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When animal services agencies connect with other organizations, both benefit to better support people and pets where they live. Creating relationships with human and environmental organizations that may not traditionally help animals offers a more holistic approach to care.
Potential partner organizations may include child welfare agencies, organizations that provide support for individuals and families experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity, scouting and youth organizations, chambers of commerce, social services, public health agencies, food pantries, senior services, domestic violence support services, government agencies, non-profit organizations and organizations that promote racial and social justice and equity.
Resources to find local providers and potential partners can be found at Findhelp.org and The United Way 2-1-1. Successful community partnerships allow for the expansion of programs and services and increase support for families to keep their pets. These partnerships, in turn, may decrease the number of animals that need to enter the physical animal shelter.
Traditional animal shelters and animal services agencies operate in isolation, cut off from larger community conversations about human and environmental well-being. When we consider animal shelters through a One Health framework, the health of animals is connected to the health of people and the health of our environment. In other words, to address the root causes that lead to animal welfare issues, we need to connect to organizations outside of the animal world.
For example, reduce the number of pets entering the animal shelter because their owner or caregiver was evicted.
Use the Outlining Community Partnerships Worksheet as a guide to determine which partnerships you have and uncover potential new partnerships.
Constables, eviction court, tenants’ rights groups, city or county health department, low-cost, pet-accessible apartment complexes, boarding kennels, code enforcement, family services, homeless services.
Make a few phone calls to find the ‘right’ partners and always try to find animal lovers within the agencies you’re contacting. It only takes one animal lover, working in a partner organization, to make a huge impact! You can use the Potential Community Partnership Contact List to outline the potential partners’ contact information and who among your team will own the partnership and initiate the call.
When you call, be sure to tell a story that speaks to your organization’s mission, or ask the person on the other line if they have a pet, or how their clients or the people they work with benefit from animals in their lives.
Partnerships can be VERY simple so don’t be intimidated by this step. In your initial conversation, cover the following:
Example: The animal shelter formed a partnership with the constables’ office (who perform evictions.) The constables used to make people leave in 1 hour but thanks to the partnership, the constables now give pet owners 48 hours to vacate and they provide tenants with a list of resources for emergency and short-term boarding options and other pet resources.
Partnerships, like other relationships, need care and communication so make sure the partner knows how to get help when they need it and who to contact within your organization the animal to get a prompt response.
Ongoing communication with your partner will be critical to maintaining relationships and achieving success.
Some partnerships require very little, but others are more labor-intensive and may even require a full-time volunteer or staff person, or a written MOU or agreement. For example, San Diego Humane Society created a volunteer position, Community Pantry Partner Liaison to serve as a liaison between the Community Pet Pantry and the partner locations/organizations.
Example: Pima Animal Care Center formed a partnership with three memory care (assisted living) centers. This partnership involved the residents of the facility fostering kittens. It was a fantastic partnership and led to the organization receiving several large grants and lots of national attention. However, there were challenges, too. Staff had to select and transport kittens, volunteers were needed to train the residents and memory care staff, and the hardest part was when kittens got sick or had other issues and had to come back to the shelter for care. The shelter felt the benefit was worth the challenges, but eventually, the partnership became too labor-intensive to be sustainable on a large scale. If the organization invested dedicated staff and volunteers before this point, they could have grown the partnership, but they chose to reduce the size of this program and pursue less labor-intensive partnerships instead.
Example: A small, rural shelter wanted to form a partnership to provide emergency boarding to pet owners who needed to be hospitalized and had no one to care for their pets. They partnered with a local boarding facility and provided vouchers for up to 30 days of boarding for qualifying individuals. They wrote an MOU with the boarding facility and both parties agreed on the terms. They printed numbered vouchers and the staff could give them out to people who met the criteria. The manager ensured only a certain number of vouchers were used each month. This was easy for the shelter and resulted in 120 animals being boarded (in lieu of shelter surrender) in a one-year period.
For a more advanced understanding of community partnerships check out this partnership readiness assessment.
Gateway Pet Guardians partnered with a local neighborhood program to host a doghouse build though their after-school program for pets in their community.
San Diego Humane Society partners with the San Diego Department of Animal Services to ensure a coordinated response for those in need of resources due to wildfire evacuation.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control partnered with their local Food Bank on a drive through vaccine clinic.
El Paso Animal Services partnered with El Paso Parks and Recreation and El Paso County Nutrition Program by offering free pet food, microchips and vaccinations to seniors and their pets.
Greenville County Animal Care partnered with Service Dogs for Veterans to take animals from the shelter and train them to be veteran companions.
Cabot Animal Support Services partners with a local lumber yard to provide fencing repair equipment for people who need their fences repaired in order to keep pets from escaping.
Guilford County Animal Services partnered with HealthTeam Advantage to help homebound seniors in their Meals on Wheels Pet Partnership Program.
Humane Rescue Alliance partnered with numerous organizations in their community to deliver pet food and supplies to residents in need during COVID-19.
Humane Rescue Alliance partners with local domestic violence service providers in order to provide support for DV survivors and their pets through their Safe Haven Program.
LifeLine Animal Project partners with Pets for Patriots to provide free adoptions to its members along with gift cards for essential care.
Animal Protection Association of Missouri partners with GoodPup to offer one week of free training for new adoptions to help solidify the human-animal bond.
Jacksonville Humane Society partnered with local veterinarians and good samaritans to reduce the number of kittens entering the shelter system.
Palm Valley Animal Society has an ongoing partnership with their local veterinarians from Banfield in order to host their low-cost community clinic, every 2nd Saturday of the month.