Welcome to G2Z e-News #22
Getting 2 Zero

Welcome to the 22nd edition of G2Z e-News!

There has been such a lot happening in this space with new research and learnings so we thought we would share some of these interesting and lifesaving stories with you here.

(Pic: @ASPCApro)
Testing the limits of what we know
When Kristen Auerbach (now Deputy Director, Austin Animal Center) was the Assistant Director of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter in Virginia, a municipal shelter, she wanted to explore the opportunities for saving the lives of dogs that were currently being euthanased.

One of the areas that she focussed on was to see what dogs would be like in a home. Dogs who were currently failing standard battery style assessments and showing undesirable behaviour in the kennels. The results were astonishing and have been the basis for a number of presentations that Kristen has given, as well as being featured in a blog post by Dr Emily Weiss of the ASPCA titled “We don’t know what we don’t know”.

Kristen dedicated her recent Best Friends Conference presentation called “Pushing the Limits: Targeted Foster Programs to Increase Lifesaving” to a dog that I’m sure we have met in our work too – In Memory of Carmella, 2005 to 2013...and for all the other dogs killed when ‘we just don’t know what else to do’. This program and its valuable data gives us so much to consider moving forward. We would love to hear if you are or have implemented any pilot programs like this, and don’t forget to keep the data!

The Starfish Model
Abby Volin, Manager of Public Policy at the HSUS, wrote a thought provoking piece that was featured in Animal Sheltering magazine called “Finding a new source of inspiration”. It brings together a number of concepts around social change and the future for companion animal welfare. About how collaboration and proactive operation models, across a range of sectors, are essential to making significant and sustainable change for pets…..and their people.

Everyone has a part to play in this endeavour, by communicating, pooling resources and thinking laterally we can plug the holes and turn things around for everyone.

Shelter Behaviour Mentorship offered by IAABC
Do you work with shelter dogs, either in the shelter or in a foster or adoptive home? Do you having questions about what you are doing or challenges you are faced with?

The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants are running a series of mentorships, providing opportunities for participants to have access to individualised coaching, advice and support from recognised experts in the field.

The Shelter Dog Behaviour Mentorship with G2Z2015 International Presenter, Trish McMillan Loehr, (Loehr Animal Behavior) starts on September 19 and you can sign up here!

Don’t forget too that IAABC have a Shelter Division that you can become a member of and gain access to animal behaviour experts from around the world plus free and low cost training offerings. Learn more here.

(Pic: Cornell University College of veterinary Medicine)

No better than flipping a coin? Shelter dog behaviour assessment research
Recently there has been a fair bit of activity in the area of canine behaviour assessments.

In 2015 Australians Dr Kate Mornement and Diana Rayment had papers published looking at the validity, reliability and predictability of BA’s.

Kate’s paper titled Evaluation of the predictive validity of the behavioural assessment for re-homing K9’s (B.A.R.K.) protocol and owner satisfaction with adopted dogs was published concluding, “Our results suggest that additional research is urgently needed to evaluate the predictive validity of in-field behaviour assessments and whether a more holistic, or alternative, approach to assessing shelter dog behaviour, such as longer-term foster care programs, is required to safeguard the welfare of dogs in the shelter system and the community at large.”

PhD candidate, Diana Rayment, had a paper published titled Applied personality assessment in domestic dogs: Limitations and caveats that suggested “Despite the large body of work dedicated to canine personality and behavioural test development, relatively few reported protocols have been demonstrated to accurately and reliably predict behavioural traits in dogs, according to accepted validation and reliability assessment protocols used by psychologists.” Adding “it is recommended that the results of shelter-based behavioural test batteries are interpreted within the limitations of the context in which they are performed, and test developers consider other methods with which personality may be assessed within the shelter environment.”

These have now been followed up last month with Patronek and Browning’s No Better Than Flipping a Coin: Reconsidering Canine Behavior Evaluations in Animal Shelters.

The authors offered this as part of their take home message “We suggest that instead of striving to bring out the worst in dogs in the stressful and transitional environment of a shelter and devoting scarce resources to inherently flawed formal evaluations that do not increase public safety, it may be far better for dogs, shelters, and communities if that effort was spent maximizing opportunities to interact with dogs in normal and enjoyable ways (e.g., walking, socializing with people, playgroups with other dogs, games, training). These activities are likelier to identify any additional dogs whose behavior may be of concern, will enrich dogs’ lives and minimize the adverse impact of being relinquished and confined to a shelter, be more indicative of the typical personality and behavior of dogs, and may help make dogs better candidates for adoption.”

Are we seeing the end of traditional, battery type assessments for shelter dogs? Are there better ways to do things? It certainly appears so.

(Pic: @MillionCatChallenge)

Case for desexing at 6 weeks 
The Million Cat Challenge blog recently covered an interesting and exciting topic, that of reducing the age of desexing for kittens to 6 weeks or 1.5 pounds/680gms.

Dr Chumkee Aziz looked at why the traditional age for desexing in shelters has been 8 weeks/2 pounds/900gms when more shelters in the United States are moving towards the 6 weeks/1.5 pounds.

Turns out it might be another of those “we’ve always done it this way” policies as “Interestingly, investigation into the origin of this convention did not yield any discrete evidence-based reasons.” Remember when we were adopting out juveniles on desexing vouchers and asking them to come back at 5 months plus for the surgery? That was another one of those historical policies and it wasn’t until someone challenged the boundaries that we discovered that paediatric/early age desexing was a thing.

Great to see the boundaries are still being pushed, we know that the sooner we get animals out of the shelter the better outcomes we have. You can read more of Dr Aziz’s post here.

Australian Institute of Animal Management
The annual AIAM Workshop is set for 20 and 21 October 2016 in Adelaide.

The Keynote speaker this year is Todd Stosuy, Field Services Manager for the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter in California and recent National Animal Care and Control President (USA). Todd is also delivering a day long Training Day on 19 October. Find out more here and register here.

AIAM are currently seeking nominations for the Animal Management Officer of the Year and Animal Management Plan of the Year Awards. Find out more here.

This year there is also a new Award. Sponsored by the Australian Pet Welfare Foundation, the Award for Innovation and Leadership is for a municipality that has implemented a change which has substantially increased the number of dogs and/or cats released alive and decreased the numbers euthanased. Find out more here.
The deadline for the Awards application has just been extended to 16 September 2016 so get yours in today!

International shelter expert consultations and trainings – 2017
We had such an overwhelming response to the shelter visits, consultations and training provided in April and May 2016 that Dr Cindy Karsten and Trish McMillan Loehr have agreed to come back again next year.

Some of the feedback from the visits went like this:
“When Cindy, Trish and Nell visited our shelter in May it was truly an eye opening experience. The Team and I received valid and up to date advice and feedback which was delivered in a way that was non-judgmental yet thought provoking. The information around managed intake and capacity for care is invaluable and the practical sessions around the value of doggy playgroups to assist with assessing dog interactivity were amazing! Just these strategies alone are making a difference at our shelter and in fact saving lives.”

“In addition to assisting us in identifying medium-term life-saving strategies for implementation at our facility, there were many examples of very easy short-term initiatives we were able to implement straight away which have had an immediate impact.
Simple concepts such as short-form behavioural assessments for appropriate dog candidates, fast-tracking of certain animals, changes to cat handling protocols, cat adoption processes and cat cage cleaning processes have generated immediate positive results. Our cat-bite incidents have reduced dramatically, for example, as a result of the cessation of introducing adopters to cats in our “meet and greet” rooms and encouraging adopters to interact with cats while in their normal enclosures.”

And now it’s your turn! We are seeking expressions of interest from those who might be interested in a facility visit or seminar from Trish McMillan Loehr (Shelter Animal Behaviour and Training expert) and Dr Cynthia Karsten (Shelter Medicine expert), particularly in the states of Victoria, NSW and Tasmania. The more people who are keen to avail themselves of this opportunity the less investment will be required for everyone. Although to be confirmed, it looks as if the visit will be timed for somewhere around mid-February 2017.

There are many options available from a full facility audit, consultation and report with recommendations, an internal staff training session/s, a daylong seminar, advice on a specific problem or issue or any other options in between.

These two disciplines work incredibly effectively together and can improve efficiencies and save money and lives. If you want to know more about:
    Managed Intake
    Behaviour Assessments
    Capacity for Care
    Behaviour Modification
    Disease Management
    Data Analysis and Collection
    Body Language and Handling
    Best Practice Shelter Practices
    Criteria Setting
Or any other relevant issue, and how your organisation can implement these life and resource saving elements please let us know by Monday 31st October 2016. If you would like to discuss this opportunity contact us.

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