Those of us in the fields of animal welfare and animal care and control are made of tough stuff! Earlier this fall, we watched folks from all over the country rally to support local organizations in Texas and Florida as they led rescue and recovery efforts. Harvey and Irma turned out to be no match at all for the folks of Houston, Southeast Texas and the entire state of Florida (and beyond).
And Irma was no match for SAWA, either.
When the original site for our 2017 Annual Conference suffered a fire, and then damage from Irma, it would have been easy to throw in the towel and cancel the conference altogether. But neither SAWA nor its members are inclined to take the easy way out. Instead, we defied the odds. November is peak conference season in Miami, and the likelihood of finding a venue that could accommodate our conference was somewhere between slim and none. But the SAWA team persevered and found a home. Moving from a beachfront resort to a less glamorous setting near the airport did not dissuade our members. You showed up by the hundreds with positive attitudes and an eagerness to network and to learn that is unparalleled in any business.
And network and learn you did! I have been attending SAWA conferences for a lot of years, and the content our Conference Committee (led by the unsinkable Dr. Robyn Barbiers and our own Jeannie Grigg) put together for this event was among the best we have ever had. Our minds and boundaries were stretched well beyond what we thought possible.
Our keynote address from Ryan Avery was extraordinarily inspiring and amusing. Special thanks go out to Caryn Ginsberg who facilitated the beginning of an international dialogue on the evolution of our industry, along with the panel of industry leaders who brought a diversity of thought and perspective to that conversation. After 33 years in this business, I don’t get goosebumps as easily as I used to, but those sessions elicited “goosies” more than once!
And thanks, too, go out to Matt Bershadker, Dr. Michael Blackwell and Dr. Gary Weitzman for their presentations and discussion around a lack of equity in access to veterinary care. We all left the discussion understanding that this is a social welfare issue as much as it is an animal welfare issue. And we left with marching orders and an understanding that our industry carries significant responsibility for finding solutions.
The National Council on Pet Population’s annual research symposium was the icing on a very delicious cake! Attendees were treated to a full day of talks from researchers presenting data and findings to validate and change opinions and programs.
The list goes on and on … there was simply too much amazing content to recap it all here.
In closing, I would like to thank all our sponsors. Without your support, it would be impossible for SAWA to deliver such high-quality content and such game-changing networking opportunities to our members and to the industry. The 2017 Annual Conference saw nearly 50 industry partners show support for SAWA and those it represents. Thank you!
The bar has been raised and our committee of volunteer leaders is hard at work putting together amazing programs for the two 2018 conferences. We look forward to seeing you all out on the road at state and regional conferences, and in Chicago and Kansas City for our events next year. All best wishes for a peaceful holiday season and a wonderful, productive, humane new year!