Community Engagement: The Lifesaving Philosophy

Community Engagement: The Lifesaving Philosophy
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2022-12-01
Unit 1Presentation Materials: Community Engagement
Unit 2Workbook: Community Engagement
Unit 3Transcript: Community Engagement
Unit 4Recording: Community Engagement

Community engagement may seem like a buzzword in the public safety spaces, a new program to adopt and then maybe replace with a new one in a few years. In reality, community engagement is a philosophy rooted in trust, relationships, and engagement that is not bound to come and go as its effectiveness is backed up by data and human nature.

Discussing how agencies he’s worked with benefitted from the community-oriented model is Nick Walton. Nick is the National Shelter Support Manager for Best Friends Animal Society where he conducts professional shelter operations and field assessments and leads progressive and humane trainings for animal control agencies and officers to support Best Friend’s leadership and training initiatives.

Points Nick tackled in his presentation include:

  • Nick’s working history in animal services where he:
    • Understood the value of community engagement and its foundations.
    • Witnessed how the animal control role evolved from dog catchers to active problem solvers and street therapists.
  • The benefits of community-oriented philosophy in terms of:
    • Ensuring and increasing officer safety through positive relationships established with the community.
    • Cruelty prevention by proactively providing the resources needed by community members which in turn allows them to care for the animals appropriately.
    • Prevent ordinance violations by addressing the root cause of the complaint thereby averting repeat calls and citations.
    • Increased positive outcomes for animals as animals stay with their family and need not be taken to shelters where animal conditions and outcomes are not always ideal.
    • Increased access to information is made possible by fostering trust among community members.
    • Increased donations and resources coming from the community members and businesses.
    • Lower call volume as the community pitches in to bridge the gap between available resources and manpower and the demand for it.
    • Sense of fulfillment and morale boost for otherwise overworked and underappreciated staff.
  • The blue pill/red pill moral dilemma in animal services
    • How it suggests shifting mindset from enforcement to one that looks at other options other than citations and impounding.
    • The factors to take into account when deciding on the blue pill/red pill dilemma to help guide decision-making.
    • Case studies were provided to emphasize the better experience and outcomes for the staff, community, and animals by choosing the “blue pill”.
  • A rundown on the resources that animal services agencies need to support a community-oriented approach in day-to-day operations.
  • The importance of coordination, buy-in, and training for staff to ensure that everyone within the agency is working on the same mission and goals.
  • Low-hanging fruits and advanced strategies to pursue to maximize resources that look into community partnerships for sourcing, resource allocation, and leveraging data to identify areas of most need.
  • Important steps to fully integrate the community into the mission by explaining the goals, identifying the needs, sharing the work done to the community, and demonstrating the impact of the resource and help they’ve extended.
  • Businesses within the community to network and develop relationships with to support the agency’s mission.
  • Differentiating outreach from engagement and why one is more substantial than the other.

Questions from the audience are about:

  • The role of social work in the community-oriented model.
  • Doing proactive work when staff is already overburdened.
  • Providing the community with proof that education and resources has their positive results.
  • Changing the agency’s culture and the leadership’s opinion about community engagement.
  • Food pantry initiatives for pets.
  • Cross-training between law enforcement and animal welfare.


Other Upcoming Webinars with this Presenter


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Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “The speaker was the best yet.” — Bjarna
  • “I loved the ideas for resources and how to source them out. The reminder to close the loop with donors to keep donor retention is a great tip. And lastly, the reminder for management (that would be me) to change the mindset of looking at intake and citation numbers as a measurement of ACO success.” — Mariana
  • “I loved his concrete examples about how he has helped owners come into compliance and some of the tools and equipment he keeps on hand. Great stuff.” — Stephanie
  • “The Maddie’s Fund for free coloring books to place in our trucks was helpful. I then sent that website to our agency for possible grants to get a modular for the intake of cats- a ringworm-holding area! I also enjoyed the Community Oriented mindset and how to go about that. I loved the stories of how he implemented that mindset in the community. Both I and the other officer are new to the department (under 6 months), so this is extremely helpful to know we are doing the right thing & mindset!!!” — Stacy
  • “Loved all the different concepts shown in this presentation. It’s a different way of looking at the “job” of the ACO. Thank you, I will be sharing it with the other officers!” — Tracy






This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.



The Best Friends Network is comprised of thousands of public and private shelters, rescue groups, spay/neuter organizations and other animal welfare organizations in all 50 states. We are a coalition committed to saving the lives of dogs and cats through collaboration, information-sharing and implementation of proven lifesaving strategies. Our partners support each other and inspire their own communities to increase lifesaving across the country. Visit for more information and resources.




This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.




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