Since taking on her new position of Director of Statewide Initiatives with the Michigan Humane Society in October of 2012, Linda Reider has visited 34 Northern Michigan shelters (see the full list is below). According to Linda, the goal of these visits was to learn firsthand the needs, challenges, and successes of the shelters and animal welfare groups across the state. The MHS plans to bring additional resources where needed to help shelters and placement groups in Michigan meet the needs of the animals requiring care in their local communities.
Animal controls, humane societies, foster-based placement groups, wildlife rehabilitation centers, and other types of animal welfare organizations are critical components of Michigan’s web of assistance for animals. Michigan Humane Society (MHS), under the umbrella of the Michigan Partnership for Animal Welfare (MPAW), will provide training and mentoring where it is most needed, establishing new communication platforms among groups, enabling inter-agency animal transport, and acting as a central resource for the state. MHS is the state’s largest animal sheltering organization. They have many specialists on staff in such critical areas as animal care, evaluation, medical treatment, cruelty investigation, adoptions, sterilization, shelter construction, animal transport, fundraising, legislation, etc. They plan to expand access to our experts so that northern organizations can benefit from their knowledge and experience.
Funding for Michigan shelters through special MPAW grants is also on the horizon. While MSH always encourage donors to give locally to the shelters in their own communities, some people want to support statewide efforts. MPAW is ideal for that sort of donor, as they keep Michigan resources in the state, helping Michigan animals and animal groups.
Training is a big part of that effort. While MHS held nine statewide animal welfare conferences and a number of smaller training/networking events, they are really ramping up. The first training of 2013 will be on horse cruelty investigation in response to the concerns expressed by multiple northern agencies for help in this area, including our own Tom Buss of Grand Traverse County (thanks, Tom!) This horse cruelty investigation workshop has already been scheduled for Wednesday, February 27th. It’s being set up for law enforcement and animal control personnel and the sponsors of the workshop include Grand Traverse County Animal Control, Grand Traverse County Health Department, Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office and MPAW.
MPAW will also be partnering with the Michigan Association for Animal Control Officers to expand their spring conference (held in Benzie County) to include a full day of sessions specifically for humane societies and placement groups.
A new platform for shelter-to-shelter communication via Facebook is up and running, and they are in the process of launching an animal transport platform for shelters and placement groups as well.
MHS is currently researching a statewide lost pet services locator map (where to look for a lost pet, and where to take or report a lost pet statewide) and updating their searchable database of shelters and placement groups available at www.mpaw.org
Linda says, “In short, there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening to help support animal groups and MHS is delighted to be leading the effort. Their roots are in Michigan and they are dedicated to the animals in our own care and in the care of other groups statewide!”
Linda was very impressed with the dedication of the people and the animal housing facilities that she visited, although it is clear that the current economic stresses in our state and particularly up north have made improvements and staffing difficult for many shelters.
She also found a clearly a superabundance of cats in most places, and not always sufficient services available for them. Creative programs to sterilize cats in the community, boost adoptions, and provide adequate holding space are all needed to help address the feline issue. MHS wants to encourage the public to get their cats neutered or spayed, visit a shelter or placement group for their next cat, and continue to support agencies that assist cats in their communities.
MHS has a limited wintertime cat transport program to assist shelters in moving healthy adoptable cats into homes in the metropolitan Detroit area via their dedicated transport team and seven offsite cat adoption centers. Last year, those centers found homes for 1,606 cats and kittens, a number of them having been transferred to MHS from other shelters. Linda said that she had certainly visited shelters that might benefit from this type of assistance. She adds “there are some beautiful new or refurbished shelters up north, such as in Gaylord and Cheboygan, but there are also shelters that are in serious need of improvements. We’re working on a new program to help make those improvements possible in the places of greatest need.”
The MHS has visited other shelters over their 135 year history, but these recent visits are a more concentrated effort to canvass the state, learn what is needed, and help improve the infrastructure for animals. Linda hopes to get to every registered shelter over the coming year. She started out visiting downstate shelters, and as a result of her first visit, MHS is working with the Jackson County Animal Shelter right now on training for their staff in dog evaluation. This includes on-site training and follow-up hands-on job shadowing in our three busy shelters. There is no fee for this educational service, and Linda is sure that they will learn as much from the people they mentor as they learn from MHS. She adds, “It’s a great way to break down communication barriers, build cameraderie, and generally raise the bar for the important lifesaving work we all do.”
So what kinds of things were being looked at during these visits and what kinds of questions were being asked? Linda says that one of the main concerns during her visits was to find out what the groups most needed and what they feel are unmet challenges for animals in their service area.
Almost all of the organizations want more inter-shelter communication, the ability to transport animals among shelters to improve adoption outcomes, and more access to grants and training. Relating to a very large organization like Michigan Humane Society can be intimidating, so Linda acted as an ambassador to jump-starting communication and let people know there is a big network of folks just like them working for animals, and willing and able to listen to their needs and concerns, and act on them.
The MHS believes that having well-run shelters and placement groups, staffed by professionals in animal welfare (whether paid or volunteer), that have services to meet the needs of pets and wild animals in distress, is critical to saving more lives in Michigan. People run into problems with animals—they move, develop allergies, have animals they are unable to train or find homes for. Michiganders need to know about the wide variety of services that is out there for animals, and that they can be counted on to do a good job.
And just like the advice that was given at the Best Friends Animal Conference in 2012, Linda agrees that negativity among groups must be minimized. She says, “There is room for many types of missions and ways to deliver services—criticizing other groups is a waste of our precious resources! Sometimes the most innovative ideas come from the smallest most out-of-the-way animal groups.”
MSH is very aware that while they knows a lot about the needs of animals and people in Southeastern Michigan, that does not necessarily translate into knowing what is most needed in upper Michigan. But their size and resources allow them to help link northern and southern groups together, so that we can all do a better job helping the animals in our care by working smart, collaborating, and leading the way for the nation.
That is their dream
And I’m sure it’s also the dream of the rescue groups and shelters reading this story and all of you pet owners out there.
We all need to learn how to work together cooperatively and efficiently to save more lives. We need to network more and combine resources when it makes sense.
We also need a much better lost/found system in Michigan so that pets can be reunited with their owners. Most of the statistics from the Department of Agriculture for our shelters have very dismal “return to owner” numbers. Although local efforts will always be needed (boots on the ground, Facebook networking, lost ads, Craigslist), we also need a clearinghouse – a database, almost like what is on the FBI missing person’s website. It would obviously rely on a commitment from shelters and rescue groups to post found pets (some animal controls don’t even have this information on their website) as well as the public to post lost and found pets.
It DOESN’T seem impossible to me to find a computer person to come up with a web-based program that can try to match pets and email both parties – as well as list information about the animals lost and found to better identify them for the public. I have talked a lot in 2012 with volunteers and workers in animal welfare about needing a better system of reuniting pets with their owners. It was discussed both at the Michigan Pet Fund conference and at the Best Friends Animal Conference. Everyone agreed that we need a comprehensive program in this state to help more pets get back home. It’s an idea that needs to be on the forefront of what we accomplish in the near future.
If you have any questions for Linda about her visits or would like to learn more about any of the initiatives she discussed, you can call her at 248-283-5697 or email her here.
The following is a list of the animal shelters/rescue groups that Linda visited with…
o A.C. PAW (Mancelona)
o Alger County Animal Shelter (Munising)
o Almost Home Animal Shelter (Quinnesec)
o Alpena County Animal Control
o Antrim County Animal Shelter (Bellaire)
o ARK (wildlife rehabilitation center in St. Helen)
o AuSable Valley Animal Shelter (Grayling)
o Benzie County Animal Control (Beulah)
o Best of Friends Humane Society (non-sheltered, Sault Ste. Marie)
o Brian S. Stutesman (private animal control shelter in Mio)
o Charlevoix Area Humane Society (Boyne City)
o Cheboygan County Humane Society
o Cherryland Humane Society (Traverse City)
o Chippewa County Animal Control Shelter (Sault Ste. Marie)
o Copper Country Humane Society (Houghton)
o Delta Animal Shelter (Escanaba)
o Elk Country Animal Shelter (Atlanta)
o Emmet County Stray Center (Petoskey)
o Eva Burrell Animal Shelter (Manistique)
o Grand Traverse Animal Control (Traverse City)
o HOPE Animal Shelter (Ironwood)
o Huron Humane Society (Alpena)
o Kalkaska Animal Shelter
o Little Traverse Bay Humane Society (Harbor Springs)
o Luce County Pet Pals (building a shelter in Newberry)
o Mackinac County Animal Shelter (St. Ignace)
o Menominee Animal Shelter
o Northwoods Animal Shelter (Iron River)
o Ogemaw County Humane Society (West Branch)
o Ontonagon County Animal Protection
o Otsego County Animal Control (Gaylord)
o Roscommon County Animal Shelter (Prudenville)
o Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter (Marquette)
o With A Little Help From My Friends Pet Crisis Center (Bellaire)