Enhanced Open Admissions to Launch In January
Animal Intake Process Changes Will Mean More Animals are Going Home

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Pets in our community face an enormous problem – one that’s hidden in plain sight. Tens of thousands of animals arrive at area shelters and rescues each year, far exceeding the number of people choosing to adopt a pet. Count-less others spend their lives on the streets, scrounging for food, water and a warm place to sleep. Strapped city governments across the state are slashing animal control budgets.

Enhanced Open AdmissionsMeanwhile, the Michigan Humane Society struggles to meet an ever-increasing demand for care services that currently reach 100,000 animals a year – without government funding. Indeed, the MHS Cruelty Investigation and Rescue Department is on track to respond to approximately 10,000 calls this year, an increase of more than 50% over the past two years. This is a community out of balance.

As the state’s largest and oldest animal welfare organization, MHS has been at the forefront of efforts to protect and care for animals for the past 135 years. From pushing for mandatory spay/neuter of dogs and cats adopted from shelters to requiring all Michigan shelters to report their animal statistics, MHS has a long history of fighting for change. Now we are taking one of the most significant steps in our long history to create a stronger, healthier pet community.

In January 2013, MHS will transition to an Enhanced Open Admissions animal intake policy to better serve the pets and people who rely on us. This will have significant benefits for pet owners, the community and the animals alike. Here’s a look at the new intakes process.

First, MHS will begin accepting owned animals by appointment. Those who wish to relinquish an animal will call MHS to begin the process. During this initial phone consultation, an appointment can be scheduled for the pet and owner at one of the three MHS centers for animal care, in Detroit, Rochester Hills or Westland. The phone call will allow us to share situation-specific suggestions that may help pet owners keep their four-legged family members – for example, by offering the free assistance of our Behavior Help Line or Pet Food Bank. If pet owners are receptive to this information, it will prevent some animals from losing their homes unnecessarily.

Surrendering a pet can be an extremely emotional time. The enhanced process includes a private appointment to lessen the stress on both the pet and owner while allowing us to gather more information. We’ll sit down and discuss how the pet interacts with the family, how he or she responds to different situations, and his or her individual quirks. “There is only one expert on an individual pet, and that’s the owner,” says CJ Bentley, MHS senior director of operations. “We need them to tell us about Fido’s typical energy level, or if Missy the cat is nervous around young children. The more that we know about a pet, the easier it is for us to make a match with their forever family.”

Next, the pet will be taken for a preliminary evaluation of health and temperament, which includes a medical examination and a test of the animal’s responses to different stimuli, such as meeting a new animal or person, or interacting with the pet while they are eating or playing with a toy. From these evaluations, a determination can be made about whether the animal is a suitable candidate for adoption at the Michigan Humane Society. While our goal is to save as many animal lives as possible, MHS will not place any animal up for adoption that we believe to be unsafe.

Afterward, we’ll sit down with the pet owner again to discuss the evaluation results. A pet who is physically and temperamentally healthy will be immediately placed in the adoption area rather than waiting for evaluation at a later time. If additional medical or behavior information is needed before a placement decision can be made, the pet owner can opt to have us call them with the results. Finally, if the animal turns out not to be a suitable adoption candidate, the pet owner will have the option to return home with the pet to make alternate arrangements or perhaps even decide to keep his or her pet.

“We want pet owners to feel that they are a part of this process every step of the way,” says Cal Morgan, MHS president and CEO. “The new process fully engages the pet owner, and with knowledge of the evaluation results, they can make the best possible choice for their pet.”

This is one of the most sweeping changes in MHS’ 135-year history. What has not changed, however, is our policy to accept all animals brought to the organization regardless of potential adoptability (health and temperament), what city they are from, or any other criteria. MHS is committed to remaining truly open admission. We will never turn away an animal in need.

Our Enhanced Open Admissions process offers every possible option to pet owners facing the possible relinquishment of an animal. But most importantly, it will lead to better out-comes for the animals coming to MHS.

“Immediate evaluation means animals will spend even less time in our shelters waiting for somebody to adopt them,” Bentley says. “And importantly, less time in the shelter also means fewer sick animals.”

An immediate evaluation also allows the staff to better identify incoming sick animals before they are exposed to the shelter population, so that any illness can be contained.

On the leading edge of animal welfare are a handful of organizations that recently have enhanced their admissions process. MHS is proud to be among the first to follow suit – after a careful assessment of the potential fit and benefits for the particular community we serve.

In fact, MHS has been studying potential intake policy enhancements for two years. We looked to examples from across the country to see which policy changes would be best for the animals, the organization, and the community we serve. We found a close match in Animal Humane Society (AHS), a Minneapolis-based organization that’s similar to MHS in terms of the number of intakes – roughly 30,000 annually – in serving both urban and suburban communities and, importantly, having an open-admission intake policy that accepts any animal.

Facing many of the same community challenges that MHS does now, in 2010, AHS transitioned to an appointment-based intake process. The results were positive and dramatic. In the first year, without turning any animals away, AHS significantly reduced its euthanasia rate, saved nearly 6,000 lives, and dramatically boosted its animal placement rate into homes and rescue groups.

“We’ve studied the results. This works!” Bentley says. “We couldn’t be more excited about bringing this into our community.”

The Enhanced Open Admissions policy is a cornerstone of a comprehensive effort to bring our community back into balance and ensure that more animals are GOING HOME. The campaign includes the Detroit Project, the creation of the new MHS Detroit Center for Animal Care, to replace the facility we’ve operated since the 1920s, and better serve today’s needs. Planning is underway to develop what will be a safer and healthier Detroit for its animal residents.

We’re also expanding current MHS services for low-income pet owners that are successful in keeping families together, so that more animals are STAYING HOME. And we’re creating new partnerships and strengthening existing collaborations with the goal of BUILDING HOMES that support pets in need.

“We all want a Michigan where as many animal lives as possible are saved,” Morgan says. “The enhancements to our intake policy are the next major step in our goal to find a home for every single healthy and treatable animal in our care; that is, to ensure they are GOING HOME.”

On Jan. 2, MHS will begin taking appointments for animal surrenders. As of Jan. 21, all owned animal surrenders will require an appointment. To schedule an appointment, call 1.866.MHUMANE (648.6263).


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