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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Managing a PR Crisis - Update

I'm home from the Best Friends National Conference with, as usual, a boatload of information stuffed into every nook and cranny in my brain. Since I had just blogged on the topic of Damage Control I wanted to share this oh-so-timely slide from one of the sessions I attended on public relations for your animal welfare organization.

As you can see, none of these bullet points were addressed in the situation with Jim at the Elmbrook Humane Society. You can follow this link back to his story.


Since Elmbrook Humane Society has had a good reputation for life-saving in the past, I truly hope they will take heed of these tips, find Jim a wonderful new home and get quickly back on track.

The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour. ~Japanese Proverb

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What Jim's Story Can Teach Us About Damage Control and the No KillMovement



I'm writing this from the 2015 Best Friends National Conference.  I'm sitting in a coffee shop catching up on emails and watching with interest as the situation regarding Jim, a dog at Elmbrook Humane Society, unfolds back home.  Jim, a 5 month old mixed breed puppy, originally from MADACC, was pulled by Elmbrook Humane Society (EBHS) in late 2013.  Elmbrook, a medium-sized shelter that is saving over 90% of animals, has been considered the golden opportunity in the last few years as a ticket to freedom and a new life. But due to a lack of a robust foster and marketing program, Jim languished in the shelter and has been there almost a year.   Now, a series of unfortunate incidents for which Jim can not be faulted (inappropriate puppy mouthing) has put his life in jeopardy.  So Jim who is a goofy, dopey loving young dog (according to all that know and have worked with him) has a "bite" history and an uncertain future.
But this blog isn't about Jim.  If you want to see Jim's story you can go to the SAVE JIM Facebook page that was hastily put up this week in an attempt to bring exposure to his situation and possibly save his life. The page quickly gained over 400 followers.

This blog is about a new breed of volunteers and animal lovers no longer willing to sit idly by as the shelters they support regress backwards instead of moving forward.  This blog is also about damage control (a topic that I blogged about once before) and the lessons that could be learned. You need only watch what major successful brands do when they are in a pickle (which EBHS is).  EBHS needs to get quickly back on track to saving lives (something they are generally very good at).

Elmbrook gets five brownie points for acknowledging the situation in a Facebook post (pictured above) that they put up on Tuesday in response to the uproar about Jim.  But then they lose five points each for missing the boat on the following items.

1. Thank the public for their input (not admonish them for not getting the facts straight). Admit that they have failed Jim not once, not twice, not three times, but four times by their handling of his situation.

2.  Apologize for their mistakes.

3. Outline their plan for how they will rectify these mistakes.

4. Assure the public that this will never happen again. Then, thank the public for their support and encourage their continued involvement with their brand. 

That's called damage control and it is sadly lacking in Jim's story.

If you read the EBHS statement it reeks strongly of "We'll decide what's best for Jim, and you, Joe General Public, should just go away and mind your own business."

Elmbrook, and all of the shelters that operate with this type of mindset, had better open their minds and eyes to the 21st century.  The public is fed up.  These are THEIR community's animals, supported by THEIR tax dollars and donations.  Social media has made it easier than ever for people to connect, build "tribes" of like-minded participants, and apply public pressure to the institutions which think they hold all the power.

This is social change. And if shelters think they can operate the way they did five or ten years ago, they are in for a nasty surprise.  Thank you to all of you who are speaking out for the Jim's of America.  

I'll leave you today with this quote from one of the conference boards.  Remember, someone also thought the light bulb was going to fail.  Just like the light bulb, the No Kill movement is here to stay.  Embrace it and together we can Save Them All.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Blatant Disregard for Life

Lost your pet in the Fox Valley?  This is how little regard the Fox Valley "Humane" Association has for you.  And how little importance they put on getting lost pets back home to their family. And how little regard they have for life.  This is how disrespectful they are of their supporters, their donors, the citizens of their community, and the taxpayers that fund animal control.

Twenty nine found pets.  Only 11 have pictures. And all of them are sideways. This is not rocket science. This is a matter of life and death and the folks at FVHA don't even take their job seriously enough to take a decent picture and upload it correctly.

FVHA kills over 50% of the animals in their care.  Need I say more?

Thank you to the Save More Fox Valley Pets Facebook page for working for reform at the Fox Valley Humane Association in Appleton, Wisconsin.







Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts.  This is the secret of success.  
- Swami Sivananda

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ask and You Shall Receive

There was a big step forward for Milwaukee County animals last weekend. MADACC held a fee-waived adoption event, made possible by an ASPCA grant. In total, over 130 animals were adopted - a great testament to the citizens of Milwaukee who came out in record numbers to support the event and take home their new best friend.

One of the concepts behind progressive animal sheltering is that the public must be entrusted and encouraged to participate in helping a community's animals.  Shelters that identify their problems, reach out and communicate them, and then foster an atmosphere of trust and participation; save more lives.  In the results of a 2011 poll, seventy percent of Americans believe that animal shelters should be allowed to euthanize shelter animals only when they are too sick to be treated or too aggressive to be adopted. Cities around America are finding that when they reach out to the public for help, whether asking for donations, adoptions, fostering or volunteering, the public will readily comply IF they feel like they are being told the truth and are being empowered to save lives.

In contrast,  the opposite approach occurs in many Wisconsin shelters.  The public and volunteers  are treated with distrust and disrespect. Transparency is poor or non-existent.  Shelter directors tend to micro-manage their staff and volunteers instead of empowering them to save lives.   How can you help with a problem when you aren't aware that there is one and you aren't encouraged to help?

Providing statistical data of intake, transfers, adoptions and shelter deaths is a good start.  Then asking for help and tapping into the wealth of talent in your community is next.

So hats off to MADACC  for asking the public to "Empty the Shelter".  It opened a lot of eyes and doors to new possibilities. IF you still believe that fee-waived adoption events result in poor quality adoptions and high return rates please read the  infographic at the bottom of this page. This has not proven to be the case and perpetuating that myth kills animals.


“We’ll never solve the problems we don’t talk about.” 

- Justin Young





Monday, August 18, 2014

The Domino Effect


A nice news story came out over the weekend regarding the positive changes that are happening at the Sheboygan County Humane Society.  These changes have been a long time coming, and hats off to the citizens who refused to sit idly by as their local shelter killed over 40% of the animals in their care in 2012.

Here is a quote from the article and you can read the entire story at this link.



"With the hiring last December of a new executive director and the addition of seven new board members, the Humane Society is looking ahead. "The past is the past and all we can do is rebuild for the future," said Executive Director Leah Helms. "We're looking for community support and we're here to support the community." The Humane Society was embroiled in scandal last year, when former executive director Eilene Ribbens was arrested and charged with a felony and a misdemeanor for using the agency's veterinarian's license to order large amounts of prescription medications off the books." 

Interestingly enough, under previous leadership, the Sheboygan County Humane Society had listed themselves on a website, No Kill Network,  which claims to be a list of No Kill facilities in America. Obviously, there is no vetting of the statistics and the list cannot be relied upon to provide accurate information.   

If you would like to see a list of No Kill communities that have been documented please check OutTheFrontDoor.com .   This is the only reliable list currently available. 

The progress in Sheboygan should be heeded by the other regressive shelter directors and  their boards of directors who refuse to acknowledge that killing healthy and treatable animals is no longer acceptable in America. The public is also becoming wise to the "Smoke and Mirrors" games used by many Wisconsin shelters which use the following tactics to hide their high kill rates:  inflated Owner-Requested Euthanasia numbers; creating their own definition of "Adoptable"; and claiming to not kill for "Time and Space"

Whose next? Which will be the next domino to fall? There are active groups looking to reform  Sauk County Humane Society in Baraboo (over 50% kill rate), Fox Valley Humane Association in Appleton (over 50% kill rate), and Washburn County Humane Society in Spooner (over 60% kill rate). These shelters refuse to listen to the public's concerns. Never a good thing when you rely on donations, volunteers and public support to keep your doors open.

Thank you to everyone who is speaking up.  The animals are depending on you.

" A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody 
ought not to be trusted by anybody." 
-Thomas Paine



Monday, July 28, 2014

Milwaukee Animal Alliance Encourages Residents to "Adopt Local"

Last December I wrote a blog about the practice of out of state transports, importing dogs (and sometimes even cats) from other states while local animals die. It continues to be a hot topic, with opinions on both sides of the aisle.

Milwaukee Animal Alliance, a grassroots organization dedicated to animal welfare,  has created a fun, positive approach to encourage people to "Adopt Local" by supporting those shelters and rescues that source at least 75% of their animals from Wisconsin.

"The "local" movement encourages people to shop and dine at local businesses," said Kelly Herbold, MAA spokesperson.  "Through this campaign, we also want to encourage Wisconsin residents to adopt local.

Milwaukee Animal Alliance supports Wisconsin shelters and rescues that address the needs of local animals," said Herbold.  "Wisconsin has wonderful pets right here that need homes, and we believe the shelters and rescues we highlight are making the best use of time, money and resources to help these amazing, local animals."

The following local personalities pose with Wisconsin rescue pets in a series of ads designed to encourage the public to "Adopt Local".  Check out Milwaukee Animal Alliance on Facebook
 and their website!












Monday, July 21, 2014

Found Dog A281263 - Killed at MADACC

I presented the following information on Tuesday, July 15 at the MADACC Operations Committee meeting. 

My name is Kathy Pobloskie and I am the Director of Lost Dogs of Wisconsin. We are an all-volunteer organization committed to reuniting lost dogs with their owners.  We receive lost and found reports from around the state and from January through June 30, 2014, we have helped reunite 1004 Wisconsin dogs with their owners.   Our 70 plus volunteers personally contact every person that files a lost or found dog report to give them advice and support based on what we have learned from the successful reunions of several thousand dogs since we started in 2010. At Lost Dogs of Wisconsin, we strive to maintain good working relationships with shelters and believe that through teamwork we can help more lost dogs get home. 

Recently,  we have received several troubling stories from Milwaukee county, and today I want to tell you about this one – an unnamed dog  (No A281263) that was found by a Good Samaritan. I also want to mention that I did email Ms. Sparapani  with our concerns about this dog, but did not receive a reply.

On June 4, a Glendale resident was walking his two dogs in Lincoln Park.  This black and white dog approached his dogs in a very friendly manner and began to follow them.  When I spoke with the finder,  he described the dog as very friendly, obviously well cared for – of good weight, and wearing a black nylon collar but no tags.  He proceeded home with the dog following behind. When he got home this dog was initiating play with his two dogs, and was even friendly with his cats.  He filed a report with us on the evening of June 4 which we posted.  



He also sent a picture to MADACC ‘s Facebook page in the hopes that an owner would be found quickly which was shared  on the Stray Animals of Milwaukee County’s Facebook page on June 5th. 


Since the finder already has two dogs and two cats and couldn't keep this dog himself, he wanted to find the owner quickly or help facilitate a new home for the dog.  He felt bad keeping the dog in his garage, and since he knew that MADACC was the official stray holding facility (information that we provide) he brought the dog to MADACC after work on June 5th.  I sent in an Open Records Request for the information on this dog and it shows that the dog was impounded at 5:32 p.m. on June 5th.   The finder mentioned that he had a friend that might be interested in adopting the dog if nobody reclaimed him and he was told to check back after the 7 day stray hold was up. 

On  June 5th the dog received an intake exam and was found to be normal.  It was estimated he was 2 years old and his weight was 68.5 pounds.  It was noted that he had a black nylon collar on.




Twice during the week the finder called to check on the status of the dog and to inform MADACC that a friend would like to see the dog and possibly adopt.  He was told to call back after the seven day stray hold was up.

On June 10th the dog apparently showed signs of kennel cough and was put on a 10 day treatment of antibiotics.

On June 11th, Lorraine Sweeney evaluated the dog and said he failed dog to dog.  That is all it says – there is no written behavior evaluation or any other details. 



On June 11th the dog’s paperwork was also stamped as being MADACC’s property.


On June 12th the dog was put down at 9:41 a.m.  The reason listed is  BO “behavior observed”. (see above)

On June 12th the finder called to check on the status of the dog because he knew that the 7 day stray hold should expire at 5:30 that afternoon and he wanted to make arrangements for his friend to come in and see the dog.

But it was too late. He was told the dog was already dead.

In closing I want to read the following quotes from Ms. Sparapani from the Listening sessions:
 "Decisions to end the life of an animal are not taken lightly here, and we are working very hard to reduce the number of animals that are euthanized."

"Our behavior assessments are some of the most liberal around because of the fact that we know the dogs are likely showing their worst behavior because of fear and stress while at MADACC."

In closing, I would like to point out that there are some very troubling aspects to this story.

1.      The dog was killed before the state-mandated seven day stray hold expired.
2.      The dog was killed for dog aggression which he clearly did not have. If he showed any signs of aggression it was probably due to kennel stress, 
3.      The dog was killed when there was a potential home available for him. An obvious breakdown in communication must have occurred between the front desk fielding the calls and whoever should have made a notation in the file that there was an interested party.

I am hoping that  dog A281263 did not die in vain. Please ensure that changes will be made to MADACC procedures to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.


Thank you,
Kathy Pobloskie