Webinar presenter Dr. Josh Fisher answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Enhancing Your Managed Intake. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: So, Josh, you talked about scheduling appointments to do a lot of these basic services at an agency. Have you ever had citizens or people, community members complain about having to wait to make an appointment to do certain things? And if so, how did you handle that?
Dr. Josh Fisher: We definitely have when we switched, especially our owner-surrender intake procedures when we switched to an appointment-based system from that, we actually phased ours. We went from a reduction in days, so we were only doing it on Sundays and Wednesdays for four hours each day, taking owner-surrenders to strictly appointment based. The way that we handled it was to have a conversation with every single person and explain the justification for it. We made sure that they understood that this was what was best for the agency but also their pet because it allowed us to provide one-on-one care to the animal coming in. We always made sure that they understood that if the animal was sick or injured or truly dangerous, there was no expectation of waiting. We would take the animals immediately in those situations. But, if it was just an owner that was moving or something along those lines, the animal was expected to wait until their appointment to come into the system. We always offered additional resources. So, we offered to do courtesy posts on our website and on our social media to try to help them rehome it directly and other opportunities like that. So, trying to kind of help them help themselves.
Audience Question: Do you have a lot of people who take you up on that opportunity to post on your social media pages… that a dog is available to? Have you had a lot of people take you up on that?
Dr. Josh Fisher: We do. We are actually very fortunate in the Charlotte community because we have several social media pages like dogs of Charlotte and the different dog bar organizations that are scattered throughout the city to keep an eye on our page for that kind of thing and then they will share them as well. So, it kind of creates almost a ripple effect of the message getting out there.
Audience Question: Is there any industry benchmarking source? So, where all of the different agencies throughout the US share their statistics so that You can always compare how your community is doing against other, similar communities?
Dr. Josh Fisher: Sure, so there are a couple of different things out there right now. One is the Shelter Animals Count website. So, if you look at that, you can break that down by state, community, and organization. You can also look at the Best Friends Animal Society Community Dashboard. So, they also do the same thing with theirs. I will candidly say from my experience, shelter animals count tends to have a little bit more data because a lot of the national granting agencies have moved to requiring your agency to provide your data to shelter animals count in order to be eligible to apply for grants. The Best Friends are predominantly network partners of theirs. Still a lot of really good information. They have done a great job of doing public information requests to try to get that information. But most of theirs is the previous year. So, I believe their community dashboard that is available right now is based on 2019 data whereas the shelter animals count data is supposed to be updated monthly by the organizations that are participating. I know that for the grant cycles from a couple of the different national granting agencies that just opened, their grant cycles are requiring all agencies that are going to be applying’s data to be current through August of 2020.
Audience Question: You mentioned you have 80 people. Is that staff? Are those volunteers? What’s that mix look like?
Dr. Josh Fisher: That’s the staff. We have 80 staff members. We are a pretty large organization as far as personnel goes here but we do have 80 staff members. Which can sound a little bit misleading, I think, in some ways, we are an agency that has staff on 24 hours a day. That’s a part of just part of being under the police department. We are expected to be available 24/7, 365. So, in order to meet that, we do have to have larger numbers than some agencies that are able to close and stop running calls for service at a certain time. That is the piece of that. The 80 that we have are staff members.
Audience Question: Then how many volunteers do you have?
Dr. Josh Fisher: We have, it’s either, I think it’s 457 active volunteers. Those are the active ones that are actually contributing hours. We have a mandate that anyone who volunteers for us, in order to stay active, they have to put in four hours per month of volunteer time.
Audience Question: And so, you mentioned that you had people with you for 20 years. How are you finding new ways and I know I don’t want to give away the December presentation, but what are some ways that you’re consistently bringing in new people into the agency?
Dr. Josh Fisher: Sure, so a big way that we look at recruitment are breaking down recruitment requirements as much as possible. So, we really try hard not to bar ourselves from getting people in, especially into some of our entry-level jobs, so animal control officers, animal care attendants. Our animal health team is a little bit more strenuous, as far as an application process, simply because we do need them to have some medical background. But the jobs that we’re going to train you from the ground up, we totally understand that sometimes it’s better for us if you don’t come with any preconceived notions, right? Then we can try it ——– things. So really what we have started doing, what we’ve started looking for is we’re looking for work ethic. We’re looking for a desire to be here. We’re looking for, you know, what Is your five-year goal, and is it something that we can help you achieve? That doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be here. You know, we have some people who come in, and they’re like, look. I’m going to come in as an animal control officer, I want to get in shape and go to the Academy in three years. Okay. Let’s help you.
Audience Question: That is really cool. Thank you. That’s a really great philosophy. I would imagine it opens you up to all kinds of folks whether it’s upper levels of high school or even college students to be able to reach into those populations where they may not know where they want to be in 2 or 3 years.
Dr. Josh Fisher: Right. It’s great for that and one of the things that I find most exciting about it is we’ve got people coming in that, you know, this seems like an ‘OK job.’ The Majority of the people who have been here 20 or more years only intended to be here for 3 to 5 and they fell in love with the work.
Audience Question: You talked about the next step of understanding the gaps or bridge assistance that a community might need to prevent relinquishments. What are the most common reasons those gaps in the community that you’ve seen that maybe agencies overlook, especially as we’re thinking about our communities that are struggling right now, between COVID and the economy? What are some of those gaps that maybe agencies might need to take a quick step back and take a look and make sure that their communities have those gaps services in place?
Dr. Josh Fisher: Sure. So, one of the biggest that we hear about is the affordable veterinary care because there are, across the country, there are a lot of veterinary care deserts. In every state, there are areas just geographically that those low-cost spay/neuter, low-cost wellness services just simply aren’t available. In some of those, even the full price services aren’t available. There’s just not veterinary care in those areas. So, that’s one piece that can be a little bit challenging to overcome. Something that we had some really good success with is looking at it as a true community issue and finding ways that we can involve multiple jurisdictions, multiple agencies in, and have everybody come together because if you’ve got five agencies within a three-county radius kind of thing and you can find a central point and each agency can kick in a fifth of the expense. Then you’re looking at the true potential for bringing somebody or attracting somebody to come work in that environment. The pieces that fall after that, I think, are the landlord issues, right? So, looking at breed restrictions and what your community’s government-assisted housing restrictions are because that’s one of the easiest things to start with, right? Have a conversation with the organization that oversees that in your community and try to get information on where they’re coming from as to why those restrictions are in place and see if there’s anything that you can do or offer to help curb some of those. I know some of the things that we have done is to offer on our behavior and training team as a resource for people who are in those, who are utilizing that housing. So, if they do pick — that housing and they do start to experience some kind of behavioral issue, they have access to get help with that rather than just automatically saying your dog barks too much. It can’t stay here. You know, your dog’s going to be mean and attack other dogs. It can’t stay here, you know. Let us provide some assurances that we’re going to help work through those problems.
Audience Question: Going back to your ideas around veterinary care and finding affordable veterinary care and such, have you had any experience with partnering with veterinary schools or vet tech programs to be able to create programs for the students to get experience but at the same time, you meet the needs of the community. Have you seen that done?
Dr. Josh Fisher: Absolutely. So, one of the things that I think is super important to remember is that the federal government actually does offer some loan forgiveness for government and non-profit employment. So, when you are attracting a veterinarian who is coming out of school with as much debt as a medical doctor, you know, it can be very attractive for them to come work for a non-profit or a government agency for several years, in order to reduce the amount of money they’re going to have to pay back on those student loans. Another piece of that that we’re extremely successful with is the tech programs because they have to do externship hours, and so getting them to help as far as providing additional infrastructure within your organizations. And the same thing with the vet programs, but it’s a little bit more detailed to get an externship setup for those because you do have to have a veterinarian who can provide oversight to the veterinary student. Whereas, with the tech programs, it’s a little easier because you just need a technician that can have oversight.
Audience Question: Final question of the day goes to Shannon and Shannon was hoping you could go into some detail about how to set up a pet food bank. So, if you can kind of walk us through those pieces and parts of how to get a program set up.
Dr. Josh Fisher: Absolutely, so ours is a little bit different because ours is a walk-in food bank. We have a community partner that does do deliveries but ours is focused on the walk-In clientele. The way that we have that ours up is that we work with a variety of grocery stores, pet food stores, different groups within the community that are giving, donating to us their short-dated food, and we use that in our pet food bank. We also will have community members whose kids hold birthday parties and ask for donations. Generally speaking, we ask that they bring in food over treats because the food is what helps to supply the food bank rather than the treats helping with enrichment. We still need treats, but we can make a bag of treats go a lot further than we can a single bag of food. Then it’s involving some of our local partners, as far as veterinary practices, as well. So, for example, VCA Animal Hospitals has been a phenomenal partner of ours and they donate a large number of small bags of food to us every month. I mean, that’s something that they, being a corporation, actually have written into their corporate policies is that each of their hospitals gets to do that. So, really just identifying what’s out there and then different communities do it differently. Some communities require proof of need. So, you know, maybe it’s a WIC card, maybe it is some other form of a bill for low-income housing, something along those lines. As we do, if you walk into our organization and say, look, I need a bag of food, we give you a bag of food. I just don’t feel like if you are taking it upon yourself to walk in and say, look, I’m down on my luck, and I need this. We do still take their information because if they become repeat customers, shall we say, we ask some additional probing questions because we aren’t just here as to where you should be getting your food but we’re here to bridge those gaps.
Audience Question: Have you had any luck working directly with the pet stores on getting additional pet supplies?
Dr. Josh Fisher: Yes. We have. We have some amazing pet store partners and they have and I’m sure you’ve seen them at the pet stores that you have gone to Shannon where they have, you know, a little item up at the register and they’re like, oh, would you like to donate one of these to the local shelter? We get a lot of canned food that way because that’s something that really needs to have sitting there. And so, they will just kind of have the cans sitting there. They’ll scan it. At the end of the day, they run a report of how many of those were donated and they go pull that many and put them in a basket for us to pick up. So, it’s fantastic.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Enhancing Your Managed Intake.