|This is a kitten's (?) intake photograph at MADACC.|
Many of the animals that are brought into MADACC are "strays" or in other words, lost pets. Pets that have escaped the custody of their owner or guardian. They are picked up by animal control officers and impounded. During the intake process a quick picture is snapped of them and then uploaded into the Pet Harbor software that the shelter uses. The website is updated every morning and the intent is that the owners of the pets will be able to look online and see if their pet is there. A great concept ... except...
a) The animal has to be recognizable.
b) Those animals not reclaimed, transferred or adopted have a 53% chance of getting killed at the hands of the shelter. MADACC killed 6241 animals in 2009 (52%) and 7064 in 2010 (53%).
Even if the animal is not reclaimed by its owner, the website is viewed daily by the numerous shelters and rescues that "pull" from MADACC to restock their own shelters. Many Wisconsin shelters have a very high adoption rate by running successful adoption programs. An animal with a good picture is far more likely to get pulled than one without a good picture. In essence, those pictures are the animal's ticket out since MADACC does not have a full-fledged adoption program (Despite efforts by volunteers to make this happen).
No Kill Milwaukee supporters have been emailing and calling MADACC and the MADACC board members to complain about the quality of the pictures. This is a copy of the letter that I wrote a couple of weeks ago:
I am one of the founding members of Lost Dogs of Wisconsin. We currently have 35 volunteers, many who spend their evenings doing online lost and found matching for lost dogs.
We appreciate the speed with which you get the photos of impounded pets on your website. We also appreciate that you provide pictures. Many Wisconsin shelters don't. But the quality of the pictures is diminishing. Our matchers are having trouble. So I must think that owners who are searching for their lost pets - perhaps even on their cell phone, are having trouble as well.
Would it be possible to improve the quality and closeness of the pictures so that we can hopefully make more happy reunions happen?
After many requests by many people, the pictures improved slightly for a day or two; but are dreadful again. Obviously, because the quality is so inconsistent, some staff members care and some don't.
Excuses by defenders of the shelter include:
1. There isn't enough time or money to take a good picture. Umm - sorry, I don't buy it. It doesn't take any longer to snap and upload a good picture than a poor one. Move a little closer please.
2. The camera is on a table. Is the camera nailed to the table? And how is it used to take the cat pictures then? That appears to be a roving camera.
3. Sometimes the animals are squirming around. Possible excuse - but then just click a few (up close, please) and use the best one.
4. The camera is old, so I (meaning me, Kathy Pobloskie) should donate a new camera. What do I look like - the camera fairy? (*see note below) Please explain how the old camera can take a decent one now and again?
5. I (meaning me again) should volunteer to take the pictures at MADACC. Sorry, I already am heavily involved in running two animal welfare non-profit organizations which take upwards of twelve hours per day. The staff at MADACC are paid to do their job which includes taking intake photos.
*I learned my lesson on this one. I donated a camera to another local shelter over a year ago to take pictures of their "stray" animals on intake. They don't use it. I guess it was far too complicated for the staff to figure out how to use a Kodak Easyshare and upload the photos. Funny, they all seem to be able to use computers and cell phones. So, no. I am not going to spring for a new camera for MADACC.
The only conclusion seems to be that a failure of leadership at MADACC is causing the poor quality pictures to continue. When management doesn't care - how are they supposed to inspire their staff? Or as Bill Bruce of Calgary Animal Services likes to say "Fish rot from the head down."
Please remember, if you are behind the lens of a camera at a shelter - think of the implication of that picture you take. It could be the difference of life or death.
"Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well." - Phillip Chesterfield