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Please, Sir, May I Have Some More?

Trying to squeeze money out of a tightly guarded city budget can be a discouraging experience, but, says one Kansas animal control supervisor, it’s all in the approach.

Trying to squeeze money out of a tightly guarded city budget can be a discouraging experience, but, says one Kansas animal control supervisor, it’s all in the approach.

How many of us have all the money, equipment, and staff we need to run our animal care and control operations? Unless you work in the suburban Kansas City area (sarcastic comment aimed at fellow Kansas Animal Control Association member and friend Eric, who gets to work in a place where all the dogs are loved and have names like “Fluffy” and “Fifi”), you responded with an exasperated “I wish!”

Most of us use antiquated equipment, have buildings that are just this side of being condemned, and maintain staffing levels so inadequate that our children run frightened when we come home because a stranger just entered the house. There are many ways you can deal with this situation. You can suffer in silence and put up with it, or you can become proactive and ask for what you need. I hear what many of you are saying now. It goes something like, “Well, I have asked, and all I get is the brush-off.” Pause for a moment and ask yourself how you framed your requests. If you were negative, vague, hesitant, or, conversely, too pushy, maybe you could use some help from the following simple tips:

Be organized! Nothing hurts a request like not having an answer when the person holding the purse strings asks for information. You will see your pleas go from the back burner to completely off the radar screen in 0.2 seconds!

Be positive! Instead of storming into someone’s office threatening to quit if they don’t buy you a replacement for the 1978 Dodge van you were issued, show how a new state-of-the-art vehicle will help you do your job more efficiently. Don’t harp on the negative lest ye risk being labeled a complainer.

Be visual! If you need new cages, have color brochures or pamphlets from the company you would like to purchase them from. Go ahead and go to the local discount store and pick up a folder to organize your material in, and submit one to each person you want to consider the proposal. If you’re giving a presentation to a group, access an overhead projector and display your needs on screen.

Keep statistics! If you need another ACO to help out because the call load is too much to handle, but you go into the big cheese’s office and say, “I need another ACO to help out because the call load is too much to handle”—and don’t have any stats to prove what you’re saying—get used to hearing “No.”

Be persistent! If they say no this week, ask again in a couple of months. If they say no in a couple of months, wait a few weeks more and bring it up at a staff meeting. Don’t be irritating; be tenacious. My mother always said, “A closed mouth never gets fed,” and it’s true.

Seek low-hanging fruit first, grasshopper! If you need a new control stick for $100 to do your job safely—and would like a new tranquilizer gun at $300, even though the one you have still works and you rarely use it—go for the control pole first.

I won’t guarantee you’ll get what you need to do your job effectively by using these suggestions, but I will guarantee that you’ll make more headway if you attend to the details—even if you aren’t blessed with a sympathetic budget analyst.

Dennis Graves is the supervisor for Wichita Animal Control and the vice president of the Kansas Animal Control Association. This essay is reprinted from the association's newsletter, In Control.

... And This is How Much I Need

If your agency has only one ACO for every 60,000 citizens, it might help to let your local officials know that, according to the National Animal Control Association, the average ratio nationwide is one officer for every 16,000 to 18,000 people. Or if you’re trying to make the pitch for a new facility but haven’t an inkling as to how much it will cost, a formula created by a shelter architect could help you come up with a ballpark estimate based on your intake numbers.

Making the case for more funding can be much easier if you’ve got the facts and figures to back up your requests. And finding that kind of detailed information is the easiest part of all, thanks to the recent publication of Animal Control Management: A Guide for Local Governments. Written by Geoff Handy of The HSUS and published by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), this 108-page authoritative update of a 1993 Management Information Service report has helped many animal care and control agencies elevate the quality of services for animals and people in their communities.

To order Animal Control Management, send a check for $11 (that’s half the ICMA’s list price of $22) to The HSUS, Dept. ICMA-ASM, 2100 L St., NW, Washington, DC 20037. Please specify order number AC4037.

 

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