January Letter from the President: When Only the Best Will Do


Dear Friends,

At the risk of dating myself, I’ve been actively involved in SAWA for a lot of years. I recall quite vividly the first Annual Conference where attendance exceeded 100 people! We thought that was as good as it could get. Nowadays, attendance knocks at the door of 600 people routinely. We’re a very different association than we were back in the “olden days,” but one thing has remained constant — our members are the best in the business.

And, speaking of the best, one of the most exciting developments for SAWA, and for our industry, is the formation of our Best Practices and Emerging Trends Committee. Back in the fall of 2015, we merged with the National Federation of Humane Societies. The National Fed already had an active Best Practices Committee, which blended quite organically with the work of SAWA. This committee is made up of some of the best minds in our business — leaders from across the country who bring a great wealth and diversity of experience and thinking to the table. Their job sounds relatively simple and straightforward — identify and prioritize areas of our work and determine best practices for individuals and organizations to follow to achieve excellence in those areas. But, the task at hand is far from simple. Each Best Practice document takes more than half a year to develop before they’re ready for release.

In addition to the standing members of the committee, for each Best Practice topic selected, we add a handful of subject matter experts (SMEs) who bring an even higher level of understanding to our discussions and debates. The expertise these folks bring to the table is mind-blowing.

It’s important to note that when we at SAWA use the term “best,” we mean best! The committee was very intentionally and deliberately charged with creating true Best Practices rather than minimum standards. While we recognize that some of the components in our Best Practices documents may be aspirational for some organizations, we truly believe that they represent the ultimate in animal care and are what everyone in our industry should strive to provide.

Thus far, the committee has tackled Transport of Companion Animals (released in June 2016), Animal Enrichment (released in June 2017) and Veterinary Care in Shelters (slated for release at our June 2018 conference in Chicago). There is an ever-growing list of topics for consideration for the next round of discussions, and the committee selects what’s next based upon their perception of the need.

Once the document is released, we take the show on the road presenting at state, regional and national conferences and via webinar series hosted by our wonderful partners at ASPCAPro.org. A seven-part series on Transport is recorded and available at ASPCAPro.org and we are currently mid-way through a four-part series on Enrichment.

Please join me in thanking the individuals who have given so much time, energy and expertise to serve on our Best Practices and Emerging Trends committee. They’ve helped chart a course for our industry that will propel us forward at a pace and in ways most of us could not have imagined even a few short years ago. Their names — past and present members and subject matter experts — are listed here:

Beau Archer, Kerry Backsen, Martha Boden, Graham Brayshaw, Kelley Bollen, Jon Cicirelli, Kristen Collins, Vicki Davis, Jonelle Dixon, Jeannie Grigg, Lesli Groshong, Allison Hartlage, Kathie Johnson, Brenda King, Cary Lieberman, Kristen Limbert, Cyndi Mitchell, Jerrica Owen, Lisa Pedersen, Brad Shear, Courtney Thomas, David Williams, and Ana Zorrilla.


Jim Tedford

Jim Tedford

Jim Tedford, CAWA, is President and CEO of The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement.

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