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Mutterings

A round-up of fun, inspiring news tidbits from the animal welfare world.

From Animal Sheltering magazine May/June 2015

Hannah Stonehouse Hudson/Stonehouse PhotoO’Hara Owens and her dog, Zeus, got a visit and a big morale boost in December from “Twilight” star and pit bull fan Nikki Reed.

People on the Internet get exposed to so much bad news, trashy celebrity gossip and nasty comments, it’s little wonder that we gravitate toward photos and videos of animals doing sweet, funny things—they’re an antidote to the rest of the Web.

Many of us heaved a collective sigh of grateful happysadness when a photo of John Unger and his dog Schoep went viral back in 2012. Unger had adopted Schoep 19 years earlier, and credited the animal with helping him through his depression. When Schoep developed painful arthritis, knowing that many humans with the condition find comfort from water therapy, Unger took his dog for a quiet float in Lake Superior. He asked a friend—photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson—to snap some pictures of them together, worried that they’d be the last images he might have of his beloved companion.

When Stonehouse Hudson uploaded them to the Web a few days later, the Internet—starved for something just this lovely and tender—went nuts. Millions saw the image. Donations to help Unger pay for Schoep’s care poured in.

Schoep lived nearly another year and benefited hugely from treatments, but he was an old guy, and he finally passed away in 2013, leaving Unger bereft.

So it was with another happy sigh that, in late February, the Internet greeted Unger’s latest news: He had finally brought a new shelter dog into his life—a 1-year-old Akita mix. “I am whole again …” Unger wrote on his Facebook page. “Ladies and Gentlemen—This is BEAR!”

We’re looking forward to watching the happy pair on their new adventures, once our eyes stop watering.


Taking Care of You—and Your Colleagues

Your shelter devotes tremendous amounts of time and energy to improving the health and welfare of its animals, but what about the human animals who make all your work possible? The best and most successful shelters never forget their staff.

The People Practices Self-Check (PPSC) is a tool created by organizational science experts at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), through funding from The HSUS. It helps shelters identify opportunities to promote the growth and success of employees, using online surveys to walk shelter managers through questions that will help them analyze how their practices match up with those considered the best in the field. The tool delves into HR issues ranging from recruitment and hiring to training, performance management, advancement opportunities and much more. The PPSC will help you figure out whether your shelter is doing the best for its human resources, and give you specific tools to help fill any gaps.

“You’re taking care of your people so they can take care of the animals,” says Natalie DiGiacomo, director of shelter services for The HSUS.

The PPSC is a unique survey track within the Virtual Consultant, a free online self-assessment tool created by the shelter medicine experts at the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program and the University of Wisconsin Shelter Medicine Program.


A Truce for Zeus

In December, the gods (or at least the City Council) intervened on behalf of Zeus, a pit-bull-type dog in Moreauville, La. Zeus is by all reports a sweetie, but had the misfortune to live in a community that was on the verge of implementing an aggressive piece of breed-specific legislation that would have forced the families of certain breeds of dogs to give up their pets.

The ban was passed in October and gave people until December to get rid of their animals, but Zeus’s “mom,” Joanna Armand, and her daughter O’Hara Owens weren’t going to let that happen without a fight. Owens has problems with her neck and has to wear a brace and use a wheelchair, and while Zeus is not technically a service dog, he’d become the girl’s unofficial protector, alerting the family when Owens was in pain or having spasms.

Armand set up a Facebook page and an online petition, and the online campaign that erupted—not to mention pressure from The HSUS and other national animal welfare groups and coverage from CNN and USA Today—was apparently enough to change hearts and minds: The City Council repealed the ban before it could start to be enforced, and Zeus is free to go on watching over and snuggling his favorite people.


O Come O Come, A Manual

How are your adoptions going? Do you think you’re finding good homes for as many animals as you could be? You may want to take a look at Adopters Welcome, the new adoption manual from The HSUS.

Why an adoption resource now? The manual says it best: “At The HSUS, we often hear from shelters and rescues that increasing and improving adoptions are priorities for them. Ironically, we also hear from people who are frustrated when they try to adopt. Many have been refused for reasons that don’t make sense to them. Others have changed their minds about adoption because of a bad experience.”

We want to change that landscape by rewarding the decision to adopt with an engaging and supportive adoption process. The resource features tips and advice from groups that are implementing customer-friendly approaches that work; it’s available for print for purchase or free digital download.

About the Author

Animal Sheltering is for everyone who cares about the animals in their community—from shelter directors and animal care and control officers to kennel staff, volunteers, and private individuals working as activists, breed rescuers, wildlife rehabbers, veterinarians and more.