North Shore alumni set adoption records on opposite coasts
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2004:
SAN DIEGO, NEW YORK CITY –Home 4 The Holidays 2003,
rehoming 263,200 dogs and cats worldwide, boosted Helen V. Woodward
Animal Center executive director Mike Arms’ lifetime total of
adoptions facilitated to more than one million. Starting in humane
work with the American SPCA in 1967, Arms for 20 years directed the
North Shore Animal League adoption program.
Relocating from New York City to Chula Vista, California, Arms took
over management of the Helen V. Woodward Animal Center in 1998, and
initiated Home 4 The Holidays in 1999.
The North Shore Animal League rehomed as many as 44,000
animals at peak and averaged more than 40,000 adoptions per year in
the early 1990s. North Shore still places more animals in homes than
any other single-site animal adoption agency in the world, but has
averaged just over 22,000 rehomings per year during the early 2000s.
The slower pace has enabled North Shore to sterilize all animals
prior to adoption since 2001, a goal that eluded North Shore during
Arms’ tenure despite the expenditure of millions of dollars to expand
the veterinary facilities and staff. Placements of older animals
have increased; placements of puppies and kittens are markedly down,
reflecting the steep reduction nationally in puppy and kitten births
and shelter surrender rates.
Cumulative adoptions in the greater New York metropolitan
area, all shelters combined, are still at about the level of 10
years ago, but this appears to represents an increase of about a
third in pet acquisition “market share” because the average duration
of a pet in a home, nationally, has approximately doubled since the
mid-1980s, and the total number of homes is growing.
Other shelters have often boosted their adoptions by borowing
methods pioneered by North Shore.
Nationally, the PETsMART Luv-A-Pet adoption boutiques,
designed as miniature editions of the North Shore adoption center in
Port Washington, have now placed more than two million animals on
behalf of nonprofit shelters and rescue agencies.
Just a few miles from North Shore, farther out on Long
Island, longtime North Shore program director Charlie McGinley took
over administration of the Brookhaven Animal Shelter in mid-2001.
Eighteen months later, McGinley told ANIMAL PEOPLE, he had
introduced 14 new programs to promote adoptions, including
participation in Home 4 The Holidays, a spring event called “Fat Cat
Tuesday,” a summer event called “Dog Days,” a fall event called
“Barktoberfest,” Pet Meals-on-Wheels to help senior citizens keep
animals, a free spring anti-rabies vaccination clinic, a
“Mend-a-Pet 100%” fund that uses donations to help injured animals
recover, free obedience training, offsite adoptions, an adoption
center separate from the actual shelter, extended hours on weekends
and holidays, a shorter holding period for unclaimed strays before
they are offered for adoption, outreach visits to nursing homes and
senior centers, and humane education outreach to schools and youth
The net result was that even though shelter admissions
increased 5%, perhaps because Brookhaven residents felt more
comfortable about surrendering animals to the shelter, adoptions
increased 29%, and 26% fewer animals were killed.
Overall, McGinley said, 85% of the animals entering the
Brookhaven shelter now go home.
No one program made the difference, McGinley stressed. The
results, he said, came from generating a combination of programs
that reinforce each other and cumulatively create a positive image
for the shelter in the minds of both the public and the staff.
Like Arms, his former boss, McGinley has come to believe
that the biggest obstacle to increasing adoptions in many communities
is that killing too many animals for too long has given shelter
personnel low self-esteem and a negative view of the public.
As soon as McGinley demonstrated that many more animals could
find homes, he told ANIMAL PEOPLE, unexcused absenteeism and other
stress-related problems at the Brookhaven shelter almost stopped.
“Sending animals home is fun,” McGinley emphasized. “Now we
come to work to have fun.”
The competition to place animals within the New York City
region may become more intense in 2004. Maricopa County Animal Care
& Control, with two adoption locations in Phoenix, placed slightly
more animals than North Shore in the most recent fiscal year. Ed
Boks, who formerly headed Maricopa County Animal Care & Control,
recently moved east to direct the New York City Center for Animal
Care & Control.
However, Boks demonstrated in Phoenix that a rising tide can
lift all boats, as the Arizona Humane Society, also in Phoenix,
has placed 16,000 to 18,000 animals in recent years. Including the
contributions of other agencies, the 3.2 million Maricopa County
residents have adopted approximately the same number of animals as
the 10 million residents of New York City and surrounding counties.
On the other hand, Boks will encounter an unfamiliar
obstacle to significantly increasing NY/CACC adoptions, in that far
more of the New York City population lives in “no pets” apartments
and condominiums–a constant source of frustration for adoption
promoters throughout the region.
“We’ll change the apartment and condo policies,” McGinley vowed.
“We’ll win them over. We have to.”