Dr. Kim Sanders, Director and Veterinarian Anderson County PAWS, South Carolina
“Anyone can show exceptional leadership ability in easy times. When all’s going to plan, anyone can be inspirational/excellent/innovative and strong. The real question is how do you show up when everything’s falling apart?” – Robin S. Sharma.
In August 2016 Anderson County PAWS came under scrutiny by a community of outraged animal lovers. They were demanding action after realizing that over sixty percent of the more than 7,000 animals that entered the shelter annually were being euthanized. Staff was burnt out and miserable. They didn’t see how things could ever get better. In 2016 only 56% of the cats in the shelter were being saved. Everything was falling apart and something had to change quickly!
Target Zero had completed an assessment of the shelter the week prior to my arrival. Dr. Pizano, Cameron Moore and I talked for hours about best practices and which programs needed to be implemented immediately to save lives. They helped me rewrite ordinances that would allow community cat diversion and walked me through getting them passed by County Council. Animal Control, under the Sheriff’s Office, swore I was crazy and that the community cat program would be the death of us all. Staff struggled to understand that we could tell citizens no and instead ask them for help or offer resources for underage or sick kittens.
We received complaints that people didn’t want cats in their yard, even though these were usually the people responsible for feeding those same cats. I would take time when a difficult person was trying to turn in cats to educate not only them but my staff on how to handle the situation. Offering food, crates, formula and the promise that those kittens would get a chance to live instead of dying in the shelter tends to make those difficult people feel like they made the right decision.
Last year we saved over 92% of cats that came into the shelter. The Animal Control officers love community cat diversion and they now educate our community (and joke about how they just knew it wouldn’t work in our town). We spay and neuter any community cat for free, almost 2,220 cats were altered in our clinic last year. My staff is proud of their shelter now and they love the work that they do. We are a key resource center for NoKill SC and we take pride in how far we have come in a short period of time. Now I do assessments for struggling shelters and implement the same programs that changed lives in Anderson. I took my entire staff to a shelter an hour away and we helped overhaul the entire facility. We reconciled their inventory, taught them how to better use their software, set them up with our rescues and we now do their spay/neuter surgeries for them. In one month they went from a 4% save rate to a 79% save rate in cats just because we offered to do their surgeries. Paying it forward has been one of the greatest rewards. I’m working on my fifth shelter now. Saving lives doesn’t have to be difficult and we are proof that when the correct programs are implemented that lifesaving can be achieved anywhere.
When everything was falling apart I found inspiration from two amazing women in animal welfare, Dr. Pizano and Cameron Moore. They were always there to support me, to answer my questions, to tell me to quit crying and get back inside to save lives! It’s only right that I pass that type of support along to others in this industry as well. If these changes can be made in “my town”, they can work for you too.
Carrie Ducote, Senior Manager, Georgia Best Friends Animal Society ®
I had the privilege of working with Dr. Pizano on multiple shelter assessments in the state of Georgia. At each shelter, I was astounded by her diplomacy and admired her ability to alter her communication style based on the needs of the conversation. Her knowledge and experience with shelter operations combined with her people skills make her the ideal person to manage and lead change at any animal shelter or non profit. The shelters where she has worked in Georgia have seen dramatic changes to both their save rate (up to 64 percentage points in one case), community support and staff morale. I look forward to continuing to work with her to impact change in Georgia and nation wide.
In full disclosure, we’re still a little teary that you’re gone. Truly. I simply can’t say what a fabulous week we had and how over the moon we are about what lies ahead. Thank you for fighting for Knoxville and remaining convicted to come visit and help get us on that fast track to success. I could never envision a more fun, dedicated and experienced team to help lead YW forward and just please promise you’ll stay in the wings to get us to where we need and want to be.
What an honor it’s been to add you to our “circle of trust” and simply can’t express our gratitude for the gift you’ve given Young-Williams and our city. Look forward to more collaboration and successful updates.
Joe Hellebrand. Director, Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services, Florida
Yes, they did our assessment in late 2015 and it was quite an eye-opening experience and was critical to our success in attaining no-kill status. It’s a cliché’ but, you don’t know what you don’t know. Dr. Pizano is very knowledgeable and her insight was invaluable.
What she also provided us was credibility. Early on we faced a lot of criticism from the community whenever we tried to change an existing practice or program. Whether it was eliminating drop boxes, requiring appointments for owner surrender, RTF, you name it, everyone had an opinion on how we should run our operation. What we heard was; what do you know about animal welfare you’re cops? We were able to counter with, yes we are cops and yes we are still learning, however, we are following the advice of experts in the field and proven best practices of the industry that can be confirmed through scientific studies. Not someone’s opinion.
I would highly recommend an assessment. We would not be where we are today without Dr. Pizano’s guidance and mentorship.
Angela Rovetto. No More Homeless Pets Network Specialist. Best Friends Animal Society
Thank you so much for sharing all the data and information you did during the assessment trip to Young Williams Animal Care! It was a wonderful opportunity to see how you perform not only the assessment piece but the communication and messaging with each different “change” entity involved. I’m grateful for the service you provide the municipal shelters and looking forward to supporting the shelter in ways I can as they use the assessment as their guiding star towards integrating best practices and achieving higher live release rates!
It was great meeting you, seeing you in action!