CEO Blog: Introducing our 2019-2020 Operational Plan
Dear WHS friends and supporters,
On behalf of the entire WHS team, we are pleased to present to you our 2019-2020 operational plan. This is a very special year for your Humane Society, since we are turning 125 years old since first incorporated as a charitable organization. The operational plan sets the stage for important changes in the way we see our shelter and work on behalf of animals in need.
As we were consulting with you and discussing key issues with our Board, staff and volunteers, it was difficult to forget the fact that we are 125 years old and we must ensure the future of the organization for the next 100 years.
We believe that there are three core principles dating back from 1894, which remain true to this day:
Principle 1: We exist to protect and give voice to those who may not have one. That includes all animals, not only our domestic pets, and also humans struggling with their relationship with their pets.
Principle 2: We must evolve with our community. Our society continues to have evolving views regarding the welfare of animals, the animal-human bond, and the efforts you expect us to make to save more pets every year. Our standards, practices and approach need to continuously evolve so we can meet these expectations and ensure we receive the support and assistance of the community.
Principle 3: We need to remain humble and nimble. Great ideas and suggestions may come from researchers and experts, or they may come from a volunteer, a supporter or a front-line staff member. The WHS needs to be open-minded and never be afraid to accept mistakes and try different ideas, to see if we can do better.
In order to do right by these three principles, our operating plan sets out an ambitious agenda. The main planks of our ongoing evolution are predicated on the following key goals:
Move beyond our physical location to help animals wherever they may be
There is a very popular saying: “Build it and they will come”. While having a state-of-the-art animal shelter is wonderful, not all the animals and humans needing our help can make it to our building. Some live too far away, some simply do not have enough resources to find a proper carrier or pay for a ride to the WHS.
We are going to dedicate resources to ensure we can reach out to the community more. This include certain areas of Winnipeg where the cat overpopulation crisis is worse, enhancing our partnerships with other rescues, doing more to address the dog overpopulation crisis in remote areas of Manitoba, and provide value-for-money to the City of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba, which both rely on the Winnipeg Humane Society to provide low-cost spay/neuter surgeries and investigate animal abuse.
Protect the human-animal bond
Witnessing a surrender appointment is both tragic and heart-wrenching. We don’t want to see children crying and saying goodbye to a pet, we don’t want to see pets given away on Kijiji without any thought in terms of who may receive that pet.
The main goal of a modern animal shelter is not to fill our kennels with animals; it is to avoid seeing the animal-human bond deteriorate to the point where surrendering a pet is the only option. An animal shelter is a last-resort, not the first place an animal should go.
The WHS is going to invest in providing humans and their pet companions with assistance to address issues which lead to surrendering or giving pets away: from leash aggression in dogs to elimination or scratching issues with cats, we will help you with more training opportunities and individualized assistance. And if medical care is needed, we intend to see how we can better connect our wonderful veterinary community with more pets currently not receiving much needed care.
Continue to innovate to save more animals
Your WHS is not afraid to try every and each new idea who may hold promise in terms of saving a pet, or helping reunite a stray pet with their human(s). Some of this ideas may work, some of them may not. What we need to do though is keep an open mind, make sure we look at the data and the feedback, and adjust accordingly. The fancy word we have for this approach is “constant iteration”, which is mostly used in software and app development, but we have adopted it here at the WHS. We start with an original idea and constantly modify it until we get it right… or we ditch it and start over.
This takes a lot of courage and open-mindedness. We are lucky to have a Board, volunteers and staff willing to take risks to save more animals. This year the ideas we are testing are all about improving our capacity to care for more pets, moving them faster through our process and placing animals in the adoption floor as quickly as it is safe to do so.
Educate, build bridges and promote dialogue
The WHS advocates on behalf of all animals. We want cats to be kept indoors, spayed/neutered and treated not as second-class citizens. We want dogs to have fulfilling and happy, tail-wagging lives no matter where they are in our Province. We want farm animals to be able to express their natural behaviours, have access to the outdoors and not be unnecessarily mutilated, force-fed or medicated. We want stronger animal transportation laws, we want to stop shipping horses overseas to be slaughtered, we do not support having exotic animals as pets, and we need better laws to punish cruelty towards animals.
That is a daunting list. So instead of focusing on the internal divisions within the animal welfare and animal activism camps; we will relentlessly promote unity, dialogue and a focus on addressing the biggest culprits of animal suffering: large-scale factory farming; poorly designed rules around the treatment of animals; and better laws with corresponding enforcement.
The WHS will participate in the upcoming Federal and Provincial election raising these issues while promoting education and dialogue, so the entire community learns how to be more humane and make fully educated choices when it comes to showing respect and compassion towards all animals.
Improve our customer service
Let us be honest: our customer service needs improvement. Calling the Winnipeg Humane Society is very difficult: there are many menu options, voicemails, and it is not always clear which number to call when. Is it an emergency? A concern? Filing a lost pet report?
In order to be a true humane place, we plan to improve our phone system but also introduce a new team which will handle every initial phone call, online chat message or request of information coming to us. A human being located right here in Winnipeg will actually answer the phone, an email or a chat message, learn about the need from the person calling, and direct the request to the right area. And we will follow up to make sure the request is addressed.
We would like to apologize because this has been an ongoing challenge for us. As a charity, things like updating phone systems are always at the bottom of the list because money always goes first to the animals. But to help animals, we need to be able to receive information and people should be able to get an answer quickly. So this year we are committing to fixing this problem.
We want to hear from you. You can read the full plan here. We would love to hear from you, all your ideas, questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome.
Javier Schwersensky, on behalf of the entire WHS Team