A "Well-Trained" Organization


photo credit: Courtest of the Cochrane & Area Humane Society

Sheena and Tracy at Terry Ryan's Chicken Camp - Sequim, Washington 

We all have a soft spot for four-legged, furry creatures - our pets! At the Cochrane and Area Humane Society (CAHS), the staff are true animal lovers. They have great knowledge, and bigger hearts. In the spring of 2011, The Calgary Foundation helped the shelter by funding the development of new training initiatives, not only for the lovable critters, but for the caring staff members, too.  With the intention to positively impact these essential members of the shelter, CAHS established the Capacity Building Training Initiative and started work on improving their organization. 

As the staff is fundamental to the shelter, making them feel important to the organization has been crucial to the initiative. Staff members have been learning about how the shelter is run and what keeps it successful.  Communication and customer service helps create meaningful relationships between pet owners and staff. Learning communication techniques and being encouraged to take part in strategic planning has helped caregivers feel more involved at CAHS.  

Dogs have been the specific focus of the enhanced animal training at CAHS. Dog trainers had the opportunity to attend the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) Conference and Terry Ryan’s Chicken Camp. Learning from professionals at the conference and testing patience in training chickens were both great experiences for these trainers, and because a goal of the shelter had been to develop a training model, CAHS was able to do so after the conference. Known as the Positive Approach Canine Education (PACE), the special program helps a trainer prepare for official certification and gives them a chance to work with shelter dogs of all backgrounds.

Marketing, Grants and Media person of CAHS, Cheryl Wallach, says that CAHS wants, “positive, cooperative training methods to grow.” 

Tentative results from the Capacity Building Training Initiative show shorter shelter stays (2012 saw a 10% reduction in length of stay from 2011) and fewer surrenders, or owners giving up their pets (2012 saw a 4% reduction in surrenders from 2011). The end of 2013 will prove whether or not there are two years of positive statistics since initial funding in 2011. CAHS has also managed to maintain a low euthanasia rate. No euthanasia treatments have been done since the opening of the new shelter due to space restrictions. Prior to the new shelter, rates were still low and fairly stable. 

Thanks to added training methods and enriched staff communication, CAHS has upheld a high reputation as an animal shelter and continues to seek ways to improve. Although the Capacity Training Initiative was a great success, CAHS continues to search for educational opportunities for growth and development of staff and volunteers. The Foundation provided an Organization Transformation Grant that comprises ongoing internal and external scanning. Executive Director Tracy Keith meets with leaders from other humane societies in the province to discuss chances for working and learning together.  Pets can continue to be “man’s best friend” through the hard work at CAHS.