Socially Conscious Animal Sheltering at the APA

By: | 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.

Socially Conscious Animal Sheltering: What It Means To Our Community

By: | 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:

  1. Place every healthy and community-compatible animal.
  2. Ensure every unwanted or homeless pet has a safe place to go for shelter and care.
  3. Assess the medical and behavioral needs of homeless animals to ensure these needs are thoughtfully addressed.
  4. Align shelter policy with the needs of the community.
  5. Alleviate suffering and make appropriate euthanasia decisions.
  6. Enhance the human-animal bond through safe placements and post-adoption support.
  7. Consider the health, wellness and safety of animals for each community when transferring animals.
  8. 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.

Learn more about the ways the APA puts the tenets of socially conscious animal sheltering into action.

Thanks for taking the time to learn about what we do at the APA!

Thoughts on the Wording That Both Inspires and Divides

By: | July 24, 2018

We recently shared the TedX talk below with our employees. In response, one of our staff members, Edward Burch, penned the following thoughts when sharing the video with his friends. We were so moved, we felt it was worth sharing here.

By our stats, we could probably call ourselves “no kill.” But we don’t. For many of the reasons outlined here. I agree that the term is divisive as well as misleading.

I’m proud that our live placement rates are very high, and that those numbers are up from last year at this time. And it’s because of the committed work of our phenomenal staff.

We’re open admission, which means we’ll make room when other places say they’re full—even when we are also full. We do our best for every animal who comes under our care. Most of them find homes very quickly; some take a bit longer. And we never euthanize for space. We commit ourselves to finding a home for every adoptable animal.

Like the speaker, I am grateful for the progress of the past quarter century that has saved millions of animals thanks to the advocacy of the no-kill movement.

The optimist in me says we will continue to progress in saving animals at higher rates. The pessimist knows that the cruelties of the world ensure that my work, my vocation of finding homes for animals is in no danger of being rendered obsolete.

I’d love for us to be so successful that we put ourselves out of a job. I don’t think it will ever happen, but I’ll do my damnedest to make us so good at what we do that I have to start polishing my resume because the shelters are empty.

4th of July Pet Safety Tips

By: | July 1, 2015

Scary sounds and flashes of light send some animals bolting out the door or over a fence on the 4th of July. The APA Adoption Center sees an influx of stray animals after the holiday. Keep your furry friends safe during the celebrations with these tips.

  • Leave your dog at home when you attend celebrations with fireworks. Don’t expose your pet to the crackling noises and shrieking light displays- even pets who are normally calm tend to react differently to the commotion of the 4th.
  • Never leave your pet unattended outdoors when they go to use the bathroom. Even pets who typically stay in the yard are more prone to jumping fences to escape the frightening sounds.
  • Furthermore, do not chain up your pet outside. A frightened animal will try to run, which can lead to entanglement, injury, or even death.
  • Be sure your pet is wearing current identification. If your pet is microchipped, check that your address and phone number are up-to-date, and the same goes for the ID tags they wear on their collars. 4thjuly kitten
  • Keep your pets indoors that night. Give them a cool, dark room to find a safe place to go. If your dog likes his/her crate, drape a blanket over the top to give them a better sense of security in their “den.”
  • Some people find soft music or a television helps drown out the festivities and gives their pets peace.
  • Dr. Denise Dietsch, Director of the APA Veterinary Clinic, recommends trying pheromone sprays and diffusers, available at most pet stores, to calm frightened pets.  “Pheromones are natural chemicals produced by animals that trigger behavioral responses,” she explains. “In some cases, tranquilizers are the only thing that will help.  Pet owners should consult with their veterinarians to see if this is a possible treatment.”
  • Use caution when allowing your pets outside the next day. The powder discharged by fireworks can be toxic, so it’s best to avoid areas where they might come into contact with the residue.

Follow these tips, and your pets will thank you for giving them a “safe and sane” 4th of July. Happy Independence Day from your friends at the APA Adoption Center!

4thjulydog

Helping Victims of Domestic Violence and their Pets

By: | March 20, 2015

Escaping an abusive home is a brave but stressful and difficult decision. It is enough for a woman to worry about getting herself and children to safety; to have to consider pets’ safety, too, can make the move overwhelming. In fact, several studies show that somewhere between 25-40% of women delay their departure or stay with their abuser all together because they worry about what will happen to their pets when they go.

We have long known a behavioral link exists between animal abuse and human abuse: violent behavior toward animals often acts as a precursor to violence against people. Social scientists, abuse counselors and law enforcement refer to this cycle simply as “The Link.” In domestic abuse situations, some abusers harm the pets’ of their victims in order to intimidate or coerce them back into the relationship. Other times, pets are simple victims of abuse themselves.

DV-blog

Recently, bipartisan legislation was introduced in Washington that aims to assist victims of abuse and their pets. The Pet and Women Safety Act (PAWS Act) would establish a federal grant program that helps domestic violence shelters house both women and their companion animals. The APA strongly supports keeping people and pets together, especially during challenging, uncertain times. Women in abusive relationships are often made to feel isolated, scared and lonely. Their companion animals provide security, reliability and comfort during an especially challenging period. The proposed legislation would potentially benefit thousands of women one day, and we hope you will encourage your representative to cosponsor or support the PAWS Act and help keep families together.

Until the day when pets are able to stay with their people in safe places, the APA offers Domestic Violence Pet Assistance. This program fosters the pets of victims while they are in shelter and reunites them with their family once they are back on their feet. During that time, the APA provides all medical care, vaccinations, food and shelter at no cost to the family.

The APA has offered Domestic Violence Pet Assistance – the only safe harbor program for pets in the St. Louis region – since 1997. In that time, we have served hundreds of women and pets, and we see every day how important it is to provide protection and services for abuse victims and their animals. By fostering her pets while a woman is in shelter, we give her time to focus on herself and to regain her independence outside of a violent home. When the family is reunited afterward, it’s a happy ending for everyone.