Friday, August 27, 2010

The Business of Saving Lives

Animal shelters are in the business of saving lives. To me that's a no-brainer. It should be on their business cards, painted on the wall, in their mission statement - "We Save Lives." Maybe if the staff looked at those words every day they'd be more inspired to think of new and creative ways to save lives - instead of getting stuck in the same old, same old rut.  Maybe we wouldn't hear the lame excuses that are churned out about why they are failing.

Lame excuse for shelter deaths  #558 - "you don't know what it's like - there's so many animals, they keep coming in, we have to deal with them all. The staff get tired and burnt out."

Hmmm. Another profession that is in the business of saving lives - air traffic controllers. I'm glad they don't use this same excuse. "The planes - they keep coming and coming - we get tired and burnt out." Somehow, the aviation industry manages to land more than 25,000 commercial flights safely in this country every day of every year. They do an exceptional job of saving lives. Why have we accepted so much less from our animal shelters?

There are hundreds of professions and businesses that shelter directors could study for innovative ideas on management, business principles, leadership skills, staff motivation and rewards. Combine these with the No Kill Equation shelter model and we'd be a long ways towards a No Kill Nation.

I had the pleasure of meeting Billy LeFeuvre and Jeff Daniels of Justice for Bella at the No Kill Conference a few weeks ago. Although their story started off sad with the shooting of Jeff's dog, Bella (read the whole story on their website or Facebook page) - their determination and dedication to now DO something about the problem in Cabarrus County, North Carolina is inspiring. They have already made a huge difference and I have no doubt in my mind that they will succeed in everything they set out to do. They have that kind of attitude about them.

This is an excerpt from a Facebook post that Billy wrote:

I am in law school now, but when I took my MBA, I remember studying the most successful companies in the world. They were leaders in their industries.

Many of them had competitors selling the same products, offering the same services. What do you think made them successful and their competitors unsuccessful, or much less successful?

It was the attitude and commitment of the leadership. They did not make excuses. They did not blame the public for not buying. They were innovative. They were passionate. They looked at the best practices of every industry, whether it was related to them or not, and through research and development, they went with what worked and scrapped what didn't work.
They did not stick with the same outdated ways of doing business, when those ways didn't produce results, or at least didn't produce acceptable results.

They demanded better, and when they saw something that worked, they implemented it, refined it, improved it, and experienced growth far greater than their competitors.

Everyone should be asking themselves why a shelter would ever continue killing, and continue making the same old excuses, when ten years ago the entire country was shown the way to No Kill in San Fransisco; then a couple of years later in Tompkins, NY; then Charlottesville, VA and Reno, NV, and so on...with dozens and dozens of No Kill Communities across the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. And even more saving over 80%, just shy of declaring themselves a No Kill Community, but well on their way!

Billy hit the nail on the head at what is wrong in so many shelters in this country. I think we have too many shelters being run by unmotivated, unskilled shelter directors who have not been trained in leadership, management or successful business strategies. There is a "model" out there that works  - The No Kill Equation. Why a shelter director would not use it as a blueprint for success in their community is beyond my comprehension.  And shouldn't the boards of these shelters be ensuring that the directors are following a clearly defined path of success? If these were publicly traded companies the stockholders would be appalled that the results were so poor; when competitors were doing so much better.

It's time to challenge the thinking of the past and get on with the business of Saving Lives.

"The minute you stop striving for excellence, you quickly slip into mediocrity." - Unknown


  1. Great article Kathy! You really nailed it, this is what is missing in most shelters. They are run by bureaucrats and failed shelter directors from the past. They are dinosaurs, and they are extinct, some just don't realize it yet.

  2. I love the positive attitude Kathy. I hope your blog reaches out to the people it needs to teach a new way of thinking in your community. Keep up the good work, No Kill Nation will prevail, and the the puppies and kitties that are dying now will have a voice from the humans that care to make a change. Thank you for being that voice in Wisconsin!
    Vickie, JFB Supporter

  3. Great blog post! Lori Hoffman No Kill Monroe County PA

  4. We can all learn from this. What would be the reason for shelters NOT to try the NO Kill Equation? Are the boards of the shelters aware of this model? If it is proven to work, why not? Elections are coming.........where do your candidates stand?