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!

2017 Impact Report

By: | April 30, 2018

Wow, 2017 was purrtty great! The APA found loving, safe homes for 3,463 pets – our biggest year yet! This exciting feat would not have been possible without support from the community. Every furry, feathered and scale-y friend at the APA is beyond grateful for each adopter, donor and volunteer who helped us achieve success over the past year.

So, what did we accomplish? The answer is A LOT!

In 2017, our adoption program continued to grow thanks to our transfer program, which helps needy pets from across the state and country get a chance to be adopted.

Our education program also expanded its reach, engaging nearly 7,000 adults and children through our education and community programs, both inside and outside the adoption center.

Our wellness program continues to offer low-cost veterinary care to families that need it and our Hope Fund underwrote the medical expenses of 65 special needs pets.

The claws and effect of support from the community can be seen across our pillar programs, but also in the innovative approach to our mission. From launching the Senior Saviors foster program, which brings foster puppies and kittens to senior living communities to our “pop-up” playdates across the St. Louis region, we brought people and pets together in some unexpected and exciting new ways this year. We also piloted a new anti-bullying program for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders in two local elementary schools, which garnered rave reviews. For our adult friends, we welcomed Yoga+Cats, which provided opportunities for people to enhance their wellness efforts with the help of our feline yoga assistants.

Whether it is adopting a pet, volunteering time or making a donation, the St. Louis community and the support they provide are pawsitively wonderful. This support makes an impact not only on the lives of pets, but people too.

To learn more about the successes of 2017, please check out our full impact report.

Nominate Fido for Canine King & Queen

By: | September 7, 2017

It is a prestigious and rare honor to be nominated for the APA’s Canine King and Queen at our annual Canine Carnival. And it’s a tough job to do the nominating with 2,500+ adoptions happening at our Adoption Center each year. Not to mention we’ve been around for almost 100 years. Do the math…that’s a lot of dogs to pick from!

So, we had a brilliant idea! Why not let someone else do the nominating, that way we ensure not one dog is left behind! (That’s what we are all about here, isn’t it?!) This year’s King and Queen nominations for Canine Court are up to YOU! Anyone can nominate any dog! It can be your dog, a friend’s dog, a neighbor’s dog. Any breed. Any age. From anywhere. We don’t want to leave anyone out.

CJ

You can nominate your favorite canine companion HERE. Once a dog is nominated, people will vote for who they think should be this year’s King & Queen on our website. Each dog will receive its own webpage with an individual link to share with their pack for easily accessible voting.

Voting is simple and it will also help homeless pets at the Adoption Center. One vote = $1. Voting will begin on September 9th, so stay tuned!

Dallas

Voting is open from September 9th until September 22nd when the finalists are paired down to the 4 males and 4 females with the most votes. Finalist voting will then continue through 12:00pm on September 29th, though votes will no longer be publicly posted. The Grand Prize winners, Canine King and Queen, will be revealed on Sunday, October 1st at Canine Carnival. (P.S. Get your Carnival tickets HERE so you don’t miss the fun!)

Spread the word and best of luck to all of the nominees!

Puppies with a Purpose

By: | July 6, 2017

By Allison Babka for Ladue News

Sarah Javier, president and executive director of the Animal Protective Association (APA) of Missouri Adoption Center in Brentwood, didn’t intend for people to earn nicknames through the APA’s new puppy-cuddling program for seniors. But one woman took to her role so well that a moniker instantly became obvious: “The Dog Whisperer.”

“She holds the puppies, and they just fall asleep in her arms,” Javier says with a laugh. “And she’s just as sweet as she can be.”

Javier says there are plenty more seniors who are enjoying doggie kisses at Stonecrest at Clayton View in Richmond Heights, the site of the APA’s pilot foster program for older residents. Facilities around the St. Louis area already welcome animals for visits through the nonprofit’s PetReach effort, but there’s one key difference at Stonecrest – the puppies get to stay for slumber parties that sometimes last for weeks.

“We sort of took the idea from PetReach, where we were already going into these communities, and decided to build on an existing and wonderful partnership with these senior communities,” Javier says. “And the senior fostering program was born!”

The puppies that the nonprofit brings for the Stonecrest elders to foster are only a few weeks old, and Javier says that it’s a crucial time for the younglings. By living at the facility with the seniors, the dogs learn to socialize and can build up their immune systems. Once they’re older and healthier, the APA brings them back to the home office to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and put up for permanent adoption. To date, Stonecrest has fostered three different pairs of puppies. The APA appoints a foster coordinator and provides all of the dog food – Best puppy food (we recommend), bowls, collars and other essentials to Stonecrest, but the seniors are responsible for perhaps the most important thing: love.

“When many of the older folks enter a senior living facility, they often have to leave their pets behind, and that can be very difficult,” Javier says. “So it gives them tremendous joy to be able to interact through the foster program. Some of them have said that they interact with [the pups] every opportunity they get!”

And boy, do they interact. Javier says that residents play and cuddle with the puppies in common areas or outside, “checking out” a dog like a library book. Assistants keep track of the pairs and help with cleanup duties. Seeing the bonds that the seniors make with their new furry friends is heartwarming, and though the program just debuted in April, Javier already has plenty of stories.

“One gentleman was sharing how he always had animals growing up as a boy, and this really took him back to his childhood and made him feel young again,” Javier says. “He said that he and his wife spend every moment that they can get with the puppies.

“Another woman is not very verbal, but I know what I witnessed when she held the puppies,” Javier continues. “The joy on her face was unmistakable. You didn’t need words to see how meaningful it was and how important this was to her.”

But puppy love isn’t the only thing the seniors are getting out of the APA’s partnership with Stonecrest. Studies have shown that animals can be therapeutic for humans, bringing a healing comfort to those with difficult medical needs. Interacting also keeps residents’ joints limber and often brings reserved folks out of their rooms to socialize more frequently.

“It’s good for helping their cardiac health because it gets them up and moving, walking around with the puppy. It’s also good for their arthritis because they have the movement of their hands when they’re petting or brushing the animal,” says Javier, whose professional background includes work in pediatrics and mental health. “Moreover, it helps with their mental health and their awareness, giving them a purpose for getting up in the morning and feeling like they have someone to take care of. It’s very beneficial.”

Javier says that the residential program has been a win for the APA. At its adoption center, the nonprofit organization already has seen more than 600 puppies come through for adoption in 2017, and it receives an influx of animals during the warmer months, so building its program with Stonecrest has been helpful.

“Having fosters is always a need, and the senior living facilities were the perfect fit for that,” Javier says. “So we started the conversation, and people were very interested in doing it. It has been so wonderful.”

The APA hopes to add kittens to the senior foster mix soon, plus Javier says that once employees fine-tune details, they’ll be expanding the residential program to other facilities. “We’re currently doing orientation with two additional facilities, both of which are almost ready to receive their puppies or kittens,” Javier says.

“We’ve had another facility that just decided to adopt a dog for their residents, and that dog is very spoiled,” Javier says with a laugh. “We recently started reaching out to our other partners, and many of them are very interested in doing this. Our hope is that we can get fostering into every facility because it’s such a win-win and such a wonderful thing.”

Volunteers and foster pet parents are the lifeblood of the APA, Javier says, and that’s what will bring the nonprofit closer to her dream scenario of every adoptable animal having a safe and loving home.

“We know that we need help from the community, we need help from volunteers, and we need help from people willing to open up their homes and their hearts to foster these animals until they can get to their forever homes,” Javier says. “We also know that for the senior living residents, it brings so much purpose and joy to their lives, so we’re really helping people and pets at the same time.

“And that’s what we’re really all about – our mission is to bring people and pets together. This program is helping us achieve our mission in an innovative way. It’s meaningful.”