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Advocacy and Activism Animal Stories Get informed and educated

Why do L.A.’s Animal Services FAIL?

This is BOBO

This is just one example of many, why U.S. shelter systems suck: on Thursday last week I called the East Valley Animal Shelter in Van Nuys to receive more information about one specific dog. I saw a Mastiff, a massive, super sweet-looking dog on the shelter’s website who reminded me of my own dog Samson. Every week I promote a different dog on our Facebook fan page and was looking for a new doggie, when I saw this Mastiff named BOBO.

Owners had surrendered him after 9 years of companionship. I cross-posted his picture on Facebook, tweeted and asked friends for help the same day. After I walked my dogs I called the shelter with my ID number and the dog’s name ready and talked to a woman on the phone after waiting 20 minutes on the line. She was nice but had no clue; she greeted me with a very low and slow “hey”… and I didn’t understand the rest. I gave her the ID number and the dog’s name, and at first she couldn’t find him in the database, then we had this type of not-helpful conversation:

She: He is not at the shelter anymore.

Me (excited): Oh, really? What happened to him, did he get adopted? I’m talking about the big Mastiff with the black mask, he was brown and 154 lbs.

[I described the dog a little more]

She: Oh, hmmmm, yeah that dog…he is AGGRESSIVE.

Me: ‘Aggressive’? Like…dog aggressive, fear aggressive or human aggressive… what do you mean by ‘aggressive’? Is he shy or really aggressive, does he have a history?

She: Ahhhh, I don’t know, but he is human aggressive.

Me: So, is he still available? I want to drop by and take pictures of him. Is he still at your facility? Can you please check for me?

She: Hold on a second…Yes, he is here!

[I’m confused] Me: OK great. I will be there in an hour.

FAIL

This is silly boy Blanco (now: Bones). He is 2 years old and a very friendly and cute dog. His ID# is A1311910

I packed my stuff and was really excited to meet BOBO, a 154-lb. Mastiff. I arrived at the shelter with a friend of mine and walked through the whole shelter, taking pictures of the dogs and sharing doggie treats with them, patting them, looking into some shy, timid and anxious eyes. I stopped and took a deep breath every time and walked through all cages to see who is behind the bars. Calling them and trying to reach their necks with my fingers. As usual the shelter was full of Pit Bull Mixes and little Chihuahuas, each one cuter and cuter. It took me a while to walk through all cages. I couldn’t find the Mastiff and I walked again and again through every single kennel. Finally, I decided to ask a volunteer to take some dogs out and to help me take pictures of the dogs. We took pictures of 3 different dogs and I asked her if she knew anything about the Mastiff – and she said that he wasn’t there anymore, but she doesn’t know what happened to him.

After I spent an hour-and-a-half taking pictures, I walked to the front desk to find the special dog I was looking for. I was afraid to ask, because I feared to hear that they had to put him down or something. I hoped and wished he was still alive. I walked up to the font desk and asked one of the staff members in his uniform and he said he can’t help me without an ID number. I’d forgotten to write it down, so I started looking up the number on my phone, but had really bad reception inside the building. I described him, I mean, this dog is huge and how can’t you know anything about him? He is very eye-catching and you don’t take a Mastiff like him in every day. He was taken in on May 25 and nobody knew anything. My friend asked again, and the guy in the blue uniform was helping others in the meantime. A woman reminded me: “We need the ID number”. It took forever to load the pages. Then the man with the black shoulder long hair said: Ok let me see in the back. After 5 minutes he came out with an ID card and said: Is this the dog you are looking for? ME: “Yes, that’s him”. He: “Oh, he just got  adopted yesterday! I was looking at him and didn’t really buy it, and he showed me the kennel card with a red mark: ‘ADOPTED’. I took a deep breath and wanted to hug the man (I didn’t do it of course). BOBO made it, what a relief.

Love him! This is Ace – ID#A1313718 – brown and white Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix. 3 years old. He looked at me the whole time but didn’t get up.

I’m asking: Why do you have a back area where other dogs (not open to the public) are kept and just waiting for their death? Why do you hand out wrong information and rob a dog of the chance to get adopted? Why do you know so little about the dogs in your shelter and why do you not care? How can you not know anything about a 154 lb. dog? Why did I receive 3 different versions until I got the information I was trying to get? What kind of service is this, for an institution described as ‘Animal Services’?

Everyone who is involved in animal welfare, runs a non-profit rescue, pulls dogs out for a rescue, fosters dogs or just visits shelters like me as a caring individual, knows what I’m talking about. Why is nobody out in the kennel area? No excuses, please. In the 1 1/2 hours I saw at least 3 people who were really interested in dogs. It’s like going to a car dealer and walking around for an hour looking at cars, reading the detail cards and waiting for the sales guys. Do you think the car dealer would sell a car that way? In this case, these are not cars, these are living creatures waiting for a 2nd chance, a new home to rescue them from a kill shelter.

A young couple was looking for a dog and going through the kennels over and over again, an overexcited woman who fell in love with one of the puppies and talking loudly to her mom begged her to let her bring the little puppy home, another family walked around looking for little dogs. I had the desire to help these people and ask them what they were looking for and show them some dogs myself. They were looking for someone, trying to find a person who could assist them.

FAIL

Cute ‘Cookie’ – female, black and white Terrier mix. 8 years old. ID#A1309722

Everything was happening outside in the kennel area, while the complete staff was inside. Incompetent and bored staff members, annoyed by the questions of clients, potential adopters and people who just cared about these imprisoned animals and wanted to know more. Every time, I just wanted to kick someone for his/her false information, ignorance or incompetence.

It was 3:30 pm on a not busy Thursday afternoon and I couldn’t find any staff member to ask questions, they were all hanging out at the lobby and answering phone calls and pretending being super stressed and busy. All 5 of them;). Shelter Volunteer Sarah was great, she showed me 3 dogs and we hung out with them to give them some time and love outside the cages. She helped me a lot that day… and she was the only person I could find. The shelter volunteers, however, were sweating and working hard. One of them told me last time that he always picks up hamburgers for the dogs who get killed that day. They are not allowed to handle every dog, just the ones with the specific signs on the kennel cards.

I left the fancy prison in the Valley, many dogs trapped in cages, 70% Pit Bull Mixes. My camera in hand, loaded with pictures and videos. My thoughts were with all the sweet dogs and cats left behind. My heart was heavy and my eyes full of tears; I was happy that BOBO the mastiff made it out, and thank you to the family who adopted him!

The dogs shown in this post are some of the dogs up for adoption at the East Valley Shelter in Van Nuys, California. Please also read Thomas Cole’s article about no-kill’s limitations and Josh Liddy’s article confusion is a consistent trait of la county.

Bones video:

Categories
Advocacy and Activism Cool and Fun Stuff Interviews on packpeople.com No - Kill Movement

SharingPet – Help us save 1 million dogs in 2012

Sharingpet.org is a new social network for pets and the people who love them. The mission of Sharingpet is to transform and develop internet solutions to protect and improve the lives of animals – including an innovative virtual adoption platform.

This San Francisco-based project’s primary goal is to be one of the leaders in the no-kill movement, eliminating unnecessary euthanasia in U.S. animal shelters. As the catalyst of the online no-kill movement, using the power of social media, Sharingpet’s movement is known as “Save 1 Million More”.

We had the great pleasure to chat with co-founder Luis Cifuentes last week and learn about the mission of Sharingpet. It’s a great project we want to support and – truly encourage everyone to take action. Enjoy!

If you want to learn more about SharingPet.org’s movement #save1mMORE and virtual adoption, please watch this helpful video:

Web:
www.sharingpet.org

Twitter: @sharingpet

Facebook: Sharingpet

Fun and interesting websites Luis mentioned are:

PackPeople – YAY!

Alley Cat Allies – www.alleycat.org

Muttville  – www.muttville.org (check out our interview with Muttvile Rescue here)

Madonna of the Mills information about the movie at www.madonnaofthemills.com – PackPeople’s Blog entry about Madonna of the Mills

If you liked the interview please share it with your community by clicking the Facebook and Twitter icons at the bottom of this article or feel free to leave a comment. Thank you.

iTunes: Get PackPeople’s interviews as a Podcast! Free Download – Listen and enjoy when ever you want!

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Categories
No - Kill Movement Non - Profits Puppy Mills Shelter Animals

"No-Kill" is a culture, not a definition – Interview with Aubrie Kavanaugh

This is Donut a 1 year old Pit Bull Mix. He was supposed to be destroyed 2 weeks ago (L.A. Shelter), because of agression issues.

We had the great pleasure to interview our dear friend Aubrie Kavanaugh (Paws4Change) a second time to talk about the “No Kill” movement in America. Our first interview with Aubrie covered general information about her animal advocate website www.paws4change.com, a highly informative source of information about animal welfare, puppy mills, shelter dogs, spay & neuter programs and many more animal-related topics. You should also check Aubrie’s Reading Room with many excellent book recommendations.

Aubrie is an animal advocate, supporting animal rescue groups. This time we discussed some interesting aspects about the no kill movement with her and shed some much-needed light on the term “no kill”, covering such topics as:

What is a “no-kill shelter” or how does a city get the title of a “no-kill city”? Who is responsible for the mass killing of dogs and cats in shelters? How many animals are destroyed in shelters each year and why?

Everyone who cares about animal welfare, animal rescue, animal adoption and/or his/her local pet rescue group should take 30 minutes to listen to this interview. We want to thank Aubrie for sharing this information with us and taking the time on the side of her actual work to help animals in America.

The dog in the picture, “Donut”, has a story. Please check his rescue story here.

Paws 4 Change

Web: www.paws4change.com

Facebook: Paws4Change

Interviewee: Aubrie Kavanaugh / Interviewer: Rufino Cabang (PackPeople)

No Kill Movement – Aubrie Kavanaugh by PackPeople

Spreading the word can help save lives! If you liked the interview please share it with your community by clicking the Facebook and Twitter icons at the bottom of this article or feel free to leave a comment. Thank you.

iTunes News: Get PackPeople’s interviews as a Podcast!

You also might be interested in: Maddie’s Fund Interview  or Website: No Kill NOW! or No kill Advocacy Center or The No Kill Network – List of No – Kill Shelters and Rescues or The No Kill Nation Blog

Categories
Adoption Interviews on packpeople.com

Join the No-Kill movement with Maddie’s Fund!

The Maddie’s Fund® mission is to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals. This charitable foundation helps fund projects and educates animal welfare organizations to further their work in saving the lives of cats and dogs. Maddie’s Fund offers a tremendous wealth of information about relevant projects, programs and campaigns and provides highly informative reports.

Maddie was the beloved dog of the founders Dave and Cheryl Duffield, who have endowed Maddie’s Fund with more than $300 million and have spent $71.6 million through FY 2007-08 to save dog and cat lives. Since 1999, Maddie’s Fund® has awarded animal welfare organizations and universities $96.2 million for their efforts toward animal welfare. Maddie’s Fund also supports collaborative efforts in which entire cities and counties pool their talents and resources to build a safety net for the local community’s dogs and cats. The foundation awards millions of dollars through multi-year grants to animal welfare coalitions to end the killing of healthy and treatable shelter dogs and cats community-wide. Maddie’s Fund sponsors a vast array of innovative projects, including shelter medicine programs in veterinary colleges.

We had a great time interviewing and learning from Rich Avanzino the President of Maddie’s fund. We’re excited to share with you his experiences, knowledge and projects in helping animals.

Maddie’s Fund, located in Alameda, California

http://www.maddiesfund.org

Founded in: 1999

Interviewee: Rich Avanzino / Interviewer: Rufino Cabang (packpeople)

Please check out this highly interesting audio interview here:
MADDIESFUNDInterview by packpeople

Facebook: Maddie’s Fund

Twitter: @MaddiesFund

Websites Rich would like to mention are:

The Shelter Pet Project –  www.shelterpetproject.org
Best Friends Animal Society – www.bestfriends.org
The Humane Society of the United States – www.humanesociety.org
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – www.aspca.org
University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine – www.vetmed.ufl.edu
Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine – www.vetmed.iastate.edu
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine – www.vet.cornell.edu

Please spread the word! If you liked the interview please share it with your community by clicking the facebook and twitter icons at the bottom of this article or feel free to leave a comment. Thank you!

Categories
Adoption Interviews on packpeople.com Pet Care

Join the No-Kill movement with Maddie's Fund!

The Maddie’s Fund® mission is to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals. This charitable foundation helps fund projects and educates animal welfare organizations to further their work in saving the lives of cats and dogs. Maddie’s Fund offers a tremendous wealth of information about relevant projects, programs and campaigns and provides highly informative reports.

Maddie was the beloved dog of the founders Dave and Cheryl Duffield, who have endowed Maddie’s Fund with more than $300 million and have spent $71.6 million through FY 2007-08 to save dog and cat lives. Since 1999, Maddie’s Fund® has awarded animal welfare organizations and universities $96.2 million for their efforts toward animal welfare. Maddie’s Fund also supports collaborative efforts in which entire cities and counties pool their talents and resources to build a safety net for the local community’s dogs and cats. The foundation awards millions of dollars through multi-year grants to animal welfare coalitions to end the killing of healthy and treatable shelter dogs and cats community-wide. Maddie’s Fund sponsors a vast array of innovative projects, including shelter medicine programs in veterinary colleges.

We had a great time interviewing and learning from Rich Avanzino the President of Maddie’s fund. We’re excited to share with you his experiences, knowledge and projects in helping animals.

Maddie’s Fund, located in Alameda, California

http://www.maddiesfund.org

Founded in: 1999

Interviewee: Rich Avanzino / Interviewer: Rufino Cabang (packpeople)

Please check out this highly interesting audio interview here:
MADDIESFUNDInterview by packpeople

Facebook: Maddie’s Fund

Twitter: @MaddiesFund

Websites Rich would like to mention are:

The Shelter Pet Project –  www.shelterpetproject.org
Best Friends Animal Society – www.bestfriends.org
The Humane Society of the United States – www.humanesociety.org
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – www.aspca.org
University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine – www.vetmed.ufl.edu
Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine – www.vetmed.iastate.edu
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine – www.vet.cornell.edu

Spreading the word can help save lives! If you liked the interview please share it with your community by clicking the Facebook and Twitter icons at the bottom of this article or feel free to leave a comment. Thank you!

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You like to read? For this interview we offer the transcript:

Rufino Cabang: Hi, everybody.  This is Rufino Cabang at PackPeople.com.  Welcome again to our ongoing series of interviews with the people and organizations that place a high priority on animals, their rescue, and the people that care for them.  Today we are really honored to have Maddie’s Fund with us today.  We have Rich Avanzino, and Rich is the President of the organization which helps, funds, and educates animal welfare organizations to save dogs’ and cats’ lives.There is tremendous information on this site.  I have to say probably the most information I’ve seen on a website of this type yet in the process of doing these interviews.  And this organization works closely with animal welfare organizations, nonprofit parties, communities, the government, and the media for its mission to revolutionize the status and wellbeing of companion animals.  So Rich, thanks so much for joining us today.  We appreciate it.
Rich Avanzino: I’m delighted to be a part of it, Rufino Cabang .
Rufino Cabang: Absolutely.  Great.  We noticed there are quite a few funding opportunities that Maddie’s Fund offers.  I’m going to outline really quickly here.  At least fourteen different grants that fund an interest of cats and dogs, and there are five categories.  Starter Grants.  Community Collaborative grants, Lifesaving Awards grants, Colleges of Veterinary Medicine grants, Medical Equipment grants.  Could you share – if there’s any kind of simple answer or not – how and which program would a new nonprofit pet rescue organization join?
Rich Avanzino: Well, almost all of our grants are strategic.  We try to promote what we call Community Collaborative grants, which means we like to get money to organizations that are working together on a community level.  So the easiest and best way to get the most money from Maddie’s Fund is to be part of a collaborative effort, and so rescue groups that are working with other organizations in the community can get grants for starter and for community collaboration.  And they get to receive the size of the grant based upon their participation in the rescue and adoption effort for that community.We also give out money called Medical Equipment grants to not-for-profits that are committed to saving all the dogs and cats lives in their care adoption guarantee groups to help them with some of the medical procedures that they’ve provided to take care of the treatable animals, and to spay and neuter pets that are part of their rescue operations.

Obviously they would not be necessarily eligible to receive our veterinary college grants, but like I said, the best amount of our grant-giving is usually investing in organizations working together, as opposed to supporting standalone entities.

Rufino Cabang: Okay.  I think it’s great to point out that the medical equipment and these services, they’re not just expensive for the people on the street with the dogs, they’re expensive for these organizations that have to handle these matters.
Rich Avanzino: Exactly.  And what we’re trying to do there is to focus on the treatable pets.  The animals that need medical attention.  To qualify for the Medical Equipment grant, the organizations have to have at least 50% of the veterinarian’s time, and it’s got to be a fulltime veterinarian as a requirement.  It’s working on taking care of the health of the population.  It’s not just for spaying and neutering.  It’s basically to keep animals well, making sure they don’t get sick, and those that are injured and ill, get the necessary medical care so that they can be adopted into loving homes.
Rufino Cabang: That’s great.  Do you know how – I’m sure the number is huge, do you know how many, approximately how many projects Maddie’s Fund has funded?
Rich Avanzino: Well, it’s certainly in the thousands when we’re talking about all the organizations that are working together.  But in terms of actual grants given out, I’m going to give you a best guess.  I would probably say there’s several hundred grants that are given out over the course of a few years.  Right now we probably have about – oh, I would guess maybe 100 active grants that were given out this last year.  We give out about $11 million to $15 million a year.
Rufino Cabang: That’s amazing.
Rich Avanzino: We’re the largest dog and cat charity in the world focusing on saving animal lives.
Rufino Cabang: That’s amazing, and it’s important to remember that each grant itself is saving or helping countless animals and their families, and that’s wonderful.
Rich Avanzino: Yeah.  Thank you, Rufino Cabang .
Rufino Cabang: Absolutely.  And you support the U.S. Colleges of Veterinary Medicine to establish Shelter Medicine programs.  How and when did that begin?
Rich Avanzino: Well, we started that actually in the first year of our operation. We’re a relatively young organization. We’ve been around since 1999. We started by investing in veterinary students who were going to acquire the specialty knowledge about how to take care of shelter pets and rescue pets.

They are a different kind of environment than companion animal pets in the sense that they are usually institutionalized. In other words there’s dense housing. Animals sometimes come down with contagious conditions. They certainly have to be protected from not getting some sort of communicable disease from other members of the population.

They in many cases come into the shelter with medical disorders or behavior challenges. They have to be corrected before the animals are placed in loving homes. And we think that that is best handled by somebody that understands the unique qualities of institutional housing. And we call that Shelter Medicine.

Rufino Cabang: Okay.
Rich Avanzino: And so we invest in veterinary colleges to start these Shelter Medicine programs. We were the very first foundation to begin this effort, and we started it with an initial grant to the University of California Davis. Now twenty-four out of the twenty-eight veterinary colleges have Shelter veterinary programs.

And we’re very, very excited about that because that’s part of building the no-kill nation, is to have the medical expertise in place and institutional settings so that animals that are ill and injured with behavior disorders can get the expertise that’s necessary to be cured, and have a lifetime ahead with a loving caregiver.

Rufino Cabang: That’s wonderful.  And these experts, they’ve grown with you as well, so it’s ––
Rich Avanzino: Yes. And you know, like I said, there’s only twenty-eight veterinary colleges. The fact that twenty-four out of the twenty-eight have initiated these efforts. Now not all twenty-four of the twenty-eight are funded by Maddie’s Fund, but as I said before, our effort is to try to leverage the Maddie’s Fund dollars to expand the services not only that we support with the millions of dollars that we spend each year, but also to enable other organizations to copy, replicate, and start on their own their own initiatives that work in the same area. And the fact that the veterinary colleges have basically bought into the fact that this is an important discipline we think will lead it eventually to be an especially recognized in the veterinary educational environment so that much like veterinarian colleges, and veterinarian orthopedics, all of these specialties that are recognized as part of the veterinary medical profession will now include Shelter Medicine.
Rufino Cabang: That’s good.  It’s definitely been a pay-it-forward situation.
Rich Avanzino: Yeah. And some of the comprehensive programs like University of Florida, Cornell University, Perdue, Iowa State. These people are pioneering wonderful life-saving works. Not only are they educating the students to become specialists in this unique area, but they’re also doing research on how to stop animals from getting sick. How do we have protocols for keeping these animals well? And sometimes they’re brought in to actually analyze shelters to talk about their disappointments and their shortcomings so that they can basically now have a template for how to do the job better.

And we’re paying for the production of disease control manuals. So that not only are the students getting the benefits of this, and not only is the information on our website being distributed widely throughout the world, but now we have manuals that are made available to all the shelters throughout the United States so they can take advantage of best practices.

Rufino Cabang: That’s great.  Concrete materials that can move forward.  And we’ve seen – a lot of us have seen, I know I’ve seen billboards and ads for the Shelter Pet Project here in Los Angeles, and we’re really happy to discover that you’re one of the partners in this campaign.  Could you tell us more about the Shelter Pet Project?
Rich Avanzino: Well, actually the Shelter Pet Project we think is going to be the tipping point for achieving the no-kill nation 2015.  And the reason why we’re so thrilled about that is it basically empowers the American people to find out about shelter pets.  We think that shelters and rescue groups should be the first place to go if you’re thinking about adding to your family.
Rufino Cabang: We agree.  Definitely.
Rich Avanzino: And this is an advertising campaign launched with the blessing of the Ad Council. The Ad Council has never had an animal welfare issue as part of their messaging. You know, they started Smokey Bear. They started A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste. Loose Lips Sink Ships. I mean iconic programs that have basically changed the social structure around their messaging. We’re getting about $40 million to $50 million a year in free promotional advertising encouraging people to adopt from shelters and rescues. This is on billboards. They’re on televisions, the radio. The social media networks. It’s truly a very exciting program because now people can go to Pet Finder and find out okay, I live in Los Angeles. I’d like to get myself a Bichon Frise that’s over five years old that’s female. How do I find them? And it will come up with a list of the organizations. It’ll come up with pictures of the pets. And basically touch the heartstrings of the American public.

You know, more than 60% of Americans have companion animals, and when we ask people who have pets what do they think about their relationship, they talked about them being family members.

Rufino Cabang: That’s right.
Rich Avanzino: We tend to have more people now understand the pleasure and joy of getting one of those beloved best friends from an animal shelter or rescue group.
Rufino Cabang: Right.  And speaking of getting one of those best friends, your website also talks about Maddie’s Matchmaker Adoptathon.  Can you tell the community out there about this event?
Rich Avanzino: Well, that’s coming up this weekend as a matter of fact.
Rufino Cabang: Oh, great.
Rich Avanzino: And yeah, it’s truly exciting.  We started with the idea that we wanted to find homes for more dogs and cats over a weekend with a focus concentrated effort to basically save additional animals lives.  And we set our goal in the first year, which was last year, to save 500 pets and spend half a million dollars.Well, the rescue groups,  forty-two rescue organizations at sixty-five different locations found homes for 1,805 dogs and cats.  That cost us about $900,000, close to $1 million, because we gave every organization $500 for every pet that they found a home for.
Rufino Cabang: Oh my gosh.
Rich Avanzino: We literally came close to emptying out the shelters.  Multiplied by five to ten times what most of the rescue groups were doing prior to this, but it also emptied the shelters and reduced the supply of pets and rescues so that they had more room, more time, more resources to save the animals that were coming in in the following days.  It also gave us a chance to brag about the great work that the rescues and shelters do every single day out of the year.  And focus on the hard-to-place.  This year was not only spending $500 for every healthy animal, we’re spending $1,000 if those animals are older, or if those animals have medical conditions.  And if they’re older and have medical conditions, we’re paying the rescue groups $1,500.  So this is sort of a pet stimulus package.
Rufino Cabang: Yeah.
Rich Avanzino: That we know will be successful in not only paying for the adoptions which are now offered for free, but also giving these not-for-profit charities more financial resources to basically help carry on their works not just for the weekend, but for the months and years ahead. And during a recessionary time, this is not an easy deal for many of the charities because philanthropy is down, and some of the challenges associated with loss of homes, foreclosures, jobs being terminated. This is when the rescues and municipal programs really need a lot of help.

One of the organizations, Oakland Animals Services, last year adopted out 133 dogs and cats that entitled them to $66,000 in compensation from Maddie’s Fund.

Rufino Cabang: Oh, wow.
Rich Avanzino: With that $66,000 they changed their euthanasia room to a spay/neuter clinic, and isn’t that what it’s really all about?  Moving away from that, embracing life and helping pet owners have a wonderful companion for a lifetime.
Rufino Cabang: That is what it’s all about.  And you mentioned the one this weekend.  Where’s that event going to be?
Rich Avanzino: It’s going to be in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The adoptions are for free. One of the things that we’re so excited about is it’s basically drawing attention to the fact that maybe the myth that said there’s too many animals, not enough homes, has some flaws in it.

If we can really brag about the animals, if we can get the public’s attention and we can focus all the rescues and shelters in really saving every life every day, the homes are available out there. We just need to save three million dogs and cats to have an adoption guarantee for the country a no-kill nation. And that only means one more pet per agency per day, and we will be there.

Rufino Cabang: That’s wonderful.  A no-kill nation.  And you are known by many as the father of the No Kill Movement.  Can you tell us a little bit about how that came to be?
Rich Avanzino: Well, in San Francisco – first, that’s very flattering, but like anything that’s really meaningful, it’s been by a team.
Rufino Cabang: Right.
Rich Avanzino: It’s been by a community. In our community, which was San Francisco, the people really cared, and we had a wonderful cadre of 2,000 volunteers, we had 140 paid staff, a very active board, and a lot of community interest in trying to do what we should be doing for our animals, which is provide a safety net of care.

And we started by guaranteeing the animals in San Francisco would have a home. We started with an adoption pact which involved the Animal Control Agency and the San Francisco SPCA, helping out with other rescue groups to basically say if Animal Control can’t save the animals, then the rescue – in this case the San Francisco SPCA – will step forward and take that animal so that we can find the animal a home.

It was a collaborative effort. It worked phenomenally successful. We moved from killing 65,000 dogs and cats a year back in the ’60s to less than 2,000 dogs and cats per year being killed citywide. And that all happened because the community got engaged, the community got involved, and we created the first no-kill platform.

Rufino Cabang: That’s amazing.  And I want to share here, too, that many of these figures, they’re in statistical reports, publications, articles, they’re on the MaddiesFund.org website.  We’ll also post a few links to them from PackPeople.com.  And we urge people to take a look at those because they really – they’re figures and information that can really help educate the world about a no-kill nation.
Rich Avanzino: Well, thank you so much, Rufino Cabang .  I really appreciate that.
Rufino Cabang: Absolutely.  And I have a note here there’s a project in the works, a searchable database to compare different community’s life-saving efforts.  Can you share a little about that?
Rich Avanzino: Yeah.  That’s something that we think will be very, very helpful to our cause.
Rufino Cabang: Yeah.
Rich Avanzino: What we’re trying to do is collect enough data from shelters from throughout the United States so that we can talk about the life-saving work community by community, region by region, part of the country that’s comparable so that people who are in the rural sections of America can look at comparable rural sections of America to find out how well they’re doing comparatively. Are their adoption rates above the norm, or are their adoption rates below the norm? If they’re below the norm, what are some of the agencies that are doing a better job? Where are the best practices for that type of community based upon demographics, based upon geography, based upon populations of people, and pets?

We think that this can empower contributors who can donate money to the organizations that are doing well, and to basically acknowledge and compliment them for the fine job being done. And for the organizations that are not doing well, help those organizations with additional resources to basically do a better job.

It also enables boards of directors when they’re hiring the leadership, the management team for the organizations, to have some sort of a standard to know okay, in these communities they’re doing very, very well. They’re comparable to what we’re doing. Maybe this is the kind of leadership that we have a need for, for our jurisdiction. And it allows investigative reporters also to look into the flaws and the shortcomings of some organizations when comparing to comparable agencies.

You know, if we were in real estate and if we were talking about comparables, people really get it.

Rufino Cabang: Yes.
Rich Avanzino: You know, am I getting overcharged?  Am I getting a good deal?  Well, we think when people are empowered to have data and statistics, they will have the tools to be able to hold people accountable.  And we think transparency and accountability in the animal welfare movement is a salvation for our cause.
Rufino Cabang: And these comparable studies, they really – I know for me they work on such a basic human level.  Every few months I get, with my electric bill, a little graph that says how much power I’m using in comparison to my neighbors, and it really does make it clear.  Rather than you know, just telling me how much I’m paying.
Rich Avanzino: Right.  And it tells you what you did last year, at least my bills.
Rufino Cabang: Yes.
Rich Avanzino: I get a lot of bills, by the way.  And it basically gives you an insight as to are you doing better or are you doing worse, and if you find yourself paying more this month than you did a year ago, what did I do differently?  And if I’m actually having to spend less, you know, what improvement?  You know, was it really the double pane windows, you know?  Was it because I turned off the lights more?
Rufino Cabang: Yeah.
Rich Avanzino: And you just look at your operations and you say okay, these actually had a benefit.  And that reinforces better practices going forward.
Rufino Cabang: Yes.  Now if you being pretty much in the middle of the animal rescue world, and pet ownership world, if you could give pet owners one piece of advice, what would it be?
Rich Avanzino: Well, number one the most important, love and appreciate the joy that you have in the relationship.
Rufino Cabang: Yeah.
Rich Avanzino: I guess secondly would be if you could help rescue more pets by being a volunteer, by being a foster parent, by even contributing to the organizations that you find meritorious, go for it, because nobody can do this by themselves. This is going to be a community-wide effort that basically has the best impact to save our best friends who are in harm’s way.

You know, when we ask people who have pets how strong is the bond, if you were abandoned on an island and you had the choice of having a human partner or a pet, which would you choose? The majority of the American public who have companion pets say that they would rather have a four-legged friend because they are more nurturing, they’re more loving, they’re more unconditional in their devotion. They do almost anything to please, and they bring out some of the best spirits in the human nature.

Rufino Cabang: True.
Rich Avanzino: And I think the more that we can talk about that and the benefits of that the more people can have a fuller life.  Have a better life.  Not only for themselves, but save a dog and cat who in the old days used to be in harm’s way of losing everything because we didn’t have the system in place to guarantee them that loving forever home.
Rufino Cabang: Right.  Nor was there a team in place to even care about them.
Rich Avanzino: Exactly. And I think there’s great demonstration models out there. First, one of the things that every business struggles with is having enough money. First, the amount of money that’s coming into play in the animal welfare field in the last ten years has tripled. We believe that will go up five times in the next four years. So we’re going to see a greater amount of dollars being made available to rescues and shelters to basically do life-saving work, particularly promoting best practices. And we have now a cadre of veterinarians who are specially trained to rescue the animals and provide the necessary academic medical expertise to save the most troubled and difficult. And we have a community that cares.

Seventeen million people out there this year are going to be getting a new dog or cat in their homes. They haven’t decided where they’re going to get those dogs and cats.

Rufino Cabang: Right.
Rich Avanzino: We need to convince three million of those seventeen million that the shelter is the best place to go.  The rescue group offers the best selection, and has the best pets to find that need a loving home.  If three million out of seventeen million can be convinced that the shelter is the best place, the first place, the most important place, we will have a no-kill nation, and that’s what it’s all about.
Rufino Cabang: Absolutely.  We completely agree.  And Maddie’s Fund is probably one of the I would say higher profile organizations of its type, but I’m sure there are still things you do along with your events, advertising.  What things do you do to raise awareness about the organization?
Rich Avanzino: Well, as I mentioned earlier, we’re part of the Shelter Pet Project along with HSUS, and the Ad Council.  This, like I said, has the potential to offer $200 million in free advertising for a companion animal looking for a home.  We get a local recognition for that campaign, but this is really not about acknowledging Maddie’s Fund.  This is really about saving animal lives.  And even though we give out millions of dollars in community like in New York, we’re giving out $28 million in Los Angeles because they have 105 organizations working together.  And we want the recognition going to the grassroots groups.
Rufino Cabang: Right.
Rich Avanzino: That are basically doing the job.  And while many of these grassroots organizations give thanks to Maddie’s Fund and will mention it in their newsletter or sometimes when they’re promoting an event will also have our logo on it, the real emphasis, the real purpose of the Maddie organization is to bring attention to the organizations that are doing the job.  And that’s not us.  We’re funding them.
Rufino Cabang: Right.  Yes.
Rich Avanzino: But the organizations that are doing the heavy lifting are the ones that deserve the lion’s share of the credit, and they’re the ones that should be promoted and acknowledged, and have the publicity to get more funding and volunteers and foster parents.
Rufino Cabang: So have you seen or experienced a rescue or any situation that has particularly moved you throughout all this?  I’m sure there are many, but is there one you can ––
Rich Avanzino: Oh, there are, and it just keeps on getting better and better. Yeah, one of the groups, there’s really just an awful lot, too many to mention in the amount of time we have here. But Erie County New York. Not only are they saving all their healthy animals, but now they’re working on a three-year plan to basically save all of the injured and ill, and poorly behaved animals.

And during a recessionary time when the challenges are the greatest, you know, when animals are coming in from people who are without jobs or without homes, they’re not only meeting their goals, they’re exceeding their goals. And this is true with every one of our funded projects. Even with the recession, which is the worst in the country that we’ve ever faced. Even in these most troubling of troubled times they’re adopting out more animals and killing far fewer, and basically exceeding their goals because they’ve mobilized their community to basically get behind their life-saving work.

And the American people, when given a chance, when they understand the stories, when they basically have the opportunity to get involved, they’re the ones that basically help in our life-saving mission and basically accomplish the job of guaranteeing these dogs and cats homes.

Rufino Cabang: Right.  And a lot of it is a matter of sharing those stories that really get people’s attention
Rich Avanzino: Exactly. And programs like yours, Rufino Cabang , you know, where we can get the word out, where people can look to examples. You know, you mentioned our website. We have all the organizations that we support there. We try to pull out the best practices.

So it’s not just for the organizations that’s getting our money, but the stories that they tell and the programs that they offer, and the successes that they benefit from are being able to be shared worldwide because of the benefit of the internet.

Rufino Cabang: Great. Exactly. And we’re happy to do it because it is a worldwide effort that we’re a part of. And do you have pets of your own?
Rich Avanzino: I do.  Yes.  I have a Maine Coon cat, and a yellow Lab.
Rufino Cabang: Oh, wonderful.  Dog and cat.  So they can coexist.
Rich Avanzino: And they do coexist.  Sometimes more friendlier than others, but yes.  Actually the Maine Coon is only a recent addition in the last thirty days.
Rufino Cabang: Oh.
Rich Avanzino: So we’re still going through the adjustment period, but the relationship is growing.
Rufino Cabang: Has the dog lived with a cat before, or is it all new?
Rich Avanzino: It’s all new.
Rufino Cabang: Oh.  Wow.  That’s great.
Rich Avanzino Well, I say it’s all new.  The dog came from rescue.  The dog was on the street in Bakersfield.
Rufino Cabang: Right.
Rich Avanzino: And I don’t really have any history on what the dog’s experience was before it was adopted, but it’s new for us.
Rufino Cabang: Exactly.  I feel the same way about my dog.  I have no idea where he’s been or where he came from.  I’m just glad I have him.
Rich Avanzino: But every day is a learning experience, and it just brings so much joy and fun into your life.  And it’s an adventure, but one that provides an awful lot of happiness.
Rufino Cabang: Oh, absolutely.  And are there any other websites or pet-related links that you’d like to recommend to the people out there?
Rich Avanzino: Well, I’m glad you mentioned the Shelter Pet Project.
Rufino Cabang: Yes.
Rich Avanzino: At ShelterPetProject.org that’s very, very good. I think some of the other national organizations are doing some great work. You know, Best Friends Sanctuary. HSUS has a very robust site. ASPCA has a very robust site. And the universities, the ones that are part of the Shelter Medical. The University of Florida has some great information, and particularly about medical care and behavioral help for companion animals. Iowa State University. Cornell.

Actually the amount of information that’s out there is phenomenal, but it usually has to be fine tuned to the kind of problem that people are looking to solve, and therefore, search engines are probably the most helpful way of doing that.

Rufino Cabang: Yes.
Rich Avanzino: Much of the national organizations also talk about their projects and their programs, but there is also some hands-on care stuff there for the individual pet owners, so they can find out you know, what to do on very, very hot days with their pet to make sure that they don’t get overheated, or what adoption events are coming up and that kind of stuff.
Rufino Cabang: Right.  Finally, I just want to say Rich, you have been so helpful, and we thank you so much for all the information you’ve given us today.
Rich Avanzino: Well, you’ve been great, and I really appreciate the opportunity to share some time with you, Rufino, and I want to compliment and congratulate you on your great program.
Rufino Cabang: Thank you.  Thank you.  And we thank you for your work – not just sharing time with us, but for all the animals and the people who care about them.  You have a terrific rest of the day.
Rich Avanzino: You, too.
Rufino Cabang: Alright.  Thank you.
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