The Path Ahead Animal Shelter Consulting

The official blog of The Path Ahead Animal Shelter Consulting

Infrastructure building, Lifesaving programs, Management team support


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

That's the way we've always done it.


That's the way we've always done it. If you want to be successful, you will wipe that phrase from your vocabulary and never let it be uttered in your presence.

Animal shelters have some of the most bizarre, outdated, and just plain puzzling policies and procedures. How they come about are something of a mystery. Someone at some point must have thought it was a good idea or misinterpreted the law or a best practice. Thanks to animal shelters' famously high turnover, in a few years no one remembers the origin of the policy, but they will quote it vigorously, and when pressed, the answer is always the same, "That's the way we've always done it."

One shelter's policy is that if a kitten comes in by itself, it can go straight out to foster, but if it comes with a litter, it must be held the 72 hours. Despite being shown the law -- and how this isn't mentioned -- they vehemently defended their practice, even though the extra four days in the shelter is stressful and exposes the kittens to diseases and parasites. "That's the way we've always done it."

Another shelter's policy is to put cats in the "feral room" -- and this means they don't get scanned for a microchip or vaccinated -- if they are brought in a trap. Even if these cats are clearly friendly, purring and head butting, into the feral room they go. This shelter doesn't understand why they keep having panleuk outbreaks. "That's the way we've always done it."

Another shelter was euthanizing healthy feral cats -- or any cat brought in a trap, for that matter -- immediately upon intake. When questioned, staff didn't understand the problem. Feral cats are never reclaimed and they are euthanized anyway, so what's the difference? Even the department head defended the practice, repeating another euphemism that needs to go away, "We're full." This illegal and inhumane practice was stopped before they had a chance to say, "That's the way we've always done it."

If you want your agency to be successful, you must question everything you do. What are we doing, and why? Is it mandated? If so, how will we interpret that mandate? Is it a best practice? Why or why not? If not, what is a better practice? Only then can you begin to create the world that you want to live and work in.

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