Shannon Hill http://shannonlhill.com Thu, 26 Mar 2015 03:55:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Rescue 101 for Shelters (aka Rescue Is Your Friend) http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/rescue-101-for-shelters-aka-rescue-is-your-friend/ http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/rescue-101-for-shelters-aka-rescue-is-your-friend/#respond Thu, 26 Mar 2015 03:55:48 +0000 http://shannonlhill.com/?p=1124 Well, Care Corp strikes again. This time, both of the shelters under their “management” have managed to offend good rescue groups in a variety of ways. Since clearly they don’t have a good grasp of how to treat rescue groups, I’m going to offer some suggestions on how to develop a good relationship with rescue. […]

The post Rescue 101 for Shelters (aka Rescue Is Your Friend) appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
Well, Care Corp strikes again. This time, both of the shelters under their “management” have managed to offend good rescue groups in a variety of ways. Since clearly they don’t have a good grasp of how to treat rescue groups, I’m going to offer some suggestions on how to develop a good relationship with rescue. I’m also going to explain why it matters, because they don’t seem to get that either.

 

How to cultivate rescue groups:

Learn what kind of animals that group wants. Each group develops a following that is looking for a particular animal profile. Asking them to take an animal that doesn’t fit their profile is asking them to take on an animal that will be harder for them to place.

 

Learn who to call for what. Each rescue has someone (or more than one someone) authorized to make intake decisions. Let’s say you’re calling an all breed group that takes both dogs and cats. Don’t call their cat person looking to place a large dog. You need to know who to call for small dogs, large dogs, purebred dogs, mixed breed dogs, dogs with minor medical issues, dogs with major medical issues, dogs with behavioral problems, puppies, senior dogs, bonded pairs, unsocialized dogs, ad infinitum. Developing relationships with the right people for every possible scenario is vital.

 

Act fast. Got a dog that you know fits a particular rescue’s demographic? Call them immediately. Do NOT wait around for a week to see if a shelter foster wants the dog. Do NOT let the dog sit around the shelter to see if maybe you can get him adopted out. First, rescues love it when they can get a dog before he has spent time in the main kennels of a shelter. Why? Less exposure to diseases. No matter how clean the shelter, the constant influx of animals from unknown backgrounds means that disease exposure is inevitable. The faster the dog gets out, the less likely he is to get sick. Second, if you have an animal that a rescue will take, get him out! It frees up kennel space for another animal. And for God’s sake never let a sick or injured animal wait.

 

Respect your rescue contacts. Remember that rescues are run by volunteers, who use their own time and money to take care of these animals. They may have to take off work, drive long distances, line up transport volunteers and vet appointments, find foster homes, raise money for treatment, and make a host of other arrangements. So it’s never a good idea to suddenly tell them that the animal is no longer available, especially after they’ve already made those arrangements or driven to pick the animal up. Rescues don’t have to work with your shelter. There are animals in need everywhere. Rescues are helping you by moving animals out of your shelter and off your books as live releases. Help them by being courteous and responsible.

 

Communicate! Answer your phone. Answer your email. Answer your smoke signals. Whatever it takes. Again, rescuers are volunteers who are usually working around jobs and other responsibilities. If you want them to pull animals from your shelter, then reply to their messages promptly. Text, email, phone, send a carrier pigeon. If you wait around, that rescue with one foster placement open may find another dog to give it to, and you lose out. And while you’re communicating, be honest with them about the animal. Tell them every single thing you know (except where to find the previous owners, if any). If you know something about the animal’s health or behavior and don’t communicate it, you are putting the other animals and possibly the people in the rescue at risk.

 

All of this would seem to be basic common sense, but recent happenings at the two local shelters under Care Corp management suggest that perhaps common sense is not so common. I’ve heard tales of shelter employees being rude, rescue volunteers being turned away by the same shelter that approved transport arrangements, designated networking employees refusing to answer messages, breed rescues getting calls to ask them to take a dog who’s been there for days and then discovering more of the same breed when they get to the shelter, rescues being interrogated about why they will or will not take a particular animal…the list goes on and on.

 

It should be such a simple equation. Every animal that goes to rescue equals an open kennel space in the shelter and vet bills that get paid by the rescue instead of the shelter. Rescues also have the ability to work individually with their animals and adopters to ensure the best possible placement for the animal. If your objective as a shelter is maximum live release outcomes, then you should be bending over backwards to accommodate rescue volunteers. Rescues are a valuable, crucial link in the life saving chain. Be the shelter they want to work with.

The post Rescue 101 for Shelters (aka Rescue Is Your Friend) appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/rescue-101-for-shelters-aka-rescue-is-your-friend/feed/ 0
The First Amendment for Shelter Volunteers http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/the-first-amendment-for-shelter-volunteers/ http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/the-first-amendment-for-shelter-volunteers/#respond Wed, 18 Mar 2015 22:03:34 +0000 http://shannonlhill.com/?p=1119 Recently it has come to my attention that Care Corp has taken up trying to get rid of volunteers who speak out about their concerns or criticisms. Some volunteers have been directly confronted and questioned about their posts to social media. Some have simply been “not allowed” to pull a dog in need that the […]

The post The First Amendment for Shelter Volunteers appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
Recently it has come to my attention that Care Corp has taken up trying to get rid of volunteers who speak out about their concerns or criticisms. Some volunteers have been directly confronted and questioned about their posts to social media. Some have simply been “not allowed” to pull a dog in need that the previous management would have been delighted for them to take. Social media pleas go out, arrangements get made, and then poof, the animal is mysteriously not available.

 

And then the new foster contract suddenly appeared.

 

A little background…for years, fostering through MCAS has been a very informal arrangement. Most fosters simply signed a basic agreement similar to an adoption contract. Many never signed anything, because they were well known to the management. They were simply listed in the computer as the animal’s foster.

 

I don’t think that any volunteer objects to a reasonable foster contract spelling out the foster’s rights and obligations. In fact, it would be a good thing to have clearly delineated expectations on both sides. But there is one section in the new contract that is definitely not reasonable. (I have photographs of this contract, and I have retyped the relevant section to make it easier to read. The following is a verbatim reproduction of the text in the photograph.)

 

Here’s the section in question:

 

“Resignations and Terminations

 

  • If you choose to resign from the MCAS Foster Program, please notify shelter management to be removed from the Approved Foster list.

 

  • MCAS reserves the right to terminate or suspend any individual from participating in the Foster Program. Reasons for termination include, but are not limited to the following:

*Failure to follow MCAS Foster Program guidelines.

*Failure to submit adoption application and fees to MCAS within 7 days following the adoption of a foster animal.

*Abuse or neglect of animals.

*Misconduct with or abuse of staff, volunteers, or citizens including the use of social media to berate or abuse.

*Falsification of MCAS records, including the Foster Application.

*Theft.”

 

Most of this sounds pretty reasonable. But there is a huge, glaring problem right in the middle.

 

“Misconduct with or abuse of staff, volunteers, or citizens including the use of social media to berate or abuse.”

 

Folks, this is a First Amendment Issue. Here’s what the First Amendment says. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment1.html#sthash.oKs7a0YV.dpuf)

 

Now, I’m no lawyer. But the good news is that a host of judges and lawyers have explored this issue for us. This is a county shelter. That means that it is a government entity, even under a private management contract. And a law commonly called Section 1983 protects citizens from retaliation by government entities AND by private management companies in response to complaints, questions and criticisms. Court cases specific to animal shelters have determined that banning or limiting the access rights of volunteers in response to criticism is a violation of First Amendment rights and a violation of Section 1983. (See http://bit.ly/STBP0B for details.)

 

As recently as January 2015, a Maryland court ruled in favor of volunteers who were subjeted to retaliation for criticizing a shelter. (http://bit.ly/1Cov6Vn)

 

And while I’m generally not a fan of Nathan Winograd’s politics, he’s an excellent source of information on animal welfare laws. Check out his letter to another jurisdiction that tried to add something similar to their volunteer agreement. (http://bit.ly/10exPNJ)

 

So dear friends, volunteers, fosters, have you complained about the management or animal care practices or rules or conditions OR ANYTHING ELSE at MCAS (or any other shelter), and then suddenly found yourself unwelcome? Have you stated your support for those who oppose Care Corp, and then suddenly found it impossible or unreasonably difficult to pull, transport, take pictures, walk dogs? Have your rights as a volunteer been affected in any way as a result of the exercise of your First Amendment rights?

 

Whether your unwelcomeness is expressed directly (verbally or in writing) or by the shelter making it impossible for you to continue by randomly making animals unavailable, arbitrarily changing rules, making rules that don’t apply to everyone, or any other such hostile behavior, you do have recourse. Call your County Commissioners. If necessary, retain counsel. Document everything.

 

Seems to me that Care Corp still thinks the unwanted volunteers will get tired or bored and wander off. I know they won’t. These rejected volunteers are dedicated. Passionate. And determined. And they know their First Amendment Rights.

 

My fellow volunteers, whatever your affiliation, those rights are there for a reason. Use them. I know I will.

The post The First Amendment for Shelter Volunteers appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/the-first-amendment-for-shelter-volunteers/feed/ 0
Small Town Politics (Dear Commissioners) http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/small-town-politics-dear-commissioners/ http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/small-town-politics-dear-commissioners/#respond Thu, 12 Mar 2015 03:21:45 +0000 http://shannonlhill.com/?p=1116 Over the last several weeks, I’ve written quite a bit about the changes at MCAS. I am not pleased with many of these changes, particularly since my research shows that there have been any number of ethically questionable decisions made in this process.   *The deal to sell Care Corp was approved by the county […]

The post Small Town Politics (Dear Commissioners) appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
Over the last several weeks, I’ve written quite a bit about the changes at MCAS. I am not pleased with many of these changes, particularly since my research shows that there have been any number of ethically questionable decisions made in this process.

 

*The deal to sell Care Corp was approved by the county commissioners after rewriting the contract to remove several clauses that protected the shelter and its residents. (Most notably, they removed the clause prohibiting the sale of Care Corp.)

 

*The new management promised that the shelter director’s job was safe. A few weeks later, they fired her for “not fitting in.” When challenged, the new head of Care Corp claimed that he was simply reorganizing the staff and eliminating her position.

 

*The new management has actually had the audacity to take certain volunteers to task for their comments on social media. Volunteers who have questions are told to “email the shelter,” but their emails go unanswered. The message is clear. Volunteers don’t matter, especially if they express any criticism or disapproval of Care Corp’s actions.

 

*Then there are the questionable decisions about animal care and placement. Just one example: several dogs were recently sent to a rescue group that had been banned from pulling dogs. That rescue is banned by shelters in its own geographic area, as well as by most shelters in the Houston area. But the “new” MCAS sent 5 small dogs off with a banned large dog rescue.

 

Here’s where small town politics come into play:

 

In this county, the animal shelter falls under the purview of the county commissioners. They are the ones who agreed to alter the contract in order to permit the sale of Care Corp without putting the county contract up for public bid. These same commissioners hold regular public meetings, and residents of this county who have concerns about an issue can have three minutes per person to address the commissioners during those meetings.

 

Several of our volunteers attended this week’s Commissioners’ Court. One volunteer signed up to address the commissioners. She had a prepared statement that neatly outlined her concerns, well within her allotted three minutes. Sadly, during those three little minutes, certain commissioners interrupted her repeatedly, told her they had more important business to conduct, and basically were rude and dismissive.

 

I wish I were surprised. I’m not. In small town politics, the good old boys don’t like to be questioned. Certainly not by a bunch of “crazy dog people.” And definitely not when those crazy dog people know more about the issue than they do.

 

Here’s the deal. Montgomery County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Like most rapidly developing areas, our infrastructure is struggling to keep up with our growth. The county is trying to meet the ever rising demand for roads, law enforcement, emergency services, and a host of other infrastructure components. The animal shelter is a part of that infrastructure. When the shelter was built years ago, no one ever anticipated that MCAS would eventually see annual intake numbers in excess of 23,000 souls. But it does. And those giant intake numbers mean a tremendous demand on limited resources: space, money, personnel, time, building overhead, and animal care.

 

My personal opinion, after 18 years in this county: I think the commissioners were delighted to hand over the giant headache that is the animal shelter to a management company. It’s so much easier to simply pay the management company and let them deal with the day to day paperwork, personnel issues, contact with the public, and animal care. I think they have pocketed their thirty pieces of silver, and now they’re hoping that the crazy dog people will wear ourselves out and go away.

 

I think that the commissioners listened to people with personal agendas who reassured them that it was a great deal for the county, and that everyone would be thrilled because the “new guy” is a veterinarian. I do not think that the commissioners did their homework. As the facts come out, and the commissioners begin to see the ramifications of their decision, I hope they will begin to see the enormity of their error. I hope they’ll take steps to make it right.

 

Dear commissioners, the animals have no voice, but we do. And as long as they need us, we will not be silent.

The post Small Town Politics (Dear Commissioners) appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/small-town-politics-dear-commissioners/feed/ 0
How Do You Spot A Bad Rescue? http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/how-do-you-spot-a-bad-rescue/ http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/how-do-you-spot-a-bad-rescue/#respond Thu, 05 Mar 2015 04:33:40 +0000 http://shannonlhill.com/?p=1111 When you spend time in the animal welfare world, eventually you will come across a bad rescue group. Some are easier to identify than others. Some hide it well, until it all comes crumbling down. Some begin with good intentions, but get in over their heads. Some are downright evil, in it to exploit the […]

The post How Do You Spot A Bad Rescue? appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
When you spend time in the animal welfare world, eventually you will come across a bad rescue group. Some are easier to identify than others. Some hide it well, until it all comes crumbling down. Some begin with good intentions, but get in over their heads. Some are downright evil, in it to exploit the animals for profit.

 

For the uninitiated, the basic obligations of a rescue group include:

*Getting the animal spayed or neutered.

*Getting the animal vetted. This includes vaccinations, microchip, and treating any medical conditions.

*Evaluating the animal’s personality, behavior, and physical condition to determine his needs.

*Providing a safe, appropriate environment for the animal while he is in the care of the rescue.

*Screening adopters to find a safe, appropriate home for the animal.

*Follow up care. This includes helping the adopter resolve any issues, if possible, and taking the animal back into rescue if at any time the adopter becomes unable to keep him.

 

So how do you know if you’re looking at a not so good rescue? Some signs are obvious, especially if you follow their social media presence.

 

Bad rescue red flags:

*They constantly complain that they can’t afford to feed the animals in their care.

*They make threats to have animals euthanized due to lack of funds or space.

*They ignore reasonable requests for information about the animals in their care.

*They have a lot of unaltered animals.

*They have a really high number of animals per person, which means that the animals cannot be cared for adequately.

*The animals in their care seem to have a lot of “accidents” (dog fights, escapes, injuries.)

*Their application doesn’t ask for references, especially for a vet reference.

*The animals at their adoption events or kennels seem neglected or excessively dirty.

*They claim to need volunteers but make it impossible for people to help.

*They avoid questions from other animal welfare people about their practices, or give different answers to different people.

*They regularly pull animals from far away shelters but not local ones. (This often means they were banned from their local shelters.)

*Their returned animals “mysteriously” end up at the shelter, and they do not reclaim them.

 

As an example of a GOOD rescue group that does it right, let me tell you about Sofia. Smart Rescue pulled her from a local shelter in July 2014. She was horribly malnourished, had a terrible case of entropion, and a golf ball sized growth on her face. She was going to take some work, and since she is a bullmastiff, everything was going to be expensive. While in foster care, she had surgery to remove the large benign growth on her face, and her eyelids were surgically lifted to repair the entropion. She was also spayed and chipped, and she required veterinary care for some other minor ailments. She weighed 80 pounds the day I picked her up at the shelter. The day she went to her adoptive home, she weighed 135.

 

Happy ending, right? Not so fast. Sofia will be returning to Smart this weekend, because one of the previous dogs in the home is picking on her incessantly. The adopters decided that it was in the best interests of both dogs to return Sofia, and Smart is taking her back. Smart will go back to the drawing board to find Sofia just the right home. And she’ll get her happy ending. Because that’s what a good rescue does.

The post How Do You Spot A Bad Rescue? appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/how-do-you-spot-a-bad-rescue/feed/ 0
Full System Breakdown http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/full-system-breakdown/ http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/full-system-breakdown/#respond Thu, 26 Feb 2015 05:27:26 +0000 http://shannonlhill.com/?p=1108 You may have noticed some turmoil in the local animal welfare community lately. In this case, the uproar is more than justified. The unethical, disruptive, destructive garbage going on at MCAS has taken down a cohesive, unified, highly functional system in which volunteers and employees mostly worked well together. If there were any personal differences, […]

The post Full System Breakdown appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
You may have noticed some turmoil in the local animal welfare community lately. In this case, the uproar is more than justified. The unethical, disruptive, destructive garbage going on at MCAS has taken down a cohesive, unified, highly functional system in which volunteers and employees mostly worked well together. If there were any personal differences, they were treated as personal and rarely had any effect on the work.

 

Since the unfortunate back room deal in which Care Corporation was sold to Dr. Ross, the “new management” has shattered the unity of the shelter community. In the absence of the director (the one fired by Dr. Ross because she just didn’t fit into his plans), the new management seems to be learning the hard way that networking animals to rescue and foster is a little trickier and more involved than previously thought. The director (the one Dr. Ross fired) knew who to call at every rescue group. She knew what foster would be a good placement for which animal. And she juggled her countless contacts easily, which might be why Dr. Ross underestimated how much the system depended on her.

 

In the absence of the former director’s leadership, a huge separation between employees and volunteers has appeared. On a personal level, friendships are falling apart. But let’s talk about the impact on our ability to save lives. Our primary and most effective tool for networking animals in the shelter is social media. The person designated by the new management as the “primary contact person” for putting out requests for rescue and foster online has blocked a ridiculous number of active volunteers. Result: One broken network. If volunteers can’t SEE the posts about animals in need, we cannot do anything to help them. Even if other people share the post, a post from a person who has blocked us remains invisible, as does the animal in need of help. Even if we happen to find out about a particular animal whom we might be able to help, we have no way to contact that “primary contact person.”

 

This choice shows remarkable lack of insight on the part of the new management.

 

When Dr. Ross fired the director, the volunteer community went ballistic, literally to the extent of holding a protest in front of the shelter. (If you’re wondering, yes, I was there.) Dr. Ross tried to save face by claiming that he had not fired the director to replace her with someone else. He explained that he intended to run the place himself.

 

Frankly, I don’t think he can. Running the shelter is a full time job. Networking animals is a fulltime job. And being a veterinarian in that shelter is a full time job. One man – with what appears to be very minimal shelter experience, and less managerial experience – cannot do all three jobs with any degree of success, particularly in a shelter of this size. It is especially telling that his standard response to any incident or mistake seems to be that he didn’t know about it.

 

MCAS should be run by a person whose passion is saving animals, but who also has the knowledge and leadership skills to make it happen. I’d like to think Dr. Ross came in with good intentions. But he clearly does not grasp how the system worked, and he broke it. Possibly beyond repair.

 

It takes every member of the system to save lives effectively – every employee, networker, fundraiser, transporter, foster, adoption coordinator, and more. It takes tremendous transparency, massive networking, a willingness to think outside the box, and ultimately a strong leader who can unite every faction toward a common goal.

 

I find it very difficult to believe that the “new management” doesn’t understand these basic principles.

 

The results speak for themselves. We are seeing more and more days in which the number of animals coming in far exceeds the number of animals going out through adoption, foster, or rescue. Rumor has it that the shelter is just about at capacity, which means that euthanasia for space won’t be far behind. How many lives will be lost to wounded egos and lack of leadership?

 

Even one is too many.

The post Full System Breakdown appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/full-system-breakdown/feed/ 0
Animal Rescue: The Ultimate NONprofit. http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/animal-rescue-ultimate-nonprofit/ http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/animal-rescue-ultimate-nonprofit/#respond Thu, 19 Feb 2015 04:28:34 +0000 http://shannonlhill.com/?p=1103 Recently I saw a comment from an animal shelter volunteer (who should have known better) indicating her belief that rescue groups are in it for profit. I was stunned. How anyone can volunteer at a shelter or with any other type of animal welfare group and still believe that a rescue could possibly make a […]

The post Animal Rescue: The Ultimate NONprofit. appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
Recently I saw a comment from an animal shelter volunteer (who should have known better) indicating her belief that rescue groups are in it for profit. I was stunned. How anyone can volunteer at a shelter or with any other type of animal welfare group and still believe that a rescue could possibly make a profit is just beyond my comprehension.

 

If this confusion still lingers among our own volunteers, the general public (aka civilians) must be even more confused. So let me tell you how rescues really work.

 

First, where do rescues get their animals? Most groups pull animals from local shelters. This in turn frees up space in crowded shelters, which helps the shelters avoid euthanizing animals due to space constraints. It also means that the rescue group pays for any veterinary care the animal might need, which lifts that burden from strained shelter resources. Some animals may also come to rescue groups as strays picked up by good Samaritans, and some are surrendered by owners who can’t or won’t keep them, but don’t want to turn them over to a shelter.

 

One of the most common questions rescuers face is why their adoption fees are “so high.” They are NOT high, in most cases! Adoption fees for most rescue groups in my area run between $150 and $250, whereas shelter adoption fees tend to run $80 – $100. Here’s the difference:

 

For a shelter adoption fee, your new pet is spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and probably microchipped. However, in many cases, the shelter knows very little about the animal’s past, behavioral needs, and any underlying health issues. That’s not the shelter’s fault. It’s just what happens when hundreds of animals coexist in cages while waiting for adoption.

 

For a rescue adoption fee, your new pet is spayed or neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, and evaluated by someone in the rescue group. The rescue pet has probably been in a foster home, where they’ve had more opportunity to see how how he interacts with dogs, cats, kids, people. They should have been able to address any behavioral needs or issues, and the animal will have been vetted much more extensively. Very often, animals released to rescue are the ones with medical needs that shelters can’t handle.

 

One example would be Sofia. Sofia was a beautiful young mastiff who came into our local shelter in terrible condition. She weighed 80 pounds, when she should have weighed 130. She had an ugly mass on her face, and her eyes were swollen shut from an infection. The infection turned out to be bilateral entropion, which basically means that the lash line of each eyelid was rolled under. The lashes were literally in constant contact with her eyeballs, and the resulting irritation had become a raging infection. She needed major medical care, a suitable environment in which to recuperate, and time to gain back the other 50 pounds. None of those are available in a shelter that has several hundred animals in house at all times.

 

Sofia’s vet care cost around $2300. I know, because I did the fundraising to cover most of it. Her adoption fee was $200. Because she was in rescue, we had the luxury of choosing from several applications to find the most suitable home for her. We had the time to let her get truly healthy so that her real personality could come out, and she could recover from abuse and neglect. But the rescue sure didn’t make a profit on her or any other animal.

 

And now there is Darius. Darius is currently with the same rescue that saved Sofia. He’s a charming young tabby cat taken into rescue at the request of a small rural shelter. When someone found Darius and his siblings in a dumpster, the shelter already had ten other young tabbies in residence. They knew that Darius would not stand much chance of adoption with them. So they reached out to Smart Rescue, one of my favorite groups.

 

Smart was happy to take Darius, and he had been doing well in his foster home. But they noticed he was having some weird problems with his ear. It took some serious investigative work to figure it out, because what Darius has is very rare in a young cat. Finally a specialist was able to diagnose him with Apocrine Cystomatosis.  This is a disorder of the sweat glands that typically hits older cats, and the only treatment is surgical removal. The really unfortunate part for Darius is that the disorder produces constant cyst growth, and his are inside his ear. The cysts make his ear constantly inflamed and infected, and they are so severe that they have produced vestibular episodes, which are sort of like vertigo for animals. He is in constant pain. The vet has recommended removing the entire ear, inside and out. It will eliminate the source of his pain and allow him to be comfortable and healthy. The estimated cost – even after a rescue discount – is about $3000.

 

Tell me again how rescue is a for profit enterprise. Seriously. There is only one way for any rescue to pay the huge vet bills that regularly come their way. Donations!

 

If you feel the urge to help Darius, please click on this link. Every dollar counts.

 

http://www.youcaring.com/pet-expenses/ear-surgery-for-darius-the-cat-/309536

 

The post Animal Rescue: The Ultimate NONprofit. appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/animal-rescue-ultimate-nonprofit/feed/ 0
A Catastrophic Betrayal at MCAS http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/catastrophic-betrayal-mcas/ http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/catastrophic-betrayal-mcas/#respond Sat, 14 Feb 2015 01:55:25 +0000 http://shannonlhill.com/?p=1100 Today is not my usual day for blogging. But something has happened that is so outrageously wrong that it cannot wait until Wednesday.   Last week, I said that I was hoping that Dr. Aubrey Ross would turn out to be the best thing to ever happen to the Montgomery County Animal Shelter. Today he […]

The post A Catastrophic Betrayal at MCAS appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
Today is not my usual day for blogging. But something has happened that is so outrageously wrong that it cannot wait until Wednesday.

 

Last week, I said that I was hoping that Dr. Aubrey Ross would turn out to be the best thing to ever happen to the Montgomery County Animal Shelter. Today he has shown that he may well be the worst.

 

Anyone who has been involved with the shelter for the last several years knows who Minda Harris is. She started out as a volunteer, and became the best damn director MCAS had ever seen. She built a huge, thriving, active volunteer program, she developed relationships with dozens of rescue groups, and she fought like hell to save every animal she possibly could. Because of her, MCAS has weekly offsite adoption events. Because of her, the old, sick, and injured get a chance. Because of her, countless people have opened their homes to foster or adopt animals.

 

She is one of the main reasons that MCAS saw their euthanasia rate go down even as the intake rates continued to rise.

 

When Dr. Ross very suddenly, quietly, and unexpectedly purchased Care Corp in December, there was the usual concern that new ownership would mean sacrificing current employees to allow the new guy to bring in his own people. But Dr. Ross assured Minda that her job was safe. Tim Holifield, the founder and former owner of Care, personally assured me that Dr. Ross was a great guy who understood how vital Minda’s role is.

 

Today, February 13, 2015, Minda Harris was fired from Care Corp. because she just doesn’t fit into his plans.

 

And that was a huge mistake. A betrayal of catastrophic proportion.

 

Dr. Ross is the owner of a for-profit entity whose business model cannot succeed without volunteers – at least, not if he gives a damn about saving the animal lives for which he is responsible. The volunteer community was already seriously compromised because of policy and personnel changes made by Dr. Ross. This catastrophic decision makes it clear that Dr. Ross doesn’t understand how dependent his success is on the volunteers. It also showcases that either (A) he really has no clue that Minda is the heart and soul of the volunteer community or (B) he knows it and is threatened by the community’s deep loyalty and allegiance to Minda.

 

Either way, he has now guaranteed himself permanent status as the unwelcome outsider who is single-handedly destroying what hundreds of people spent years building.

 

Care Corp.’s contract does have an expiration date. I’m pretty sure today’s terrible error in judgement means it will never be renewed.

 

We will not forget. And we will not forgive.

The post A Catastrophic Betrayal at MCAS appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
http://shannonlhill.com/uncategorized/catastrophic-betrayal-mcas/feed/ 0
Big Changes at MCAS http://shannonlhill.com/animal-welfare/big-changes-mcas/ http://shannonlhill.com/animal-welfare/big-changes-mcas/#respond Thu, 12 Feb 2015 05:31:03 +0000 http://shannonlhill.com/?p=1097 A couple of years ago, Montgomery County decided to privatize the county shelter. The theory was that privatization would allow the shelter to use the measly, minuscule, inadequate budget provided by the county more effectively. The management company would be able to hire and fire without going through civil service procedures. They would be able […]

The post Big Changes at MCAS appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
A couple of years ago, Montgomery County decided to privatize the county shelter. The theory was that privatization would allow the shelter to use the measly, minuscule, inadequate budget provided by the county more effectively. The management company would be able to hire and fire without going through civil service procedures. They would be able to make more flexible decisions about hours and staffing. And we were all hoping that the result would be more lives saved.

 

The existence of a for-profit management company became extremely controversial. Some people complained that Care didn’t live up to their promises, and some got worried when Care also acquired the management contract for the shelter owned by the City of Conroe. Many worried that the for profit structure would end up taking money away from the animals. Since for profit companies cannot accept donations or volunteer hours, this necessitated the establishment of the Montgomery County Animal Society, a nonprofit whose function was to serve as a hub for volunteers and donations, which in turn would fill those gaps left by the aforementioned measly, minuscule, inadequate budget.

 

Statistics do show that during Care’s tenure, live release rates rose, even as intake continued to increase, largely thanks to the shelter director and her army of employees and volunteers. (Intake finally dropped for the first time in years in 2014.) One of the best things about the Care Corp. era was that the original owners gave the shelter manager the autonomy to do what she does best: rally the volunteers, move animals to rescue, and save lives. Lots of lives.

 

Then we all logged in to Facebook one day and saw the announcement that Care Corp. had been sold to Dr. Ross, a veterinarian who had been employed by the shelter. And all hell promptly broke loose.

 

Who is this guy? What kind of experience does he have? Would it affect the staff? The hours? The volunteers? The work with rescue? The clinic? Hysteria reigned supreme, to the point that the former owner of Care Corp. sent out an open letter in the hopes of appeasing the outrage. Ironically, had he addressed the sale this directly in the first place, some of the initial panic might not have happened.

 

Predictably, the new guy wants to put his own stamp on the place. Equally predictably, every change has further fractured the employee and volunteer communities, because we still had no answers. Was he qualified? Competent? Willing to listen?

 

FINALLY, after several weeks of turmoil, Dr. Ross held a meeting with the volunteer community to address their concerns. It did help, but frankly, my observations suggest that it was a case of too little, too late. Especially in light of what happened next.

 

Residents of the greater Houston area have probably seen Dumpstergate on the news. Per the official story, a couple of employees were told or decided to clean out a storage area full of donations. They told Dr. Ross that the donations in question were damaged and unusable, so he gave permission to dispose of them. They did. Along with substantial quantities of undamaged donations, including a couple of cases of food just donated that very day. The employees were caught in the act by horrified volunteers, who spent the rest of the day dumpster diving to salvage whatever they could. This debacle went on for two days, because even after Dr. Ross was informed, he apparently did nothing to stop it.

 

Result: The employee and volunteer communities are seriously divided. Certain employees have taken to social media to criticize other employees and mock volunteers. Volunteers have voiced their outrage over the wasted donations and their concerns over the future of the shelter. There is an online petition seeking to kick out Care Corp. and give the shelter to a nonprofit organization. There are Facebook pages both for and against the new management. So what is Dr. Ross doing to quell the chaos? I don’t know.

 

The undeniable fact is that the Care Corp. contract will come up for renewal at some point. And if the volunteer community is not happy with his leadership, he will be in for one hell of a fight.

 

Dr. Ross needs to understand RIGHT NOW exactly how vital the volunteer community is to the success of Care Corp. He needs to cultivate a strong relationship with the volunteer community, because his business model is such that he literally cannot succeed without our support.

 

Understand me – I WANT Dr. Ross to be the best thing that ever happened to the shelter. If he’s not, it literally becomes life or death for the animals that come through the doors. Going back to direct county management would be catastrophic, and I’m undecided on the subject of nonprofit management. So I’m hoping to see him exhibit strong leadership skills, which would include listening to the volunteers, requiring appropriate employee behavior, trusting and empowering his shelter manager, and above all, learning how the MCAS family works before he tries to reshape it. I don’t envy the task ahead of him.

 

Especially since we’ll all be watching.

The post Big Changes at MCAS appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
http://shannonlhill.com/animal-welfare/big-changes-mcas/feed/ 0
Airbnb – Culture With a Small “C” http://shannonlhill.com/travel/airbnb-culture/ http://shannonlhill.com/travel/airbnb-culture/#respond Thu, 05 Feb 2015 02:52:32 +0000 http://shannonlhill.com/?p=1086 Today’s column is for both my regular travel-loving audience and for my educator friends. I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite online resources for culture with a small “c.” If you don’t know about www.airbnb.com, you really need to check it out.   AirBnB started out as sort a glorified clearinghouse for […]

The post Airbnb – Culture With a Small “C” appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
Today’s column is for both my regular travel-loving audience and for my educator friends. I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite online resources for culture with a small “c.” If you don’t know about www.airbnb.com, you really need to check it out.

 

AirBnB started out as sort a glorified clearinghouse for couch surfers, but has expanded into a huge international service that allows people to list any and every kind of lodging, from an ancient van fitted out as a tiny mobile apartment (that you share with its nouveau hippie occupants) to huge estates that rent at an astonishing $3000 per night. Per their site, they offer lodging in 190 countries!

 

From the traveler’s perspective, AirBnB is a fantastic opportunity to stay in unique places, spend time living the way locals live, and meet people you’d otherwise never see. For the cultural traveler, this is exactly what we’re looking for – not just trendy tourist spots, but total immersion into the lifestyle of your destination.

 

You can read the bios of the hosts to find out how much contact they’ll have with their guests and what level of service they offer. You can read very honest reviews from recent guests. You’ll see detailed pictures of the available properties, sometimes right down to the resident pets. Some of the more unique properties include igloos, treehouses, the aforementioned van, and even castles. You can share a room, or rent an entire estate. The service offers infinite flexibility and possibility.

 

Airbnb for Education

 

For my educator friends, this website gives me a way to show my kids what homes really look like in other countries. Those details (culture with a small “c”) are never accessible through textbooks. So far, my kids have learned that in many places, the washer and dryer are in the bathroom or the kitchen, because that’s where the water pipes are. They are fascinated by two-burner stoves, oddly shaped kitchen sinks, and refrigerators that are just tiny by American standards. They’ve deduced that people in Ushuaia like bright colors, and that Nicaragua has a lot more middle class housing than they would have thought.

 

Using AirBnB also gets the kids much more invested in looking at the geography of the country we’re studying, as they look to see which city the home is in, what the area offers, whether it’s safe for tourists, and how to get there. When they ask why a nice B&B is so cheap in some places and so expensive in others, it opens a dialogue about the value of the dollar against the country’s currency.

 

I use these lessons as a springboard to get my language students to discuss history, activities, daily life, trip planning, safety, money, and a host of related topics – all in Spanish. Even my quietest students are happy to tell me (in Spanish) where to click on the screen to help me navigate to their favorite property.

 

Best of all, several students have told me that our AirBnB days have inspired them to plan future travel to some of the places we’ve studied. And to tell you the truth, I’ve found new destinations for myself too. I would never have developed an interest in Ushuaia, Argentina, if we hadn’t spent some time looking at it on AirBnB. Now it’s on my list of someday places.

 

Go take a look. What do you want to add to yours?

The post Airbnb – Culture With a Small “C” appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
http://shannonlhill.com/travel/airbnb-culture/feed/ 0
I Travel By Myself. http://shannonlhill.com/travel/travel/ http://shannonlhill.com/travel/travel/#respond Thu, 29 Jan 2015 05:17:48 +0000 http://shannonlhill.com/?p=1077 I long ago realized that if I have a choice between traveling alone and not traveling…I’m traveling alone. I’ve traveled with friends, and sometimes that was great. Sometimes it made me wonder why the hell I was friends with that person at all.   I’m the first one to admit that traveling alone used to […]

The post I Travel By Myself. appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
I long ago realized that if I have a choice between traveling alone and not traveling…I’m traveling alone. I’ve traveled with friends, and sometimes that was great. Sometimes it made me wonder why the hell I was friends with that person at all.

 

I’m the first one to admit that traveling alone used to scare me. And there are still some places in the world where I am not entirely comfortable traveling as a single woman. But on the whole, traveling by myself is incredibly liberating.

 

From an entirely selfish perspective, when I travel by myself, it’s all about me. What do I want to do today? Where do I want to go? Where do I want to eat, shop, take pictures, people watch? Do I want to meet people, join a tour, or just be alone to take pictures and soak up the atmosphere?

 

As a teacher, I spend my life being responsible to and for other people. Especially when I travel with kids. Don’t get me wrong – I love the kids, and I enjoy traveling with them. But the responsibility of being the adult in charge of a wandering herd of adolescents is…HUGE. So when I have a chance to spend a few days being responsible only for myself, it’s a lovely change of pace and an entirely different experience.

 

Take my regular trips to Spain. First, I went with friends. It was awesome. Loved it. Then I went with students. It was beyond awesome, because I had the thrill of watching my kids experience another world. And then finally I went alone.

 

And you know what? I met people. I went into stores I would have missed. I took pictures I would have overlooked. I spent time in the small towns and the low-tourism rural areas I love – people told me regularly that I was the only American they had ever met. I had tapas in Basque bars, I hiked the mountain with a local guide, I rummaged the hardware store for local tools and handmade Basque ceramics. I convinced a pair of mounted policemen to let me photograph their horses, and I listened to taxi drivers tell me their life stories in the matter of a few blocks.

 

Because I was alone and on my own schedule, if I found someone interesting, I could stop and talk. That netted me on of my favorite overseas experiences – the day I walked out of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa to find a dog rescue event in full swing. Since I live and breathe for my dogs, I went straight over. The Spanish rescue volunteers and I ended up having a fascinating conversation comparing the state of animal welfare in our respective countries. To be completely honest, the museum itself didn’t do much for me – the art was a little too modern for my taste – but the hour I spent with the rescue volunteers was priceless.

 

A few recommendations if you’re contemplating a one person trip: Be alert. Observe everything. Ask questions. Talk to strangers. Smile. Go where the locals go. Take pictures. Buy local handcrafts instead of hokey teeshirts. Say thank you. Dress appropriately. Follow local customs – which means informing yourself thoroughly ahead of time. Be respectful. And never, never, never complain about how the USA is so much better than wherever you’re visiting.

 

Give it a try…you’ll get to know the the culture you’re visiting on a whole new level. And you might get to know yourself better in the process.

The post I Travel By Myself. appeared first on Shannon Hill.

]]>
http://shannonlhill.com/travel/travel/feed/ 0