When I took over Memphis Animal Services in the summer of 2016, I felt like I was on an island alone, trying to survive using only the knowledge I already had in my brain. Then someone recommended I reach out to Sara and Cameron for help, and everything changed.
When these two arrived in Memphis, it was the first time I felt like I had people there who understood what I was going through, were compassionate to the challenges facing a new municipal shelter director, and came with real actionable plans that I could put in place.
I was so tired of hearing people tell me, just stop euthanizing animals. Sara and Cameron never said that. They said try this program, put this initiative in place, give this idea a chance. They spoke to our entire community about it in a meeting. They met with our Mayor. They guided our shelter leadership team on how to get out of the fear-based thinking mindset and focus on proven change strategies.
They came with the ideas and they stood by us as we implemented them. They gave me exactly what I needed when I needed it.
Looking back, Sara and Cameron didn’t come to my island with a tent, or food, or a boat- they showed me how to construct a shelter, make my own food, and build a boat to bring in more people so I wasn’t alone on the island anymore.
I hope everyone who feels overwhelmed running an animal shelter that is trying to get to no kill can have a chance to benefit from their “Survivor” skills.
Memphis would not be inches away from no-kill without them.
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. Everything was falling apart and something had to change quickly!
Dr. Pizano and Cameron Moore completed an assessment and we 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.
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). 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. 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! If these changes can be made in “my town”, they can work for you too.
Having a community and shelter assessment completed in Greenville County and receiving one-on-one guidance from animal sheltering experts was instrumental in building the necessary framework to decrease animal intake, keep our shelter pets healthy, and decrease the length of stay to live outcomes. With Dr. Pizano and Cameron’s help, we were able to leverage administration and our county council to make important changes to how our community looks at animal control, how we live with community cats, and what services are truly needed in our county to build a no-kill community. Before our consultation and shelter assessment in late 2015, we were killing more than 4,500 cats annually and every cage in our cat rooms were overflowing. Our feline sick hold areas were constantly full with more sick cats waiting to get in. In 2018, our feline euthanasia is projected to be less than 600 and we hope to continue lowering that number each year, there are days and sometimes even weeks where we have empty cat rooms, and our feline sick hold areas are often empty or at most two or three cats being treated.
The experience Dr. Pizano and Cameron have in animal control policies helped guide our animal control officers to stop picking up outdoor cats and instead work with us to implement a hugely successful community cat TNR program. Our county spay/neuter clinic now performs 2,500-3,000 community cat sterilization surgeries annually…for free! Animal control cat pick-ups dropped 82% after we implemented the proven strategies suggested during our consult, and now instead of picking cats up off the street, our officers pick up cats from our spay/neuter clinic and take them back to their outdoor homes. I could go on and on about the amazing accomplishments we have seen since applying the recommendations Dr. Pizano and Cameron suggested for us. Having that consult truly was life-changing…for the animals in our shelter, for the people who work here to save them, and for our community as a whole.
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.
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.
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!
The objective evaluation that was provided to us helped support program concepts we had been considering as well as offered new ideas for programming changes. It gave us an advantage when talking with administrators about much needed life-saving programs at our shelter. Since the evaluation, we have made many changes and our intake numbers are declining as is euthanasia. The recommendations they offered have served as a template for progressive change and has kept us motivated for positive change.