dogs is great for mental health and we let our dogs pick their roommates in play groups. We co-house whenever we can because it speeds up adoptions (people know those dogs may like another dog) and makes the dogs calmer and more relaxed.
- Volunteers can walk dogs, every day. Our incredible volunteer team makes sure our dogs get walked.
- They have appropriate walking equipment for longer stay dogs. Sometimes, we’ll leave harnesses on the dogs in their kennels because they don’t mind them and they are less stressed getting leashed up to go out.
- We have a system for handling different dogs, so more challenging dogs are walked by more experienced, confident handlers and new volunteers or those who aren’t as confident can walk the easiest pooches who don’t pull on their leash or bark at other dogs.
- They get baths. Volunteers come in and bath as many dogs as they can get to and it’s so cute to see many of our dogs after a bath. For some of the dogs, it’s the first time they’ve ever been pampered!
- Staff are encouraged to stop and give affection to dogs and/or cats as they go about their daily duties.
- Kennels are spot cleaned regularly so dogs don’t have to lay in their own waste.
All of US
The more people learn about changing the narrative and share what they’ve learned with friends, neighbors and colleagues, the faster we will make progress toward our goal: Saving Lives. Together.