This is the first session of the conference, being held at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. What I heard in the hallways on my way to the room: "Every where is full!" Certainly every room I looked into was at or near capacity.
I am blogging this live; hit "refresh" periodically to see new material. Since this is live, there will be typos. And only things in quotation marks are direct quotes. Everything else is a paraphrase.
Handling hoarding cases: Priorities
Saving lives, involving the public, treating people with respect (including the hoarder).
"High volume admissions process"
They don't use "intake,' they use admission. This is not a sewage treatment plant.
Decisions need to happen quickly. Do we need to implement high volume process, who in charge, and where is best place to handle the admissions.
Sometimes they've been working with a hoarder for a long itme, but critical mass is hit and the animals suddenly have to come in.
There are additional problems if there is a related legal case.
Best is to manage the animals in place and bring them in in a controlled way.
High volume admission process flow:
Animals arrive, assigned temp ID numbers, start high volume admission record form, care for distressed animals, examine and vaccinate, house the animals, then enter data in shelter database.
Next, move the ones you can into foster care ASAP.
Crucial when appropriate: GET MEDIA ATTENTION. to succeed, you really need the public's support.
Manager in charge. Calls the shots, handles internal comms, assigns team leaders, communicates with owner. MUST SURRENDER.
Red Rover and Petsmart Charities are very helpful with resources, on site help, money. uan.org, petsmartcharities.org/emergency-relief. They usually respond within 24 hrs.
Check in team assigns numbers, starts forms, looks for signs of distess -- open mouth breathing, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding. Tries to keep litters together, which can be hard to figure out.
Initial care team comes in behind check in team. Scans for microchips, vaccinate, determine sex, note condition, photograph, update form.
Vet team: Triage, treat.
Data entry team: Enters data gathered in field into computer
Animal Care Team: Plan housing, prepare cages, food, watehr, bedding, follow-up care. Try to get cats into colonies and in general avoid cages.
Foster care coordinator: Finds foster homes for animals who need to get out of the shelter. Try to get puppies and kittens out within 8 hours, are kept separate. Immune systems not fully developed, esp as are often malnourished.
Media relations team: We take photos throughout the process. When she worked at Best Friends, Michael Mountain used to say, "If there's no photo, it didn't happen." From a meda, PR perspective, that's true. This is not a low priority. GET PHOTOS.
We will call the media as soon as animals come to the facility. Exciting, breaking news, gets public inolved emotionally, makes them want to help you.
Write news releases, use social media, managing written and verbal communication about the case. We train our staff very carefully to talk about hoarding cases. We avoid blame, we try not to use the term "hoarding." How you treat a hoarder -- WITH RESPECT -- makes it easier for people who are on the edge with too many animals to trust you, to believe the humane society has a sympathetic ear. This works for both the mentally ill and those who just got in over their head.
We speak of them with sympathy. We don't over-dramatize the condition of the animals. We want hoarders to come to us before they're in deep troubles, and we want people to adopt these animals.
"Got in over their head," "fallen on financial hard times," etc. And YES, people do call and work with NHS who have too many pets.
One man who brought in 54 cats ended up becoming an advocate, he lives in a downtown hotel now and comes on the bus with other residents' pets to get them spayed and neutered and vaccinated.
Secrets of success:
Make it easy to adopt! Label the cats, colonies when possible, some need to go to barn cat situations, get the public involved.
Carefully manage communications. Press releases, don't demonize people, find opportunities -- each case is individual, find elements of the story you can work with and build on. No benefit in focusing on negative.
Hoarding cases are VERY interesting to media -- it was by inviting the media in to photograph a large hoarding case, and the resulting traffic to the photo album, that Nevada Humane Society got regular newpaper columns, and built a relationship with the media outlets that now realize how much the public is interested in animals. Big payoff.
"Opportunities multiply as they are seized." (Sun Tzu)
Note: You can see yesterday's liveblogging here.