February 22, 2017
Categories: Organizational Management, Conference Recordings

Taking an organization like Washington Humane Society (WHS) from a 30 percent live release rate to 90 percent in less than 10 years might sound impossible, but there’s proof it can happen — because it did.

In a presentation given by WHS’s Scott Giacoppo at the 2016 Best Friends Animal Society Conference, No-Kill Strategies – Policies that Work, attendees had a chance to learn how to apply the  same strategies that worked in Washington D.C. in their own communities.

Giacoppo, Chief Community Animal Welfare Officer, shared that when he first started with WHS in 2007, the live release rate wasn’t the only challenge he faced. “Pit bulls were euthanized within 5-10 minutes of walking in the door, and there wasn’t even a city ban. We had really strict adoption procedures. It was almost impossible to adopt an animal from us….TNR was just a pilot program.”

Here are just a few of the ways Giacoppo and his team transformed WHS into the lifesaving organization it is today:

  • Reverse the pit bull adoption policy. On Giacoppo’s first day on the job he went to a staff meeting and said, “Effective right now, the pit bull policy is gone.”
  • Increasing reputation through adoption promotions and PR. “The community hated us. We were seen as the storm troopers that came in and took your animals and you never saw them again… there was a lot of hatred and resentment in the community. We weren’t doing anything positive and we had to change that.” So they started marketing themselves with a strong, positive message and went out into the community with mobile adoptions.
  • Market animals in a positive way: We started to present animals in a way to show what they’d be like in your house.” This meant doing away with photos of animals in cages or behind bars, and no sad posts talking about how the animal would die if someone didn’t adopt them. “It worked.” They also started sharing a happy alumni post at the end of every week, which people really responded to.
  • Decreased euthanasia for certain medical issues: “Each year our medical team comes together with our shelter team and decides which medical illness we’re going to aggressively work on this year and not euthanize.” They made it an organizational priority to dedicate more and more resources to the specific conditions. Once they know how to treat them and what’s required, they can then move on to focusing on another medical issue.

Learn more about the lifesaving policies and changes made in the full presentation, and then start applying some of them to your community!