Recently I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how Barnes & Noble book stores has suffered huge losses in recent months. They have been blindsided by the success of the Amazon Kindle Reader and the release of the Ipad. They had smugly thought they were immune to electronic media - that the good old brick and mortar book store was here to stay. Now, even if they do play catch up and start selling digital books - the profit margin is so much smaller that they will never be able to afford the overhead of their mega stores. Their only hope is massive restructuring and perhaps selling a much wider array of merchandise than just books. If only they had looked ahead....
I see the same thing happening with animal shelters and it breaks my heart. Because it is not just bricks and steel and mortar. It's living breathing animals that will suffer. Animal sheltering is changing by leaps and bounds and those directors with their heads in the sand are going to get blindsided by the changes that are coming. It's been in the works for years - but unfortunately the nature of animal welfare work is for everyone to be head down, butt up, full steam ahead without having the time or resources at the end of the day to think about planning for the future.
I would like to share some of these changes and challenges in upcoming blogs.
What's coming? Here's a sampler:
1) The public is getting wise to the realities of animal sheltering. The dirty little secrets are out. The power and speed of the internet has linked animal lovers across the nation who are exchanging shelter horror stories with the click of their mouse. The public will no longer accept the old methods either morally or financially. Shelters will have to step up to the plate or risk financial ruin when their donations take a nosedive.
2) Gone will be the old days of "adopt out the best and kill the rest". As we are closing in on no-kill status and more people than ever are choosing the adoption option - the numbers of highly adoptable animals is falling. Already, shelters in northen states have to pull from the south to meet their needs. So shelters of the future will have to be willing to spend more time and resources rehabilitating shy and behaviorally challenged dogs.
3) It will be acceptable to buy a dog from a reputable breeder. Dog rescuers and shelters will have to stop looking down their noses at those that "shop" rather than "adopt". They should be reaching out to good breeders now, forging relationships for the future, and working together to end the misery of commercial breeding facilities (puppy mills).
4) Shelters will have to become centers for information. They will need animal help desks, lost and found services, services for seniors, behaviorists, animal advocacy centers, and more. These services are what will generate goodwill and donations.
5) Shelters will need to focus on "intake" numbers rather than outgoing numbers. Much more on this later because this is a biggie.
6) The latest census has shown that we are becoming far more diverse as a nation. The following is Friday's USA Today article which shows that minorities are quickly becoming the majority in many parts of the nation.
Animal welfare, which has typically been dominated by white, middle class women will have to learn to reach out to all ethnicities and races, income levels and family dynamics. Shelters will need diverse staff and volunteers; who are open-minded, understanding of different cultures and perhaps have at least one Spanish-speaking member on staff.
Okay, I'm going to let you chew on that for awhile. Because there's much more to come.