Letter From Vincent: A Dispatch From the Director of HASS

I’ve been thinking a lot about people. About the people we work with, and the people in the communities we serve. We don’t always talk about people in animal welfare, but we should, because we’ve discovered at HASS that you can’t aid in animal welfare without coming to the aid of people—or without people helping you. 

This week, I am joining more than 2,500 of my friends and colleagues at HSUS Animal Care Expo in New Orleans. I’ve known many of these committed animal welfare professionals for two and a half decades now. I always look forward to meeting, collaborating with, and learning from these passionate advocates, along with those who are newer to the field, bringing their invaluable ideas, energy, and outside experience to our industry’s toughest challenges.

We share a common, deep, and urgent commitment to saving animals and serving our communities—and to moving our industry and our organizations forward. At Expo, I’m presenting with my friend and former coworker Erin Frackleton, HSUS’s Chief Operating Officer, about how to “do stuff better”—yes, that’s an actual line from the presentation—by bringing “design thinking” to the shelter and rescue community

Process improvement may not sound like the most glamorous topic, but it’s definitely one of the most important, because we have to give people and shelters the tools to improve, and to evaluate what is and isn’t working.

If you’re there, I hope you’ll say hello and share the problems and solutions you’re prioritizing this year. I also want to hear about you as a person. I want to hear what matters to you, and what you care about, and what you’re struggling with. I want to hear about, and from, the people who work and volunteer at your shelter. Your adopters and fosters, the people who visit your pet pantry, the family to whom you’ve provided crisis fostering to help them keep their pets through an eviction, and everyone else who you reach and who reaches you.

This is the H in HASS—the humans, who feel heartbreak and hope, and show up every day doing their best, even when it’s really hard. This is a part of animal welfare that needs to be front and center, for us to do our work effectively and compassionately, and for us to move forward toward a humane system. 

HASS recently hosted three webinars, to that end: Top Insights from 2022 on the H in HASS; The H in HASS: Q&A; and Pawsitively Thriving: Strategies for Work-Life Balance in Animal Welfare

We’ve also launched a new interview series called People, Pets, and Purpose, in which host Diaz Dixon, HASS’s Advisor for External Affairs and Partnerships, speaks with truly inspiring guests about the human-animal bond, and what really matters. Check out the first three episodes with Michigan Humane’s Matt Pepper; The Arizona Pet Project’s Leanna Taylor; and Best Friends’ Brent Toellner with Clare Callison of HASS. 

HASS has a lot of projects in the works that we’re excited to be rolling out very soon, developed based on the needs expressed by our pilot and partner shelters. 

The first is The Rubric, a comprehensive self-evaluation tool shelters can use to gauge progress toward complete implementation of the Human Animal Support Services model. The Rubric will help drive program implementation, while meeting each shelter where they are. We expect The Rubric to roll out in stages throughout the year—we will definitely keep you in the loop when you can start using it.

The second project ties all these ideas together. It’s a model budget calculator that you will be able to use to determine the appropriate budget for your organization. This calculator is based on the number of pets you touch, the programs you operate or should operate, the correct staffing level for the size of your operation, and more. It will be a powerful tool you can use in all kinds of ways, including to advocate for more funding.

Prioritizing human and animal welfare together is the way forward and we’ll continue to strive to develop tools needed to support every individual community’s needs.  These solutions will bring about a sheltering system that’s better for every person and pet, in and out of the shelter. That’s what we’re here to do at HASS. We can’t wait for you to join the movement.


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