A New Statewide No Kill Effort Launches in Washington

I recently had the opportunity to interview Jeanine Foucher, executive director of Pet Net Washington (PNW). PNW is a grant-making organization, founded by Hans and Cindy Koch, that is launching a No Kill effort in the state of Washington (Foucher is center in the photo, with the Kochs). Several states are No Kill or making rapid progress toward No Kill based on statewide efforts, including Utah, South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Delaware.  It’s exciting to welcome Washington to this group.

An interesting thing about these statewide efforts is that each of them uses a somewhat different methodology. PNW’s plan for Washington is based on two important operating principles. First is to gather and analyze data in the state to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each area’s safety net for pets. Second is to use that data to facilitate programs and networks within the state to bring up live release rates in the areas that are not saving all their healthy and treatable animals.

An example of how this works is shown by one of their grants. There are areas of Washington that are doing very well in helping homeless companion animals, and other areas that do not even have animal control officers or shelters. In one of the areas with no shelter and minimal animal control, a man and his wife were trying to help homeless dogs by taking them in, giving them vaccinations, and transporting them to No Kill shelters. PNW’s data study had identified their area as one of the ones most in need of help, and the Kochs and Foucher contacted the couple and learned how they were preparing dogs for transport. PNW was then able to help the couple in two ways – one by purchasing a transport van and donating it to their organization, and the other by making contacts for them with some of the larger No Kill shelters in the state that, after hearing from PNW about the couple’s careful preparation of dogs for transport, were eager to help them by taking in their dogs.

Although PNW was just recently founded as an organization, its statewide No Kill vision dates back several years, when the Kochs were inspired by the example of Best Friends and Maddie’s Fund. In 2014 Foucher completed a “landscape analysis” for the Kochs of services for homeless pets in Washington. The analysis broke the state into ten regions, eight of which were visited and analyzed. It illustrated the wide variations in the state in resources and services for homeless pets.

The 2014 study made it clear that a sustainable statewide No Kill effort would need to find a way to provide help to the underserved areas. One way to do that would be recruiting help from the high-performing parts of the state to assist areas that have few resources. More granular data was needed for this project, though, so Foucher spent 2016 collecting and analyzing 2015 data from over 120 organizations in the state. Almost 70 of these were animal-welfare organizations and the rest were low-cost spay-neuter providers. She used the Basic Data Matrix for shelter statistics, the same form used by Shelter Animals Count.

Foucher, with assistance from Best Friends, produced infographics based on the 2016 analysis. The infographics included maps of live release rates for cats and dogs in 2015 for the entire state. Three things were immediately apparent from these maps – the state is doing far better with dogs than with cats (the statewide live release rate for dogs was 89% in 2015 but only 77% for cats), there are surprisingly large areas of the state with too few services to quantify, and the configuration of high-performing areas of the state is such that most low-performing areas are reasonably close to a high-performing area. (The northeastern part of the state is geographically isolated, and travel may be over mountain passes.)

PNW is using Foucher’s 2016 in-depth data analysis to plans its initiatives. One emphasis will be community cat programs. PNW recently funded a TNR program that they hope will grow to include a return-to-field program, and they want to facilitate more such programs. PNW’s data analysis could also be used to help create high-tech resources for making sure that dogs and cats can be transported effectively and efficiently.

PNW is a grant-making organization, not a shelter, so they are reaching out to shelters and to other funders in the hope that they can create cooperative networks. These networks might function something like the “hub” concept used by No Kill South Carolina. That could be an effective way to deliver help to areas that need it the most.

Rescues are important to hub-type networks and to cooperative efforts between a public shelter and its community. Larger rescues can also “stand in” to a certain extent for shelters in parts of the state that lack them. One of Foucher’s maps shows the location of high-volume rescues in the state:

The hub concept can also lend itself to mentoring. Many times, shelter directors are interested in new concepts or new ways of operating but do not feel that they can take the risk of making major changes. Shelters cannot just shut down to re-tool, and directors may want evidence that a change will improve their shelter before proceeding. Mentoring by the director of a nearby No Kill shelter can make all the difference in helping a traditional director decide to make the jump.

Cooperative networks can be invaluable in the dreaded situation where a shelter gets inundated with animals from a hoarding or puppy mill or dog-fighting situation. In those cases, the problem is not only the numbers, but also the fact that the animals may need extensive rehabilitation. A network of shelters and rescues that have each other’s backs can help manage such emergencies.

Another priority for PNW is spay-neuter services. The in-depth 2016 data analysis allowed them to calculate shelter intake per 1000 people in each county where data is available (see infographic below). By matching this information with the data PNW has on existing spay-neuter programs, they can target the areas of the state most in need of additional spay-neuter services. This information will also be helpful in setting up transport networks.

The Washington state No Kill effort is just beginning, but its data collection and analysis is impressive. Foucher will soon be making a presentation to the Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies, and hopes that this will lead to opportunities for building cooperative networks and launching programs to bridge the gap between the resource-rich parts of the state and the resource-poor areas. Foucher is willing to advise others who may want to do a similar data analysis in their own state, and she can be contacted through PNW. Those of you who want to keep up with PNW and their efforts to make Washington into a No Kill state can follow the organization’s Facebook page.

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