By: Sarah Javier | October 3, 2019
Based on respectful and compassionate care of animals, the APA is committed to a socially conscious framework, which allows us to more fully understand and define our role in creating the best, most appropriate outcomes for all pets in our community, not just those who enter our doors. It is finding a place for every healthy, treatable and community compatible animal. It is supporting pets throughout our community by providing access to high quality, affordable veterinary care. It is transparency. It is collaboration. It is thoughtful policy making. It is creating a safe community for all who live here.
Everything we do, every decision made, supports this framework.
There are eight core tenets of a socially conscious animal community. They are:
1. Place every healthy and community-compatible animal. Every single one. At the APA, this means the needs of each animal are assessed individually. Healthy animals are defined as either having no signs of disease, or if disease is present, that it will not prevent the animal from having a comfortable life, as determined by our veterinarians. Community-compatible means that the animal has not shown signs of behavior that will likely result in severe injury or death to another animal or person. Community-compatibility is determined through multiple best-practice assessment methods.
2. Ensure every unwanted or homeless pet has a safe place to go for shelter and care. We believe that every animal should have the opportunity to be nurtured, healed, and placed in a loving home. This is why our doors are open to every animal, no matter their age or condition. We believe it is unacceptable to turn animals away because they are old, sick, or lack of space.
3. Assess the medical and behavioral needs of homeless animals to ensure these needs are thoughtfully addressed. When an animal arrives at the APA, we individually assess for disease, injury, and other treatable medical conditions and provide the appropriate care required. We never allow an animal to suffer. Each animal also receives a behavior assessment, which helps determine how we meet their behavior and emotional needs through enrichment and socialization.
4. Align shelter policy with the needs of the community. At the APA, we continually assess and align our work to meet the needs of animals in our community. This can be seen in the launch of our trap-neuter-release program for community cats, our Pet Partners program which provides resources for pets in low-income communities, our SafeCare program which provides temporary care for pets of victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking, as well as our Heads-to-Tails Hope Fund which provides needs-based veterinary care assistance to pets of individuals in our community.
5. Alleviate suffering and make appropriate euthanasia decisions. Compassionate euthanasia is a gift. We do not believe it is ever appropriate to let an animal suffer when a compassionate euthanasia decision can ease their pain. We also do not believe it is acceptable to warehouse a dangerous animal when it is known that they cannot be safely placed in the community. Animals need human connection and enrichment to thrive, which cannot be provided when limited to living in a cage for years with little interaction. To do this creates suffering. Each euthanasia decision is difficult and involves multiple professionals who consider the welfare of each individual animal and unanimously agree that euthanasia is the only humane option available.
6. Enhance the human-animal bond through safe placements and post-adoption support. We understand that integrating a new pet into a home is both exciting and challenging. At the APA, we believe we have a responsibility to support each new family after adoption. To do this, we follow up each adoption with a phone call to see how the pet is adjusting, answer questions, provide training resources and referrals, address shelter-related medical needs, and always offer the option to bring an animal back to the APA if the pet and family are not a good fit. This also means we do not place animals who are not community-compatible into homes where they may cause severe injury to children, other pets, or other people. When we can address behavior issues through adoption requirements (e.g., requiring that the pet be placed in a home with no young children), we do.
7. Consider the health, wellness and safety of animals for each community when transferring animals. Each year, we save over 2,000 lives by transferring dogs and cats to the APA from communities that do not have people actively seeking to adopt them. This life-saving program brings with it a tremendous amount of responsibility. It is a responsibility to the animals already living in our community, as we do not want to bring in disease or illness that may make them sick. It is a responsibility to our community, as we want to ensure we are only bringing in pets who are safe. And, finally, there is a responsibility to the community from which we are transferring to understand and support the efforts they are making in animal welfare, often with limited resources.
8. Foster a culture of transparency, ethical decision-making, mutual respect, continual learning and collaboration. At the APA, we are fully committed to transparency. We report and openly share accurate statistics and policies. We open our doors to those who want to learn more, providing tours and explaining our protocols to anyone who asks, at any time. We take accountability when mistakes are made and work quickly to correct them. Integrity is at the root of every decision. We are innovative and forward-thinking, and work collaboratively with animal welfare partners across the industry to solve common problems. We understand that no matter how an organization defines themselves, we are ultimately working towards the same goal – the best outcome for all animals.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into the socially conscious framework. It can be challenging – but it’s worth it for the people and pets in the communities we serve.
Thanks for your reading, and for your interest in the APA.
By: Sarah Javier | October 3, 2019
Rarely does one data point accurately measure what success looks like.
Because St. Louis is a baseball town, think about this – when considering the effectiveness of a player, what if the St. Louis Cardinals only measured the number of times a player hit the ball when stepping up to the plate, ignoring everything else. If only looking at one data point, hitting, I suspect the overall success of the team would suffer. The players wouldn’t work to improve in any other area, such as fielding, because there would only be an incentive to play to the metric that is valued by management, even at the expense of the team.
Fortunately for St. Louis fans, the Cardinals look at far more than hitting when assembling and managing a team. They look at a player’s on-base percentage, field performance, and other elements that indicate the total value a player brings to the team. When measuring what defines success, you manage to numerous metrics. This is why the metrics you choose matter.
The same holds true in other industries, including animal welfare.
At the APA Adoption Center, we believe every adoptable pet should have a safe, loving home of their own. Everything we do, every decision made, supports this vision. This is what success looks like to us. To determine whether or not we are achieving this goal, we utilize many different metrics – number of adoptions, number of pets we helped keep in their homes, number of pets able to access high quality vet care through our low-cost wellness services, number of lost pets reunited with their families…you get the idea. We use a lot of metrics because we know this work is about saving and improving lives, and the impact of something so significant and complex can’t simply be measured with a ‘numbers in, numbers out’ approach.
We also believe we have a responsibility to balance our commitment to animals with our commitment to the St. Louis community. For this reason, the APA is committed to being a socially conscious animal welfare organization. This means our focus is to consider the individual lives impacted through the totality of our programming, both animal and human.
The concept of socially conscious animal sheltering originated in Colorado in response to the confusion, divisiveness, and limitations of the no-kill philosophy in animal sheltering, which uses a single data point – a 90% or above live-release rate (‘numbers in, numbers out’) – to define success. Based on respectful and compassionate care of animals, the socially conscious framework allows us to more fully understand and define our role in creating the best, most appropriate outcomes for all pets in our community, not just those who enter our doors. It is finding a place for every healthy, treatable and community compatible animal. It is supporting pets throughout our community by providing access to high quality, affordable veterinary care. It is transparency. It is collaboration. It is thoughtful policy making. It is creating a safe community for all who live here.
The eight core tenets of a socially conscious animal community are to:
- Place every healthy and community-compatible animal.
- Ensure every unwanted or homeless pet has a safe place to go for shelter and care.
- Assess the medical and behavioral needs of homeless animals to ensure these needs are thoughtfully addressed.
- Align shelter policy with the needs of the community.
- Alleviate suffering and make appropriate euthanasia decisions.
- Enhance the human-animal bond through safe placements and post-adoption support.
- Consider the health, wellness and safety of animals for each community when transferring animals.
- Foster a culture of transparency, ethical decision-making, mutual respect, continual learning and collaboration.
At the APA, we support compassionate, responsible, and humane care for every animal in our community, be it at the APA or elsewhere. We put these tenets into action in everything we do – through adoption programs that help nearly 4,000 pets find homes each year, low-cost wellness programs that help thousands of pets remain healthy, and through programs designed to help meet more specialized needs of our community, such as pets living in under-resourced communities or pets whose owners are leaving violent relationships. We do this because we care about the welfare of animals and believe this is the way to ensure the very best outcome for each.
Thanks for taking the time to learn about what we do at the APA!
By: Sarah Javier | February 1, 2019
The following testimonial is from APA foster volunteer, Debra Reed. In 2018, we helped nearly 4,000 pets find homes. This would not have been possible without volunteers like Debra. If you are interested in becoming a foster volunteer, please contact us at email@example.com.
After retiring I knew my first endeavor was to get a dog. I adopted a puppy named Daisy at an adoption event and she became my constant companion. However, if I needed to run errands or attend a function, she suffered from separation anxiety. I decided some canine companionship may help calm her while I was away. Rather than get another dog of my own, I volunteered to become a foster at the APA.
I brought home a couple of pups I was confident Daisy would be comfortable with when I left home. The rewards of having the pups to mentor significantly eased Daisy’s anxiety. It also helped me feel so much better! Besides the benefits it brought to Daisy, there is nothing better than puppy breath morning, noon and night!
The unconditional love I receive from my those innocent babies provides both utmost in joy and comic relief! I recommend to any animal lover fostering with the APA. I have cared for 16 puppies and two adult dogs going through heartworm treatment. All the supplies you need to be a foster are taken care of by APA – food, crates, bowls, you name it. All you need is tender loving care.
Daisy now has two APA sisters-Lily, a puppy she has so much fun with and Poppy, a shy and timid girl that stole our hearts. Because my experience with the foster program was so positive, I am now looking into the APA Petreach Program-where I can take my dogs to visit seniors citizens and children.
Thanks APA Foster Program-Best Year of my Life!!
– Debra Reed, APA foster volunteer
Foster volunteers are critical to the work we do at the APA Adoption Center. Foster volunteers help the most vulnerable pets – puppies, kittens and animals recovering from illness or injury – get a healthy start or second chance by providing them with love and care while they grow or recover.
We work hard to make fostering easy. As a foster volunteer, you will work with a dedicated foster coordinator to get everything you need to be successful — food, pet supplies, information and resources, as well as support. And, when the pets you are fostering are ready for adoption, you bring them back to the APA and we take care of that part – you don’t have to find them homes like many other places require (of course, we suspect many of your family and friends will want to adopt them when they see how great they are).
To learn more about fostering, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Sarah Javier | January 30, 2019
Details included in the story below were shared by Lynne Cox of Furry Hearts Rescue. Lynne and her team rescued the dogs who were then brought to the APA for medical care and a new start. This is their story.
Their lives started in a rural area North of Springfield in a small town called Greenfield. It was a rough beginning. On land situated out of view from the road, down a driveway, past overgrown weeds and debris, sat a run-down mobile home in various stages of decay. Also on the property were broken down kennels where dogs used to be kept for breeding, bits and pieces of the lives that used to live there and could not be saved remaining. Garbage and feces were everywhere. And on that property were six dogs struggling to survive – 3 adult males, 2 puppies, and 1 three-legged female who had been used for breeding.
The owner of the property had been arrested on drug charges and would not be returning. By default, the only remaining caretaker was an elderly and disabled woman who attempted to provide food and water, but was limited in what she could do to care for them. So, four incredible women from Furry Hearts Rescue went to work trapping the dogs with the intention of bringing them to the APA for much needed medical care and a new start.
It was rainy and cold with only a camper shell serving as shelter for the dogs. They were also scared and uncertain of the strangers who appeared on their 20 acres of land in an attempt to help them. The women, who knew the extreme winter temperatures would be rolling in within a day or two, were patient and committed to doing whatever was necessary to bring each dog to safety. Arming themselves with crates, rotisserie chickens, hot dogs and bologna – the types of treats that help hungry dogs overcome fear of strangers – they settled in for the long haul.
It took hours – MANY hours – but at last they succeeded. Lynne Cox, the leader of this rescue effort explains, “it was a harrowing, tiring, dirty, physically rough, wonderful day in rescue.”
Today the dogs are safe and sound at the APA. They are exhausted and scared, but not broken. Sometimes hope and trust just take a little bit of time and patience in order to surface.
Frank, one of the male dogs, has several cuts and sores on his swollen feet and requires the most medical care. On one of his feet, the bone is exposed around his toes and he is unable to walk. For now he is on antibiotics and pain medication, and as soon as possible he will receive additional medical attention to address any other needs he may have. The compassionate and dedicated staff don’t mind carrying this sweet boy from place to place, which is the only way he can get outside to go to the bathroom at this point.
Sally, the three-legged female, is cautiously beginning to trust and is learning to walk on a leash. She is heartworm positive, so we will begin treating her for this before making her available for adoption. Her demeanor is calm and sweet, and we can tell she has a lot of love to give but is just unsure how to do that. It will come with time.
Beans and Jessie, the two puppies, are quite afraid of this unfamiliar place and spend a lot of time huddled together in the corner of their kennel. Our kind and gentle staff and volunteers take things a little more slowly with these two, helping them get more comfortable. Again, time and patience work wonders.
Reagan and Walker, the remaining two males, are both gentle giants who have spent much of the time here sleeping. When you are accustomed to fending for yourself and braving the elements of the outdoors, a nice, warm, comfy bed has a way of calling you to sleep as much as you can. Reagan is heartworm positive, as well, so after he gets some rest we will begin treatment.
Overall, they are good. They came with a few medical conditions that require attention, but we are equipped to treat those things, giving them a long, healthy life. Thanks to the determination of their rescuers and the support and care of the APA, these dogs have an incredible future ahead. We are honored to have collaborated with Furry Hearts Rescue to make the next chapter of these dogs’ lives a happy one. Stay tuned for updates.
By: Sarah Javier | November 27, 2018
I will never forget the tiny kitten in the photo to the left. Her shallow breathing, faint meow and the way her frail, thin body felt in my hand is forever etched in my mind.
She came in with her siblings, all of them barely clinging to life. They were starving, but too weak to eat. The fleas that infested their tiny bodies were literally sucking the life out of them. As I coaxed her to swallow formula through a small syringe, I sang to her and encouraged her to fight. Her small body was limp as I attempted to warm her in a towel. Her outcome was uncertain and my heart hurt that I couldn’t do more.
Fast forward a couple of weeks — a playful, vibrant kitten ready to explore the world. Same kitten. She’s a fighter for sure, but she wouldn’t be here without the resources needed to help nurse her to health. This is what a donation made on Giving Tuesday can do.
The formula needed to provide her body with the necessary nourishment to grow and keep fighting? A few dollars. The special shampoo and medication needed to fight off the fleas that were causing her to be anemic? Less than a cup of coffee. Vaccinations to help her grow strong and healthy? Roughly $10. So you see, every donation makes a difference, and for some, it means the difference between life and death.
Every member of the APA team is grateful to do this work. Animals come to us for so many different reasons, and for every single one that enters our doors, we do all we can to ensure they are healthy and find safe, loving homes. Sometimes that takes a little bit more time, resources and love. Of course, we can’t do it without the help of a supportive community. Please donate. To the kitten above and so many others like her – cats, dogs, guinea pigs and bunnies alike – it matters.
To support the APA on Giving Tuesday, please make a secure online donation HERE. Thank you for making a difference.
– Sarah, Executive Director