When trying to boost your animal welfare organization’s return-to-owner (RTO) rates, Animal Care Officers (ACO) can play big role. Adam Ricci, Vice President of the National Animal Care and Control Association (NACA), and Director of Operations at Palm Valley Animal Society in Edinburg, TX, shares how animal welfare organization’s field officers can help increase RTO rates, while facilitating more happy reunions.
Distributing microchip scanners. According to Ricci, the first step is to distribute microchip scanners to every field officer, or at least one in each vehicle. When an ACO finds a lost pet, they can scan for the microchip and potentially identify the owner to get the pet returned, so the animal never has to enter the shelter building. This makes field RTO cost effective to set up, as every time an animal enters the shelter, there is a cost component. Returning lost pets in the field negates the costs of care if the animal were to enter the shelter system.
Creating a relationship with the community. Field RTO is another opportunity for ACO to engage with the community, according to Ricci. Field officers can then identify who the owner is and find out why the pet got loose. “Losing a pet doesn’t mean that the owner is a negligent owner, or doesn’t care, there are a lot of variables that may affect why their pet got loose.” After identifying the variables, the ACO can assess what ways they can help right then and there. “Field RTO is about talking to people in the community,” said Ricci.
Evaluating the existing model. “RTO is one of those programs that relies on the old or existing model that says to the public, ‘If you find a lost pet, bring it into the shelter,” said Ricci. From his experience, he shared that predominantly the dogs that are running loose are not licensed, and if they are licensed, then they typically do not have the tag on them, so the old model is ineffective for RTO programs. One suggestion is to evaluate your licensing program, and instead consider implementing a mandatory requirement for microchips and for their numbers to be registered with the animal shelter.
Expanding RTO beyond your website. While having RTO on your website is a recommended resource, it may not be suitable for all audiences. Ricci urges organizations to ask themselves, is your website where people are going to get their information? “Low income communities are likely getting their information from crowd sourcing or word of mouth,” said Ricci. “The only way to communicate effectively with that population is by talking to them in person.”
Want to learn more about how to increase your RTO rates and keep pets with their families? If you are not already a member of NACA, join now to access a number of training programs, an extensive library of free recorded webinars and the Membership Forum to network with thousands of animal care and control professionals who share information to advance the health, morale, welfare, training and knowledge of animal care and control personnel and associations.
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