In light of COVID-19, you could say that the animal welfare industry has experienced a complete makeover. Collaborative efforts heightened among industry leaders, animal shelters and rescue organizations to support one another, and it didn’t stop there. People in their own neighborhoods stepped up to offer a helping hand to pets within their communities, too. All the while, Human Animal Support Services (HASS), was in its early stages. Now, HASS has emerged and it has one clear goal: to keep people and pets together by empowering local communities. What does this all mean, exactly? Bobby Mann, Maddie’s® Implementation Director, shares his perspective. 

“HASS has really made the animal welfare movement feel inclusive, which is a first since I’ve been in the field,” says Mann. “As the Maddie’s® Implementation Director and Pilot Implementation Director, I want to reinforce the message that we are truly just facilitators. We are just finding a safe place for people to come together to reimagine the future of sheltering.” The transformational initiative strives to keep people and pets together by empowering the community to utilize the tools and resources provided by HASS, in effort to get pets back home safely, while supporting the pets that need support. 

What does reimagining sheltering mean to the community? It means a range of support services such as veterinary telehealth, food banks, stray return-to-owner task forces, behavioral and training services, crisis funds and more. “There are so many services that can be provided from a public health and social service component that helps animals as well as people. It bridges the gap between humans and pets, helping both ends of the leash,” states Mann.  

In order to bridge this gap, HASS is working to define and track metrics to show it is successful as a community-based shelter. Potential metrics may include: the amount of times you give away pet food, how many times your organization offers low cost vaccine services and how many calls you are taking to triage situations with animals before they enter your shelter walls. Mann shares, “It’s conversations that we’ve had but it’s never been truly tracked, so we’re working with organizations like Shelter Animals Count and the Michelson Found Animals Foundation.” 

If there’s one word to describe the response since announcing HASS, it’s excitementA press release was sent out on both a national and local level. HASS believes in the importance of making sure that “everything is in the flavor of the community that knows them best.” Shelter directors were able to cater their release to their own community which resulted in a lot of local media engagement. 

“We’ve had such a great response from the community,” says Mann. HASS focuses on providing more services in communities, so the feedback is primarily excitement about the innovation and reform that is happening within the industry. “A lot of shelters have reached out to us and want to be involved in the HASS movement which is exciting,” Mann shares.  

How can your shelter or rescue organization join the cause? Mann says, “Come have a seat at the table. We are reimagining sheltering and we want to do it with everybody in our litter box. We do not have all the answers or solutions, and this is a pilot and learning opportunity for all, so come play!” 

Check out the HASS website to learn more about the movement!