Why Even YOU Need Animal Skills

At least once a week, someone calls me Dr. Shenar. Occasionally, someone will tell me that I neutered their pet. On a daily basis, I’m asked how to resolve an animal’s behavioral issues. The catch? I’m not a veterinarian, dog trainer or animal surgeon. The public, however, has an expectation that animal welfare organization leaders have some knowledge of animals and how to take care of them. More importantly, as many of us walk through our facilities every day, we should know both what we are seeing and what we should be seeing. I want to be confident that I’m stating the truth when I tell our community that we adhere to high standards of animal care.

While many of us have professionals that provide us with specific knowledge and skills, how can we lead them to do better if we don’t have an understanding of what they do? When making decisions about our organizations, we should rely on the opinions of experts like veterinarians and behaviorists, but we must know what questions to ask first. In the end, we hold the responsibility of making the right decisions based on research.

While I might not resolve your pet’s separation anxiety problem, I know enough information to avoid making it worse and am aware that I shouldn’t cross my knowledge boundary. Sometimes, it takes an expert to give the best advice.

For some good basics on animals in shelters:

The Humane Society of the United States

Katherine M. Shenar

Katherine M. Shenar, MA is Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff at San Diego Humane Society and SPCA.

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