Webinar presenter Dr. Josh Fisher answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Getting Started with Managed Intake. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: In my community, the most frequent reason is, “We’re moving,” or also popular is, “I just found this dog on the street”. We know that the owner is not telling the truth. So, how do we tell them what’s really going on with this animal?
Dr. Josh Fisher: So that is something that I think is faced fairly broadly. We hear moving a lot in our community, as well, because we are a college town. So, we do have a fairly transient younger population. But then so the moving piece is one that is baffling, and I wish I had a perfect answer for you. Your other question though, around owners, surrendering a ‘stray dog’ that they just found, and you know they’re not telling the truth. I think that one is one that in order to combat it starts with education, and them understanding that, A, at least in my community, by claiming that an animal is stray when it is not, they are mandating that animal go through a 72-hour stray hold, which wouldn’t be required if it was owner surrendered. So, if you do get the feeling that an animal is actually owned by the individual that’s brought it in. Whenever possible, try to articulate the benefits of them owner-surrendering. And those are situations that at least here in our organization, we’re very mindful of, and if they’re willing to go to the point of lying and saying that it is a stray animal, what it is in fact, their own pet. We would take that owner surrender immediately because we acknowledge that they’ve kind of found a ‘loophole’ in the system. We would just ask that they be truthful and sign the paperwork so that we can immediately move the animal through the system. It also gives the opportunity for enhanced conversations surrounding the behavior of that animal within a home and gives a better opportunity for gathering information though will help to place that animal moving forward. So, anyway that you can have those conversations and really kind of drive home the fact that A, it will expedite the process of placement for the animal, and B, it facilitates a conversation surrounding direct characteristics of that animal that will help to benefit the animal long-term. Hopefully, those are pieces that, you can just make it a conversation or try really hard not to make it combative. Try really hard to have it be a conversation. Like, “Are you sure? it really seems like you in this animal are bonded? It seems like you really know this animal. Is there any information that you can provide for us?” We also are very fortunate. We have a definition in the ordinance of owner or harborer within our community that states, and anyone who has been caring for housing or feeding an animal for 14 days. So as a way to kind of give them an out, we will throw that out there will be like, “You know, if you’ve been feeding it and taking care of it for 14 days, you actually would be considered the owner and could sign this form.” Then you can tell us more information about it, and we can go ahead and move it through the process. So that’s a way of kind of flipping it back and giving them an out of, “Oh, I didn’t realize I only had to be doing that for two weeks.” Because then they’re kind of able to take ownership of the animal without admitting that they were being false in the first place.
Audience Question: So, do you have any fees that are associated with owner surrenders?
Dr. Josh Fisher: We did not, until this year. We actually just put in place a $10 owner surrender fee and that is something that was put in place this year, as a kind of additional layer to allow us to support providing additional care for these animals. That is a fee that we made sure was discretionary on the part of our agency. So, if it’s a situation that we feel like it is going to be a true hardship on the community member, that is surrendering or a situation in which, for example, they have, you know, too many cats. And the best thing, for their health, is to reduce the number of cats in their home where we would not charge $10 per cat to get 20 of those cats into the facility. Because, ultimately, that’s the best thing for the public health of the community as well as that individual. So, I would strongly encourage, if you’re going to go down the route of having a fee, that you make sure it is that discretionary one that can be used appropriately is as your organization sees fit.
Audience Question: Fantastic. And so, then what has the public’s reaction been to that additional fee?
Dr. Josh Fisher:So, that additional fee, actually, for our organization just rolled out effective July 1st. So, we’ve had it out for a little bit over a month and we have not had any significant negative push back at this point. We have made sure that we had conversations with the staff that are communicating about those fees. So, our field operations staff, as well as our customer service staff, to explain when they bring up that fee. That is a fee that is in place to ensure that the animals coming into our facility are receiving the appropriate care in a timely manner because that is a fee that is going into our budget to ensure that we are affording the testing vaccines and any additional diagnostics that we may need to enhance care.
Audience Question: What if we don’t have a significant rescue network or of a significant fostering network in our area? Do you have any recommendations? And to piggyback that, how do you get those programs off the ground?
Dr. Josh Fisher: So, the rescue network is a little bit more challenging because generally speaking, that is an outside agency. I would try it. So, step one with that is to look within your community and see what exists, if anything. Step two is to kind of broaden your search. So, go to surrounding communities and kind of keep expanding until you hopefully hit gold, right? But the rescue piece can be a little bit more challenging. The foster piece is something that you have a little bit greater control of, and I would encourage you to invest some time in doing research on that. And please, please, please feel free to reach out to me. I am happy to connect you with our rescue and foster coordinator here at our agency. She does an exceptional job, and she essentially built our foster program from the ground up. So, she’s got a lot of experience with that, but especially right now in the time of COVID, what I am choosing to do is find silver linings, right? And one of the silver linings that I have found is that a lot more people are working from home. And so, therefore, they have a lot more time to be a foster parent. So, they can come to take a little four-legged friend into their home and have the bandwidth to expand our capacity for care within our agency by allowing some of these animals to stay outside of the facility. And so that’s something that we have really received a lot of interest in. One thing that I would encourage you to do is, A, take down as many barriers as you possibly can for foster care. So, if you’ve got a whole bunch of hoops that have to be jumped through and other things to become a foster, see what of that you can remove. And then two, is be flexible on your foster care. So, we expanded our foster care program to include what we call staycation and even daycation. So, there are our traditional, longer-term fosters. And then our staycation is usually between 2 and 7 nights. And that’s a lot of times with that is used at four, is that, you know, take them home and try them out kind of thing. But the mindset of that as well is that even if they are just taking them home to try them for the weekend, we’re coming back with so much more information about that pet. So, it is truly an advantage, because we’re getting a wealth of information that’s going to help us to place that pat down the road about how they were in the home. Then our daycation program is just that. People can come in and foster an animal for the day, take them to the park, take them, you know, and they don’t have to be a volunteer. They don’t have to go through the full volunteer process. They’re essentially just checking out an animal for the day to see how it fits into their lives or take it for a couple of hours for some exercise.
Audience Question: Are there certain challenges or situations, we might want to think through in launching a managed intake process? I know you said that it’s widely applicable. Are there additional things that we should think through before we implement that managed intake process?
Dr. Josh Fisher: So, I know every organization is different, right? And so, the challenges that any community is going to face is going to be very different than what other communities may face. That being said, I think that kind of taking that step back and looking at your overall operational setup and determining how best-managed intake would fit in with that. So, if you are a larger organization that has dedicated staff to customer service and medical, and making sure that you have the managers of each of those units or the supervisors of each of those units in the same room collaborating on how to make this successful is key. Because any managed intake program that I have seen that has truly been successful has required cross-unit communication. And so, you want to make sure to get as much buy-in from your team as possible. I also am candidly very much of a beg-forgiveness not ask-permission type of person. That being said, I understand that a lot of communities would potentially be reluctant to go down the road of managed intake for fear of being seen as reducing services. I think that it is important to have that conversation with all of your stakeholders. From an internal perspective, not necessarily an external perspective. I think external communication isn’t a case by case jurisdictional decision. We did not want to draw additional attention to this externally, because we had a feeling that people who would never really have a stake in the game, because they wouldn’t be falling into someone who would interact with this program, would have opinions about it. And that would essentially be us listening to a bunch of opinions of people who were not impacted. But the internal communication and getting internal buy-in is key. Because, as I said, this is a cross-unit effort. And so, making sure that your internal stakeholders are all aware and have whenever possible, kind of scripted talking points about what the program is and why the decision was made to go down that road. And then, what is the ideal outcome of it is.
Audience Question: Josh, your are located or part of the police department, did we? Did we catch that correctly?
Dr. Josh Fisher: Yes
Audience Question: You were talking about arming folks with a scanner in case that the Animal Control Officer on in the field comes across an animal so they can easily return that dog to the owner quickly in the field. Do you also arm your police department, your police officers, with scanners, as well?
Dr. Josh Fisher: Our officers have them available at the division office. We do not have every single officer in our community with a scanner. I would love to get to that point. We are a massive metropolitan police department. So, we actually have 2000 officers. And I believe that my department would have an absolute come apart if I told them that I would like to fund that. That being said, we do have one in each of our division offices, so I think we are, we just added two more divisions, so I think we’re up to 16 division offices now across the county. I would have to double-check that number. But we, so each of our division offices has one, so each of our Patrol units has access to them within their precinct.
Audience Question: Given the economic environment that we’re in. How did you connect with the local welfare organizations or food banks to let their clients know about the pet program that you have, and are there any additional things that you’re doing given the economic environment?
Dr. Josh Fisher: Absolutely. So, the big thing that we did, I am a firm believer in not recreating the wheel whenever possible. So, I started out by contacting our human services department, so our public health department, our social services department. We have a department here in Charlotte Mecklenburg called Housing and Neighborhood Services that focuses on affordable housing, as well as programs within communities that provide support. So those can be educational programs, programs that are focused on skill development, things like that. So, we started by networking with all of those different departments and making sure that they knew of the resources that we had available. We also worked with community non-profits. So, Crisis Assistance Ministry, Loaves and Fishes Food Bank, different agencies within our community to make sure that they were aware, and we could help to provide resources and link up with them as well. And, then, from there, we have expanded our resources. We are actually extremely fortunate to be one of the tier one cities for the Human-Animal Support Services project that is, was kind of piloted and initiated by American Pets Alive. And, in doing that, we have really taken a support services mindset for all of the animal welfare within our community. And so, we’ve expanded the vaccination clinics that we are offering. We have expanded the partnerships within our community, with our local Humane Society and other entities to ensure that there is affordable care that is out there. So, we actually have a group of community members here in Charlotte that it’s a homeless population that are living in tents right now and they are all been, they’ve all been put on notice because they’re on private property and they actually have to get off by Friday. So, one of the things we’re doing is we’re sending a team of staff out tomorrow to that, to provide food and vaccinations and leashes and collars and bowls and other things that may help to provide some relief to these homeless individuals in the transition process out of where they have been living for the last several weeks. In order to hopefully make sure that their animals are up to date so that their animals vaccination status would not be a barrier to them. Going into any kind of affordable housing or shelters that may be made available to them. As well as then hopefully allow them some additional flexibility for not having to come up with ways to get these resources themselves.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Getting Started with Managed Intake.