ART: Working with animal shelters...
Working With Animal Shelters in Your Area
As a new Airedale Rescue Volunteer, you’ve been researching and studying all the vital information on the NAR website at www.airedalerescue.net. Perhaps you’ve assisted with a transport of a rescued Airedale and/or done a couple of home checks. Now you want to let people know that you are an available Airedale rescue person in your area. You know there are animal shelters in your town, and you’ve been wondering how to introduce yourself to them.
Prior to your first visit to a shelter, I suggest you prepare a Presentation Notebook to take with you. Holding this Presentation Notebook when you walk into a shelter will assist you in making a professional presentation as well as giving you the confidence of knowing the points you plan to present to the shelter personnel are in your Notebook. It’s easier to make a fluid presentation when we have written notes to guide us, and that is what your Notebook can provide for you. At the end of this article, I’ve listed some items you should consider for inclusion in your Presentation Notebook. Once you’ve finished constructing your Notebook, you’ll probably be surprised at how knowledgeable you feel and how your Airedale Rescue self-confidence has grown.
Be Prepared for Your Visit
Prior to your visit, obtain the name of the shelter Manager. If you make an appointment with that person, you will have a better chance of speaking to him/her when you arrive. Shelters are very busy places, and managers have many duties each day. If you choose to call without an appointment, ask for the manager by name when you arrive. If the manager is not available, speak to the next person in charge. Introduce yourself and offer that person your calling card. Ask for a few minutes of her time. Begin your presentation by using your Notebook. An opening page in your Notebook should be a copy of your personal Letter of Introduction, which you can point to as you introduce yourself as an Airedale Rescue volunteer. As you tell her Airedale Rescue is a non-profit organization, point to the page illustrating our IRS statement of our 501(c)(3) status. The next page in your Notebook should be Airedale Rescue’s Policy, and you can point to this page as you tell her these important points.
As you can see, you will be using your Notebook to guide you through the presentation. Arrange the pages in the order in which you will be discussing your material and it will give you confidence and make it much easier for you to do a professional presentation.
Your goal in this presentation is to make a good impression for yourself and for Airedale Rescue: That you are knowledgeable, responsible, and you will be quick to respond when they contact you about an Airedale that arrives in their shelter.
If the shelter person seems less than excited with your visit, try to see things from their perspective. The shelter sees more mixes than pure breeds, and some shelter workers resent that breed rescue groups ignore the other dogs. Shelter workers have many horror stories of trying to work with other (undependable and unreliable) rescue groups. They may want to share those stories with you, and it’s important that you listen to their stories. Be understanding. Nod and commiserate as you listen. Promise that we are different. When the time seems appropriate, let them know, in a friendly way, that we care for all the dogs, but realize we can’t save them all. As much as we wish we could do more, since we are experts with the Airedale breed, we feel we can offer our best service by staying with that breed. If you are prepared to help with Airedale mixes, let them know that you would try.
If you are willing to help with other breeds, let them know! Maybe you’re able to assist with other terrier breeds. Offer whatever help you can. One of the best ways to make friends with a shelter is to offer them something beyond just picking up Airedales. Could you offer to help in some other capacity? Walking dogs on Saturday morning? Grooming long-haired dogs? Calling other rescues? Transporting? Participating in a fund-raising event? Much good will is garnered with the shelter and you get your foot in the back room of that shelter, which gives you the opportunity of personally connecting with the people working in that shelter. If you can do this, you’re going to have success stories to share. Share them here! Send them to me and we’ll feature them in an upcoming ART article.
A Little Bit More About Shelters
One reason shelters prefer to place the dogs themselves is because they need the adoption fees for their operating expenses. If possible, offer to pay the adoption fee that is sometimes waived for rescue groups. Appreciate the fact that the shelter was there for that Airedale when needed. Perhaps you could consider a fund-raising project to cover these fees.
Airedale Rescue has been an effective rescue organization for many years. Unfortunately, some other groups do not have our good reputation. Animal rescue seems like a wonderful thing to some naive new volunteers - until they realize how much work and dedication and time it can take to do the job properly. They start out with vigor, but fall to the wayside when the job gets too demanding. What happens then? The shelter calls them, and the volunteer never returns the call. Some rescue groups misrepresent themselves and dogs don’t get the care promised. You can certainly see why such bad experiences can darken a shelter person’s opinion of rescue groups in general. It’s our job to convince them that we are serious and responsible. Offer to come in and do Airedale breed identification for them. Point to the photos in your Notebook of “before and after” Airedale pictures. Point to the photos of Airedale puppies and how they look.
When the shelter does call you, RESPOND IMMEDIATELY! If for a breed check, that will only take a few minutes and they will appreciate the prompt assistance. Never let an Airedale languish in a shelter. When you get a call, bail that ‘dale out immediately or as soon as possible. Get the dog to a vet’s office or boarding kennel until you can arrange foster care.
Never assume the shelter people don’t care. They have a very tough job. Volunteers may change frequently, so call back periodically to re-introduce yourself and let them know you are serious. This is very important. You may have to call back many times before they feel they can trust you. Thank them for adding your name to their contact list for Airedales. Thank them for working with you.
Finally, make notes on every visit so you can remember names and positions of various employees and volunteers in the shelter. This will be very helpful when you make your follow up visits.
Your Presentation Notebook
Your Presentation Notebook can be a standard 3-ring notebook. The pages will be printed on standard 8-1/2 x 11 inch paper, enclosed in clear sheet protectors.
When constructing your Notebook, consider including the following:
- A supply of your own Airedale Rescue Calling Cards. If you need assistance in obtaining your own calling cards, contact me (Sally) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Your personal letter of introduction. This will be a copy of a letter you have created to mail to shelters that you can’t visit personally. (If you would like a sample letter, contact me (Sally) at email@example.com.
- Airedale Rescue proof of non-profit 501(c)(3) status. For an IRS document showing the National Airedale Rescue status as a non-profit organization, click here and print a copy of this document. When you tell the shelter personnel that we are a non-profit organization, you are able to point to the page in your Notebook to illustrate the point.
- NAR’s Policy. Printing the NAR Policy page (click here for the link) with the four Airedales pictured there will make a very attractive Policy Page for your Notebook. Before Placement, all rescue dogs must be:
- spayed or neutered
- bathed and groomed
- checked for heartworm and parasites
- brought up-to-date on shots based on the age of the dog, any known history of vaccinations, the laws of your locale and consultation with your veterinarian
- carefully evaluated for temperament and personality in order to be matched with an appropriate forever home
- prospective adopters must be thoroughly screened and evaluated for a suitable Airedale
- all rescue dogs must be placed as house dogs with a securely fenced yard.
- Any Airedale Rescue Brochures that you have available. There is a variety of pamphlets available for printing, courtesy of ATRA, that can be found by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the page. Print off copies that you feel will be helpful to you in your presentation, with extra copies you may choose to use for distribution. Be sure to include your contact information on each brochure.
- Copy of the Placement Agreement used when you place a rescue. If you don’t have a contract used by your local group, you can click here for a copy of NAR’s Placement Contract.
- Before and After pictures of Airedales. Most times when an Airedale comes into a shelter, they are ungroomed. Their coats may be dirty and/or matted, and hardly recognizable as a handsome Airedale! As you illustrate these pictures, it is a good time to offer to come in and do Airedale breed identification. For Before and After pictures of Airedale, click here to go to NAR’s website for the section titled, “Is It An Airedale?” for excellent pictures to include in your Notebook.
- Any additional information that will be an asset to your Presentation Notebook. Perhaps you have photos and stories of your own that you’d like to include. Great! Make this interesting and informative Notebook your own by including your own local stories or national stories you’d like to share.
The content of this Presentation Notebook will give you quick reference to items of special interest when you are making your initial introduction to the shelter personnel. It makes it easier when you can display pages as you talk about the various points. By enclosing these individual pages in clear page protectors you can keep your Notebook fresh and clean.
There are often several animal rescue shelters in any area. There’s the public shelter, private shelters, the pound (Animal Control Organizations), all-breed rescues, etc. Contact with all of them is important. However, once your Presentation Notebook is done, it will be easy to check in with all of them and cover all the bases.
ART Newsletter Copyright 2010 by Sally Schnellmann and National Airedale Rescue. Reproduction in whole or in part is forbidden without the publisher's written permission.