No Closed Doors at Halifax Humane Society, an Open-Admission Shelter
The hard road to achieve lasting results for an entire community
April 28, 2015
Taking in EVERY pet, NO CLOSED DOORS.
Compliant to Florida law, HHS is proud to display our population statistics. HHS would also like to take a step further in explaining the difference between animal welfare non-profits. Each 501(c)(3) in animal welfare has its own mission, be it saving a specific breed, or challenging laws that allow for immoral animal trade. Rarely are two non-profits the same, as such they should be evaluated independently based on the complexity of the problem they address, the outreach and size of their programs, and their impact.
View Halifax Humane Society statistics.
HHS has one overarching vision, to create a set of programs that will end the number one killer of pets, displacement. At its core, HHS staff shares the belief that fingers should not be pointed, that not one shelter, not one person is responsible for the killing of pets. The displacement of animals is a social problem, and so long as it exists, the cause of death should matter as much as the source, otherwise history will continue to repeat itself. Our vision is not a "quick fix" to improve the numbers of our shelter in the short term, we aim instead to solve the long-term problems of our community as a whole.
Currently, HHS is changing history. In the past 7 years, HHS has made some magnificent changes to increase adoptions, keep pets in their original homes, change legislation, open pet-friendly homes, reduce behavior issues, address emergencies, educate children, and much more. The HHS Board, volunteers, and staff have done this while taking the hard road, accepting every animal that comes to their door.
Many organizations achieved "no-kill" status early by simply restricting intake, bringing red-rope policies to organizations that should be accepting the most difficult cases, not avoiding them. HHS feels that refusing to take in any animal will only confound and further hurt our mission, and the hundreds of thousands of pets that will be displaced in the future with nowhere else to go.
We are proud to show our constantly improving trends as we seek to uphold our mission of servicing every animal that comes to our door. Between our two clinics, HHS performs over 10,000 low cost pet sterilizations a year, our legislative programs are making Volusia County more pet-friendly than ever and our outlook to be a community that does not euthanize for space is closer than ever.
Some organizations claim to be “no-kill” due to a live-release rate (LRR) that is 90% or above. While in theory this is a commendable goal, it only speaks to outcomes, and does not look into the deeper issues at hand. LRR is simply a useful measure for organizations to self-assess their progress. While a 90% LRR may be easily achieved for a shelter full of highly adoptable animals, it can be far more difficult for an organization that accepts high numbers of feral cats and large-breed dogs. It is important to realize the impact animal welfare organizations within a community have on one another.
For example, one organization may decide to become “no-kill” by closing its doors to animal surrenders and disallowing intake of less adoptable animals. Through these policy changes, it now finds homes for 90 of the 100 animals (90% LRR) that it accepts, but turns away 1,000 animals in need. These animals now go to an open-admission shelter that accepts all animals. The open-admission shelter takes in 10,000 animals, including the sick, injured, aggressive, and elderly, and finds homes for 8,000 of them (80% LRR), while providing care to EVERY animal in need that enters its doors. It is easy to see that without complete data on the pets entering, it is impossible to draw accurate conclusions to assess outcomes.
That said, our efforts in recent years have made great strides. Adoptions have risen 20% over the past three years even with lower numbers of animals entering HHS. Animal transfers increased by 125% due to shelter/rescue networking efforts. 26% more animals are being returned to their original owners. For the first time in many years, intake is declining.
All of these efforts combined are resulting in HHS reaching our goal of responsibly increasing our Live Release Rate each year. We are on the right path of increasing from 41% in 2012 to 55% in 2014. Currently in the first quarter of 2015, we are at a record-breaking 71% LRR. Even if no other changes are made, the organization is on track to reach a 90% LRR by 2020 without refusing service to animals in need. While this improvement is a tremendous step in the right direction, we will continue working until every healthy, adoptable animal can find a home.
Since the opening of the Redinger Spay/Neuter Clinic in 2012, HHS has completed approximately 10,000 total surgeries per year, an increase of nearly 140% over previous efforts. Based on national estimates, the HHS spay/neuter program is reducing intake into local shelters by 3,500 cats and 3,000 dogs each year. Thanks to the support of local donors and grantors like PetSmart Charities and Florida Animal Friend, every one of these surgeries has been offered at an affordable rate, even free in some cases.
HHS has specifically targeted animal groups in greatest need of affordable, accessible spay/neuter opportunities. The "Primp Your Pit" and "Beat the Heat" promotions target pit bulls and female cats, respectively, two of the most overpopulated animal groups in our community. By making spay/neuter the easy choice for pet owners, we are making significant strides toward controlling the population and reducing intake into all local animal welfare organizations.
As the area's only open-admission shelter, HHS is typically the only organization that accepts feral cats. Feral cats may be the most difficult group for an animal shelter to assist. Quite simply, they do not thrive in the closed environment of a shelter, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to modify their behavior to be suitable house pets after they have spent their lives in the wild.
In its efforts to find solutions for all animals, HHS has embraced the TNR philosophy. TNR programs allow feral or community cats to be trapped, sterilized, and then released back into their natural environment. This keeps feral cats out of shelters, while also reducing colony size over time by limiting reproduction.
HHS has supported local municipalities in developing TNR programs throughout the area, using the Redinger Spay/Neuter Clinic, grant funding, and coordination with local rescue groups. To date, 10 of 17 local jurisdictions have approved TNR programs. At the current pace, the entire area will have adopted a TNR philosophy by 2017. This will significantly reduce, if not eliminate entirely, the euthanasia of feral cats in the future.
HHS follows proven trends with adoption techniques to increase positive outcomes. In 2012, HHS implemented the ASPCA's Meet Your Match program to assist each potential adopter in finding the right pet for their family and home environment. Adoption promotions like Cinco De Meow-O, Black Friday, and Festive Felines have found homes for huge numbers of animals. In addition, the HHS mobile adoption vehicle has enabled us to reach areas as far as Savannah for large adoption events. Our data shows that the percentage of adoptions compared to intake continues to rise each year.
These efforts also include working closely with our Foster and Transfer Partners. HHS transfers compared to intake efforts have nearly tripled since 2011. We work with local rescue organizations regularly, and have also transferred animals to and from HHS using other methods, even an airplane in some cases. Transfers have allowed HHS to offer a fresh start at our facility to animals that may be overcrowded elsewhere, or move our animals to other organizations that have the resources to find them homes.
HHS chooses not to shift responsibility elsewhere by closing its doors to animals considered less adoptable. Instead, we welcome all animals into our shelter and work to provide them with the best possible outcome. We also take a proactive approach to find answers for animals that keep them with their current family, instead of entering a shelter in the first place.
In 2012, HHS added a certified professional dog trainer to our staff as animal behavior manager. HHS now offers affordable dog training lessons in both group and one-on-one formats, and offers problem solving techniques for owners that may otherwise surrender their pet. Since 2012, a total of 535 dogs have been trained through this program.
HHS also uses its resources to avoid animal surrender when possible. Pet food has been provided to owners in need, as well as to local pet food banks. We network with veterinarians throughout the area to assist pet owners in finding quality, affordable medical care for pets in need.
In recent years, HHS has led efforts to make Volusia County a pet-friendly community; a place where our animals are celebrated. Our Yappy Hours are just one example of finding outlets for pet owners to enjoy experiences with their pet. Many area businesses now allow pets at outside seating or dining areas, eliminating the need to choose between going out or staying home with a pet.
Currently, HHS is in the process of adding the first non-profit owned, pet-centered rest and recreation area to our campus. Our location in a premier tourist destination, near two of the state's busiest highways, offers the perfect opportunity to serve hundreds of thousands of pet owners. Pets and their owners from near and far will enjoy a dedicated dog park area, walking trails, and the many services already available at HHS.
This year, HHS is taking its call center to the next level to aid pet owners and reduce intake. We will be compiling research that will allow us to recommend pet-friendly housing to pet owners on the move. We are also working with HOAs and residential communities to develop pet regulations that benefit both pet owners and residence owners and management.
HHS has put the programs in place to reach our goals of no healthy adoptable animal euthanized, we now need your help to complete the process and bring Volusia County to a no-kill community. We are not aiming for results that help one organization, instead we want to improve our community as a whole.
A project of this magnitude cannot be solved with the flip of a switch. The groundwork has been laid, and now the entire community must address underlying issues to achieve long-term success. A solution is needed for feral and community cats. Responsible pet ownership and spay/neuter for overpopulated breeds like pit bulls is a must.
Adopt your next pet, donate or volunteer your time to a local animal welfare organization, provide foster care for an animal in need of extra attention, spay and neuter your pets, and advocate for initiatives that support animals.