As I am settling back home, welcomed by dogs that I missed, tired as usual when I return from a Best Friends National Conference (my fourth) and with so much in my head to process, I just have to share some thoughts.
This conference is an amazing experience! Being surrounded by people with a common love for companion pets wanting to Save Them All, gives you lots to think about. Many times I get back totally overwhelmed by having so many ideas that could be implemented. Yet this year, I return exhausted and with a new focus on what Animal SOS will be doing in the coming year. Grateful that opportunities abound. More on that in our next blog.
But what is foremost in my mind this year is how much Columbus has progressed since my first conference. Back in 2012 we were new in the animal welfare world. Animal SOS was just getting organized. Columbus was in the infant stages of working to be a no-kill community. The public was calling for change and the city was struggling to come into the new world in a way that could be sustained. We sure didn’t have all the answers.
So we were going to learn at Best Friends’ conference. And we wanted Columbus officials to learn also, so we offered to sponsor sending the director of Special Enforcement, Drale Short. And the city accepted the opportunity, allowing Ms Short to be away from her responsibilities here for a week. At this time, the No More Homeless Conference was attended overwhelmingly by rescue groups, most of who were battling their cities in their efforts to help companion pets. In one early session, during the question period at the end, Ms Short stood to pose her question, identifying herself as the director of Columbus Animal Care and Control. If looks could kill, the daggers from the eyes of other session attendees directed at her would have been deadly. Yet she was undeterred and was able to hear about methods that would bring change to Columbus. And she was noticed by the wonderful people at Best Friends who were looking to work with more municipalities.
Just a few weeks later, Ms Short was contacted by Best Friends and invited to apply for a seven figure grant if she was willing to have Columbus support TNR (trap, neuter, return). Even with a very limited number of cities invited, it was a very competitive process. And Columbus came up short, coming in second to Baltimore. But PetSmart Charities was impressed and offered a “starter” grant to kick off the Columbus Free-Roaming Cat Program, saving hundreds of cats.
Today, Columbus has a Best Friends Community Cat Program thanks to the grant received the following year and 1,000’s of cats have benefited. And Columbus has a 74% live release rate for the first six months of 2015. A remarkable change from 2010 when it was 21%. Thousands of lives have been saved. It has been a community effort. With the hard work of great rescues like Animal Ark, Columbus Purrs and Paws, and PAWS Humane (who also has been very aggressive with low- and no-cost spay/neuter programs) and hundreds of citizens, Columbus will be a no-kill community. And it will spread to our neighboring counties.
I believe in Best Friends motto. Together we will Save Them All.