After the Webinar: Creating a Responsible Pet Owner Program. Q&A with the Presenters

Webinar presenters Dan DeSousa and Nick Lippincott answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Reducing Recidivism: Creating a Responsible Pet Ownership Program.  Here are just a few of their responses.


Audience Question: Earlier, you said any person who receives a citation is not allowed to adopt an animal from you for a year so that receiving the citation. Is that a conviction or a guilty plea? 

Nick Lippincott: It’s going to be paid so maybe they’ve pleaded out of it or they’ve been found at fault of it. If they’re found not guilty then they’re going to get past of that, most likely.



Audience Question: Our first question came in from Jennifer. She was wondering if a program like this or maybe an abbreviated version would be valuable for a local school? 

Nick Lippincott: I think we’re both going to exact same direction. Obviously, with little modification, I’d probably wouldn’t show some of the videos or some of the detail but I would say, without question, our crux in a lot of the things we do is based on community education and those go hand in hand with our children. When I said early, with people attending the class or moms and dads, they’re the ones who got the ticket they’re often excused as well as the kids’ pet. They’re the ones responsible taking care of it. I just got a ticket because I’m over 18. That is the case, it may not matter for citation but the kids are just as often need to be educated and for their benefit, so they can be good pet owners but also so they can be safe around other animals.

Dan DeSousa: For us in San Diego, we’ve had people say, can you provide us just to the general public and we’ve had done that on occasion. We get a pretty good feedback, So that could be anyone from – I think schools would be a good program. I know we have a program that we’re trying to relaunch about disaster preparedness in schools. A lot of times too no matter how much we talked about the laws on television or we print them up, a lot of our society nowadays doesn’t speak English or doesn’t understand English. If we can get the information out to the kids and get it at home I think that would be definitely a positive, a good step in the right direction.




Audience Question: I think you might have just answered the next question both Elizabeth and Amy have asked it. Essentially, have folks that are not cited attend the RPO Program? 

Nick Lippincott: I’ll just say that too as well, for our RPO Program, we will allow people to accompany the person violation who is required to attend because it can be a family issue. It’s not always just one person who is responsible in a household for issues occurring. I have children in there sometimes who have to translate live for their parents through this course. It’s been a benefit, we rarely have an issue where somebody accompanies an individual who has caused any problems on our end.

Dan DeSousa: I agree this course should really be offered to the public. If we offer to the public, hopefully, they never get the first ticket that they receive from an agency in the future so an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is what I’m saying was I was trying to remember  a long time ago here, why not give it to the public in advance.



Audience Question: We’ve got several questions that have come in regarding how each of you went through the process of developing this program, getting it approved both by the courts as well as the city council. Samuel asks can you talk about the ordinances or other processes necessary for authorizing the responsible pet owner class.

Dan DeSousa: We had to have the buy-in from our board of supervisors. A, first and foremost, we’re charging a fee for that so the board has to approve it. But for us, it was very much collaborating with the district attorney’s office, getting their buy-in, the city attorney’s office saying, “Yeah, this is a program that we think will work and we’ll be effective”, and that’s how we got the courts to agree to it and even our board of supervisors.

Nick Lippincott: Pretty much the same situation for us. It just happened over a long period of time. I’ll mention that again on the handouts there, Dan was actually nice enough to provide, I think it was the initial proposal to your board for the program.

Dan DeSousa: I did, it’s a great resource, a cheat sheet in my opinion to get that setup.

Nick Lippincott: We did something very similar and I know that, to mention, only once we had this program in effect over a period of time initially was offered a free and it was modified to say there is a fee included and even more so an ordinance – eventually included to say it is now an offense in itself to not attend. So not only now can you get a citation result and you have to go to our course, you can get a citation from not attending a course you are previously assigned to which we’ve had to use multiple times in regard to -actually our dangerous dog issues.



Audience Question: Did either of you have to get the courts, the judiciary on board to support the program or was that kind of outside of it? 

Nick Lippincott: I would say you want pretty much everybody in the system to be onboard like you can go back to the design side of it, you want input from, either from magistrate, your judge whomever overseeing your cases to have feedback, to help guide you and what’s coming in front of them that they feel like is a problem and we would need to address with the citizenry through the development of the course.

Dan DeSousa: And in San Diego, I think we obviously provided information to the judges saying this is the program, this is what we think will benefit, not only you but the prosecutors in the case. We obviously need their buy-in because they’re going to be the ones deferring a sentence and making people go to this class. If they don’t understand the class they’re not going to recommend someone go to that so you have to get their buy-in. They have to have an understanding of what the course is going to be and what benefits it’s going to provide.

Nick Lippincott: And just to kind of put this in perspective. When I was going through the roadmaps section there, we talked about a mock class. That mock class when you’re implementing this course, you’ve ran it a couple of time, you feel comfortable with it before you brought it out there but before you bring in the public, send an invitation to the board, to the attorneys, to the judges. You may not get a couple of attendees but if you mix that in there with them, you’re selling that to them and they’re going to see first-hand those videos and it’s going to hit home for them and if it resonates with them they’re going to make sure that they recommend it because they know if it works on them, they’re going to know there’s something to get out of it.



Audience Question: Do you go over animal behavior and body language to help people understand their pets during these classes? 

Nick Lippincott: We do to a degree and ultimately the course itself is not a course in regard to training, “Hey, you should do this”, and “Here’s how to make sure your dog or cat or whatever animal you may own does x, y, z”. However, what we do talk briefly on bites, about animals getting loose,  we talk about aggression a lot, so with that being said, we will touch on it. I talk about aggression reasoning so I talk about territorial aggression, predatory, defensive issues and things like that. A lot about chaining. I think Dan that was actually in your presentation which you attached talking about his name is Murphy, the outdoor dog and the family dog that ties a lot the chaining issue too. The dog is so aggressive I would never take him off the chain. Well if you remove the ability to flee a situation your only option is to fight and we see that often on dogs on ties so we talk about how chaining and other ways of confining animals can change behavior of an animal as a whole.

Dan DeSousa: For San Diego, we do talk about behavior a little bit but what we really try to emphasize with that is how your dogs behave with you is different and how he’s going to behave with a stranger.  We don’t get into reading the body language too much. We do provide as Nick does, resources and we say, “Hey, there are people out there that are very good trainers”. We do not advocate for one style or another. We’re obviously not fans of negative reinforcement we prefer positive reinforcement for training but we do say there are people out there that can give you the training on how to read the dog’s body language. We actually go over that more when we do our bite prevention for kids and our bite prevention for our public service providers. In that session we talk a lot about: hey, this is what you need to look for when you approach a house. This is what you need to look at when the dog is approaching you, but you have to get that snapshot really fast.



Audience Question: Could both of you talk about how often do you hold your RPO Classes and what is the duration? How long do they go for? 

Nick Lippincott: I think San Diego is 3-hour course length and ours is 4 obviously, with good behavior in class participation sometimes it can go a little shorter or little longer. That time frame was actually in the layout and then, we’re hosting it on our end once a month on certain days. So it’s going to be on a Wednesday, middle of the week later in the evening so after work hours and we try to provide accessibility on there. Dan I think your structure’s a little bit different but not that much?

Dan DeSousa: In San Diego, our classes are 3 hours long. We alternate usually between the first Wednesday evening of the month then the first Saturday morning of the month. That way, there’s really no excuse for someone to say – Oh I can’t make it because I work. We’ve actually had one person say, “Listen, I can’t make either one of those sessions”, and we will sit them down with a lieutenant and have them go thru the presentation, obviously – since it’s one person we can go through it a little faster but for us it’s once a month, either the first Wednesday or the first Saturday and we now- we have 2 shelters. We’re actually starting to look at alternating between our shelter in the south and then our shelter in the north so we can make sure we’re getting everybody that we need to touch.



Audience Question: Do you provide instruction in languages other than English? 

Nick Lippincott: So when it comes to us for the actual presentation of the class, we stick to English. However, we do tell people they are required to call our facility beforehand we actually schedule the course and we provide literature on scheduling the course in English and Spanish and we’re actually finishing in Creole right now that we are going to be providing. However, when it comes to the course itself, they are told that if they need translation they are to bring somebody with them to translate. That’s how often we get children or their kid coming in and translating for whoever the attendee may be.

Dan DeSousa: For San Diego, would be the same but it does bring up a very good issue. Do we need to broaden up our horizons a little bit more to get to the members of the public that we really need to reach out to? But for us, ours is only English, they can bring someone that can translate for them.

Nick Lippincott: I just want to throw just one thing I hear as we kind of, on that side there, in regard to accessibility because it is very important. Most of us have requirements within the next 5 or so years to broaden accessibility expectations for what we provide in the community. we’ve always been good in Orange County about literature, pamphlets, things like that in English, Spanish and now Creole as well. However, there’s always the issue of getting that information so it makes sense to people. I have not seen the course itself but if we look at structure something traffic school those courses more and more are available in different formats live as well as some people have looked at things like online or mixed media where it is partially in person, partially online. There are lots of ideas out there to take this concept and improve on it greatly. I think in South Florida, I’ve done an online version of this course. I don’t like the ability for them not to be involved at all with an individual. I want people in my facility, I want people to have the ability to ask somebody head-on questions and get real results and answers but there is an opportunity there when we talk about accessibility to open that door. The ability for people to reach things like the internet or have computer access pre-translated courses, there are great programs out there that can broaden that accessibility to other individuals in the community who may not be fluent in English or may have a disability or something like that may limit them.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Reducing Recidivism: Creating a Responsible Pet Ownership Program.



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