A couple of weeks ago, I review Kim Kavin's book, Little Boy Blue. You can read my entire review here.
However, there is a really great section of the book that I wanted to highlight because I found it, and Kim's handling of the issue, interesting.
Later in the book, Kavin explores the juxtoposition between some more progressive shelters in the Northeast to a few of the high-kill shelters in the South. And she specifically talks about how North Shore Animal League (and Northeast Animal League) grew into being major adoption centers.
In the section, she highlights an article written about Alexander Lewyt by the Wall Street Journal in 1975. The section talks about how Lewyt worked to run the rescue like it was a corporation, not just a rescue -- and I think Kavin's words, and the WSJ story, are pretty eye opening. The section begins talking about a mailing that Lewyt wrote to raise funds for the organization:
"The mailing brought in $11,000, which is the equivalent to about $67,000 today. Within the next 5 years, the shelter's staff grew from one to twenty-five employees, its hours of peration increased to every day of the year and its advertising budget alone was earmarked at $50,000 (about $125,000 in current dollars). That's why The Wall Street Journal had taken notice. Lewyt was running the shelter as if it were a corporation -- work he would continue until his death in 1988. 'We have the same concept as bringing any product to the public,'' Lewyt told the Journal in 1975. 'We have receivables, our inventories. And if the product doesn't move, we have a promotion...Most animal shelters are run by well-intentioned people who don't know anything about fund-raising or running the place like a business. The only reason they don't go broke is that a little old lady dies every year and leaves them something'...
Later, Kavin concludes:
"It's incredibly frustrating that shelters with kill rates as high as the one in Person County even exist, especially since the road map for giving every possible dog a home has been available in print since at least 1975, since the day the Wall Street Journal printed an article about Alexander Lewyt that so inspired Cindi Shapiro" (Shapiro later founded Northeast Animal Shelter in Massachusetts after reading the WSJ article). "In that article Lewyt tals about how whe can find a home for virtually any animal, even ones who are blind, deaf, or missing a leg. He told the newspaper that the "unadoptable" dogs simply need to be treated as special cases and marketed in a way that makes their disadvantages seem like attributes."
Try as I might, I was unable to find the article from 1975 that Kavin refers to online (yes, I realize the internet really didn't exist in 1975, but I hoped it had been reposted somewhere). But I think it's very interesting how long a road map for success has been around. The idea that running a shelter like a business, with real Profit/Loss data is not new. The idea that in business terms, shelter animals are "inventory" that need to be adopted out to make room for new inventory daily is essential is not new. And the diea that marketing and promotions can help move these animals out into homes is not new. These ideas have been around for 35 years -- and yet, so few shelters still think of it this way (and sometimes it's even considered taboo to think of animals as "inventory"). Yet, this approach has been successful, over and over again.
Thanks to Kavin for highlighting this story, and for pointing out the disconnect that even 35 years later, how disappointing it is that there are a lot of shelters that still haven't learned from the success of others.