NCDL today: building a better doghouse
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1999:
MERSEYSIDE, U.K.–– Learning
at the mid-October International Companion
Animal Welfare Conference in Sofia, Bulgaria
that ANIMAL PEOPLE would have a day in
London between flights a few days later,
NCDL field director Marc Weston reached for
his cellular telephone and quickly arranged to
fly us from London to Manchester and back
during the layover to show off the NCDL’s
new $1.6 million Merseyside shelter, the 13th
in a nationwide network.
NCDL chief executive Clarissa
Baldwin has urged such alacrity toward the
media throughout her 13-year tenure, building
on her experience as public relations officer
for 12 years before that. She has also understood,
as a former reporter, the value of
putting substance behind the hype.
No organization has sent A N I M A L
P E O P L E more press releases and photos.
Most are kept on file, either for their informational
content or for future use in showing
other shelter administrators how to get attention
The NCDL promotes more than just
typical shelter activities. The NCDL asks supporters
to turn anything unusual that they may
be doing into a benefit. A free handbook on
fundraising tells how. The NCDL helps to
push ideas they think have big potential.
Thus a legion of volunteers run
marathons, skydive, climb towers, dance,
chase odd records, and engage in other fun to
raise a few pounds, rehome some dogs, and
show the NCDL colors.
Fun is central to the NCDL image––
and so are the colors. The NCDL logo of a
black-eared mongrel against a golden background
is almost as familiar to British doglovers
as McDonald’s arches, likewise connoting
easy access, prompt service, uniform
policies, and clean child-friendly facilities.
Like McDonald’s, the NCDL promotes
itself as fun to visit––and it is. Visitors
don’t see dogs on death row; NCDL hasn’t
killed dogs, except for dire medical cause, in
35 years. At newer NCDL sites, visitors don’t
see dogs in straight rows of kennels resembling
jail cells, either. Instead, clusters of
half a dozen 12-sided buildings hold about 20
dogs per building. Each dog enjoys a room
with an outdoor view, but no direct sight of
nearby cages (to limit barking and aggressive
behavior). Most have a neutered companion.
NCDL shelter grounds are always
landscaped. The Merseyside shelter occupies
five acres, a typical size for newer sites.
About two thirds are left to trees and grass, for
dog-walking and play. There are also fenced
yards for off-leash play and special training,
an infirmary, a puppy nursery, and several
brick cottages for the senior staff. No NCDL
shelter is ever left unattended.
Like the North Shore Animal League
in the U.S., the NCDL focuses on rehoming.
It accepts dogs from the public, but has a
waiting list, and gives preference to the animals
of deceased people. Counselors try to
keep potential owner-surrenders in homes, by
helping the owners to get their dogs trained
Other NCDL dogs come from animal
control agencies and police. Some are
transferred from different NCDL shelters.
Often, says Merseyside manager Richard
Moore, a dog who has waited a year or more
for adoption at one shelter is adopted right
away at another.
“We think some of them bond too
much with wherever they are,” Moore says.
“Then they don’t want to go home with anyone.
Whereas, if they go to a place that is less
familiar, they may bond with a person.”
Moore, 26, is in his first senior
position, and may be the youngest manager of
a $1.6 million shelter in the world. A former
Royal SPCA assistant kennel manager, Moore
interviewed for assistant at Merseyside.
Believing that recruiting and promoting young
people helps keep the organization’s energy
level up, NCDL gave him the top job instead.