Letter From the President: Let’s Make the Most of This

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

Happy New Year!  I wish all of our members and friends in the animal welfare world a happy, healthy, prosperous 2021.  But this year in particular, I’m feeling the need to also do a reality check.  I know there are lots of reasons to want 2020 in our rearview mirrors.  2020 was a tough year, and sadly for more than 330,000 Americans, even a deadly one.  Terms like unprecedented and global pandemic and pivot became our new buzzwords.  My reality check, though, involves the turning of the calendar page from 2020 to 2021. I think I’m safe in assuming that things aren’t going to change immediately and dramatically.  Even with the great hope of widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, experts do not expect immediate results, and it isn’t likely we’ll see a major relaxation of social distancing and other safety precautions until at least next summer.

We’ve got this! We’ve all gotten pretty good at managing the new “normal.” You, my colleagues in the animal welfare and animal services world, have demonstrated your signature heroism in ways none of us could have imagined.  So, I want to take a minute to celebrate all the good that 2020 brought to our field:

  • Collaboration – More than just the theme of our 2020 Fall Virtual Conference, we saw collaboration amongst organizations and individuals who had, frankly, never taken the time nor initiative to get to know one another.  The Association was pleased to help convene leaders from various backgrounds and operating philosophies to come up with a plan of attack against a new common foe.  Together we were able to filter the flood of information to formulate and share solid recommendations to our colleagues on the front line.

  • Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – The Association’s DEI work commenced in Fall 2019, but the murder of George Floyd and other headline-making events lit a fire of urgency around the issue of systemic racism.  And, we realized that our own field is not immune.  We built a DEI Leadership team who have led the DEI Committee into definitive action.  Our Board of Directors wholeheartedly endorsed and supported the need to focus energy and resources on making The Association AND the industry more diverse, equitable and inclusive.  Beginning in early 2021 we will be working with a consulting firm to help us develop a plan for moving forward.  The conversations are hard, but are so important in moving this issue to the forefront.

  • The “New Normal” – The animal welfare movement can change the world.  In our relatively short history we have seen remarkable progress. The number of animals entering the shelter system has declined dramatically, and we’ve discovered new lifesaving tools, such as transport, that have changed the game.  In response to COVID-19, we have seen tremendous innovation and creativity.  Foster programs emerged or expanded, and communities stepped up to support the work normally conducted in the shelter.  We are excited to continue this community-based approach to sheltering. Our friends at Human Animal Support Services will undoubtedly continue to rally our industry to look at our work in new ways.

Instead of making new resolutions for the New Year, I propose that we focus on these positive outcomes from 2020 and work hard to continue the forward momentum we’ve got going. 2021 will most likely bring ups and downs, too, but we have a choice as to how we manage both.  Let’s make the most of the year.  The animals and people in our communities are counting on it.


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

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