Before Asheville, NC, and the surrounding Buncombe County became an ASPCA Partnership community in July 2008, the Asheville Humane Society and the Humane Alliance had enjoyed a good working relationship, and the two organizations regularly shared selected data. Joining forces in the partnership enabled them to start new programs, launch new methods of collaboration and take advantage of technology to focus their efforts.
Watch the Buncombe County ASPCA Partnership agencies in action:
|Buncombe County, NC|
|2011 Total Intake||6,767|
|2011 Targeted Spay/Neuter||8,180|
* 2010 census
What They've Accomplished Together:
- Over the course of the partnership, the Live Release Rate (LRR) has increased from 35.8% to 62.6%.
- The number of sterilizations performed on area pets rose from 6,473 in 2010 to 8,180 in 2011, an increase of 26%.
- Transfers to other placement partners increased from 361 animals in 2008 to 779 in 2011.
- Feline adoptions increased dramatically: In 2007, 567 cats were adopted; in 2011, 1,293 found new homes.
- The partners doubled their countywide Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) numbers in 2010, sterilizing 1,339 felines.
Asheville Humane heavily promotes their foster care program—which has tripled from 2008 numbers, providing a safe haven for 1,220 animals in 2011.
Challenges They Faced:
The Buncombe County partners faced poor RTO rates and lacked a TNR program, and the Asheville Humane Society's rigid adoption screening process and numerous adoption denials needed to be addressed.
In addition, a capital campaign was underway to build a new infrastructure to house both the Asheville Humane Society and Buncombe County Animal Services at one location. "Building two new facilities at the same time took a lot of time and resources," says Jennifer Brehler, director of operations at Asheville Humane Society. "We weren't sure we could meet the demands of building new facilities and strategic planning, too."
Getting Set for Success:
When Buncombe County joined the ASPCA Partnership, they began analyzing their data using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS is cutting-edge technology that takes detailed data, like individual animal records with addresses, and plots those points on a map. This can be done for various levels of shelter intake (e.g. strays, owner-surrenders, puppy and kitten litter intakes) as well as spay/neuter services delivered in the community.
The GIS data enabled the Buncombe County partners to identify the high-risk neighborhoods and concentrate resources directly into the areas where they were most needed, and to develop new goals to increase LRR:
- Expanded adoptions strategies, especially for cats
- An enhanced RTO program that sent more pets home and educated targeted neighborhoods about lost-and-found processes
- Increased transfers to other adoption agencies and rescue groups in the area
- More spay/neuter programs targeted to high-risk intake areas
- The Asheville Humane Society revamped their adoptions program by embracing an open adoptions model. The organization shifted from a strict screening process (which involved a six-page application) to an open conversation with potential adopters that builds trust and understanding, using the ASPCA's Meet Your Match surveys. "It was the single most important step we took toward increasing our live release rates," says Brehler.
- The partners decided that all stray animals would go to Buncombe County Animal Services so that residents would have just one place to look for lost animals.
- The two organizations joined forces with city and county animal control and three other agencies to form the Animal Coalition of Buncombe County, which had the collective goal of saving more lives in Buncombe County.
- The Humane Alliance, in conjunction with animal control officers and volunteers, distributed free spay/neuter vouchers to neighborhoods where shelter intake of animals was the highest. All but four of the 2,000 vouchers were redeemed.
Why It Worked:
- Every year, the partners have reached their common goals, thanks to a new shelter, ongoing meetings, data and GIS map analysis and a well-developed strategic plan, completed through the ASPCA's Logic Model – all of which laid the framework for their community initiatives.
- GIS has opened up new opportunities. Just by looking at GIS maps of their data, the partners could pinpoint exactly where dogs, cats, puppies, kittens and strays were coming from and deliver services directly to those neighborhoods.
- Fee-waived and reduced-fee adoptions, especially for adult cats, helped drive traffic to the shelter and increase both cat and dog adoptions overall. Special marketing promotions included St. Catrick's Day Adoptions, Adopt the Love of Your Life and Pussy Cat Palooza.
One challenge that remains for Asheville is an expanded TNR program. The partners are limited in what they can do in the community because of state law rabies compendium that makes TNR very challenging. Efforts are underway throughout North Carolina to address the situation.