Do you want to reduce shelter intake by 20 percent in one year at your local animal shelter? Try providing underserved communities with the resources they need to keep pets in their homes.
That’s exactly what Saving Sunny, Inc., did in a community in Kentucky. Co-founders Maureen Keenan and Kelsey Westbrook shared their story of how they did it, important lessons learned, and how you can duplicate it in your own community at the 2016 Best Friends National Conference.
One of the most important lessons learned? “We realized that if we’re going to help dogs coming from underserved areas, we simply have to help the humans,” said Keenan. “Remember, any loving home is better than a shelter.” It turns out, being a judgment-free zone is key to building trust, relationships and ultimately saving lives.
“We have to get past the vilification of families who relinquish their pets in shelters as a last resort,” said Westbrook. After reviewing data and discovering relationships between zip codes where the most dogs were coming from and reasons why people were relinquishing their beloved dogs, they realized where they could make the most difference by providing some of the essential resources that people needed to keep their pets in homes.
It was then that they decided to launch the Community Dog Resource Center in one underserved community. Some of the resources offered include food, flea/tick prevention, spay/neuter and behavior counseling.
The result after one year? Along with the 20 percent drop in shelter intake, they provided an average of 202 dogs per month with free resources, serving an average of 68 families.
Watch their full presentation, Judgment-Free Zones: Building Relationships in Underserved Communities to Keep Dogs in Homes, from the 2016 Best Friends National Conference, then create one in your community!