It sounds a bit cliché to complain about the speed at which time seems to be zooming by “these days,” but as I get older it really does seem that both the clock and the calendar are on hyper-drive! It seems like only a few months ago that I sat down at my computer to type out my year-end 2016 message.
2017 has been another big year for SAWA, and for the animal welfare industry. I have personally drawn great strength from the creative, sometimes mind-blowing work you all are doing out in the trenches. The creativity being employed to save lives is truly unprecedented and I don’t anticipate that trajectory will change in 2018!
For SAWA, there have been lots of highlights this year. Our Best Practices and Emerging Trends Committee worked really hard developing the latest best practice on Animal Enrichment. The document was released to great acclaim at our June Conference in Long Beach. One of the highlights for me was the session’s closing Q&A. The ideas that were shared by the crowd — by you — were awe-inspiring. Necessity is the mother of invention, and you have come up with some amazing enrichment solutions, often on a shoestring (or no) budget at all! Be sure to join us in January and February for a webinar series on this new best practice, hosted by our friends at ASPCAPro. You’ll have an opportunity to hear more detail about enrichment from the experts who wrote the best practices document. And watch for the release of our new Best Practice on Veterinary Care in shelters in early 2018!
As I’ve mentioned in earlier messages to our membership, SAWA has been on the road this year. We actively participated as presenters, sponsors and exhibitors at nine industry events at the state and regional levels. It was great meeting so many new professionals and sharing the great work of SAWA with you. Special thanks to our sponsors, especially Bayer Animal Health, for enabling us to take SAWA “to the people.” Look for us as we go on the road again in 2018.
Late 2017 brought a number of challenges, as well. Our colleagues in Southeast Texas and the entire state of Florida braced for major hurricanes and dealt with countless rescues in the aftermath. We saw organizations from all over the country rally to support their friends and colleagues on the ground. For many, the recovery process continues and will go on for months or years. And, as the year draws to a close, our friends in Southern California continue to rescue animals from the path of wildfire. Let’s all hope for a more serene 2018!
2017 also took some of our best and brightest leaders. Late in the year we lost both Pamela Burns, CEO of the Hawaiian Humane Society and past board chair of SAWA, as well as Jean McGroarty, retired from the Kokomo (IN) Humane Society. For many of us, these were profound personal losses, and for all of us, they were losses to our industry.
And, on a much happier note, we celebrated the retirements of some amazing animal welfare leaders. At our annual conference, both Bob Rohde of the Dumb Friends League in Denver and Harry Dates of SPCA Cincinnati were awarded Honorary Memberships. This lifetime distinction is well-deserved by both of these gentlemen who have left their indelible marks on animal welfare, on SAWA and on me, personally.
I wish you all a warm, magical holiday season filled with friends, family and good food! And, I wish for you — and for us all — a prosperous new year filled with strides for the animals and communities we love and serve.