SAWA president and CEO Jim Tedford, CAWA and National Animal Care and Control Association Executive Director George Harding, joined forces to lead a networking discussion about the relationship between shelters and animal care and control. The discussion emphasized the need for collaboration for the overall success of our industry.
As recognized leaders in animal welfare and animal care and control, respectively, Tedford and Harding shared their professional experiences and facilitated a productive discussion between professionals from both worlds.
Animal welfare and animal care and control didn’t always get along
Historically, animal control was defined as protecting people from animals and animal welfare was defined as protecting animals from humans, emphasizing the differences between the two.
Disagreements between the two professions are often centered on who is responsible for animals and at which stages, as well as inaccurate public perceptions about roles. Animal care and control professionals dislike being perceived as the “bad guys” who catch dogs on the street. In reality, the systems are often intertwined. Animals that are adopted from shelters often began their journey in an animal care and control facility.
The networking discussion called for a shift in mindset and a need for collaborative action.
Building bridges and saving lives
Tedford and Harding reiterated the need for solidarity and the attendees responded. Everyone agreed when Tedford noted, “If we can’t figure it out, then ultimately it’s the animals that we’re caring for that will pay.”
Attendees asked questions about forming successful coalitions and were answered by their colleagues. Julie Bank, Superintendent of Animal Welfare for the City of Oklahoma City Animal Welfare Division, shared the outcomes of her community’s coalition and what they decided to do:
- Come together on statistics. Looking at statistics together helped form a united front for tackling big issues.
- Rethink language used around statistics. Saying “our community’s live release rate is…” is more powerful and beneficial than “my live release rate is…”
- Agree to disagree in private. Disagreements can be healthy and are bound to happen, but, as Bank noted, “when we walked out of that room, we were a community working together to lower the euthanasia rate.”
- Keep collaboration small. A smaller group is ideal until the model is proven.
- Agree to meet. Monthly meetings to review and discuss statistics help with strategic planning and forming solutions.
We are stronger together
Animal welfare and animal care and control both do not often receive the respect they deserve. However, professionals in these fields cannot expect to be respected if they don’t respect each other first. Harding noted that not supporting each other deterred people from adopting from their shelters and instead encouraged them to go to smaller rescues.
“If we don’t get along and support each other, why would we expect anyone else to want to partner with us and do the same?” Tom Koenig, Director of Montgomery County Animal Services, asked attendees.
“You can’t always be the one to run things and sometimes, you think you’re the only one who can but that’s not true.”
Combining the knowledge and skill sets of both professions can produce powerful results, as long as the coalition’s work is properly communicated both internally and externally.
“It’s about playing to each other’s strengths and focusing on them,” Harding said.
Animal welfare and animal care and control have their differences, but work for a common cause. By cooperating and collaborating, more animals lives can be enriched and ultimately saved.
This article was written live during the 2015 Annual Society of Animal Welfare Administrators Conference. This post reflects our bloggers’ understanding of the session and the materials shared by presenters.