Tough times can make strong leaders even stronger. Case in point: Meet Mindy Tiner of Tulsa SPCA.
Name: Mindy Tiner
Member of The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement since: 2014
Organization: Tulsa SPCA
Title: Executive Director
Organization’s Mission: “The Tulsa SPCA was founded in 1913,” says Tiner. “In the 107 years following, the specific services we offer have varied, but our overall mission—to improve the lives of dogs and cats and their human companions—has not.”
Q&A with Mindy Tiner
The Association: Tell us about your organization.
Mindy Tiner: We offer intake and adoption services, a low-cost veterinary clinic, cruelty investigations and prevention, including food provision to those in need, and community outreach and education services. We just opened our new 7,000+-square-foot clinic and every week we provide six days of spay/neuter services, two vaccine clinic days and two minor-needs clinic days, as well as affordable heartworm treatment services. We hope to expand services over the next year to include dentals and additional surgeries, including orthopedic procedures. Our hope is to prevent surrender in more cases by providing resources for those in need.
The Association: What do you think is the most important part of your job?
MT: I think the most important part of my job is keeping everyone focused on our mission and successes while also keeping our egos in check, so we can look honestly at opportunities for improvement. Whether we are telling our story, raising money, educating, taking care of the animals or even cleaning, keeping our mission front and center is key. It is easy to burn out or get frustrated, so I want to make sure everyone remembers the victories – because we have so many more of those than anything else.
The Association: Please share the strategies implemented and challenges you and your staff have been facing since March. How is everyone holding up?
MT: One of the things we’ve always struggled with is having enough foster parents for our animals. When it became apparent we needed to change operations, our team went into action. Within about a week, we either adopted or placed into foster homes almost 120 dogs and cats. Prior to this, we had between five and ten reliable foster parents at any given time. We were overwhelmed by the response we received from our community.
Once we had all our animals safely placed, we began working on procedures to resume operations while still keeping our staff as safe as possible. We implemented limited-contact adoptions, as well as services through our clinic. Most of the paperwork and interactions are done electronically or by phone prior to both adoption and clinic appointments. We are still refining our processes and definitely are not operating at the same capacity levels we were prior to COVID-19, but we are back to serving the public.
I think the biggest challenge we’ve faced, other than a HUGE decrease in donations and revenue, is coming to terms with what the new normal looks like. So, not beating ourselves up because we can’t see 85 animals at each vaccine clinic, and being okay with 55 or 60. Or accepting our intake and outcome numbers will be lower this year because transports aren’t happening (or whatever the reason is), and being thankful for what we can do. This is a stressful time and we have made sure to offer services to all staff through our EAP program, as well as to communicate as openly and honestly as possible. Overall, I think everyone is holding up well, and glad to still be able to make a difference.
The Association: What’s the most important thing you tell your staff (on any given day)?
MT: Thank you.
The Association: What’s keeping you healthy and resilient these days?
MT: Making sure I take time to recharge. It is important for me to make sure I disconnect and spend time with my family and also spend time outside. Gardening, hiking, game nights and reading are all my go-to activities. Normally I also get to the beach and hang out with friends as often as possible, but that has been a little difficult this year!
The Association: How have you benefitted from your involvement with The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement?
MT: When I started at the Tulsa SPCA six years ago, the agency was in a period of transition, and I was coming from non-animal related industries. While my experience in organizational communication, nonprofit management and social services was certainly important and helpful, The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement helped me learn how to apply those skills in an animal welfare environment. Additionally, The Association gave me resources, both written and human, to draw on to learn “all the things” specific to our industry. After my first Association conference, I told a former social services colleague that it was hands-down the best conference I’d been to with regard to taking away ideas, processes and information I could put into action right away.
I am not sure the Tulsa SPCA would have accomplished the huge strides we’ve made in the last 6 years without the knowledge I gained though The Association.
The Association: What advice do you have for someone considering membership in The Association?
MT: Do it! The benefits of membership far outweigh the costs. I have learned so much, both through conference offerings as well as from peers. Anytime I have a question, my first thought is to reach out to fellow members.
The Association: Knowing what you do now, what advice would you give to who you were ten years ago?
MT: 10 years ago I wasn’t in animal welfare, however, my advice holds – never stop learning or being open to change. Just in the six years I’ve been in animal welfare, I have seen people in our community take more of an interest and a more active role in making sure animals are treated humanely. There has been a greater acknowledgement of the impact we have on each other’s lives and the mutual benefit we gain. When I started there had already been a shift to removing barriers to adoption; I think recently the big shift I’ve seen is a move to preventing surrender by removing barriers to keeping animals in the homes where they’re loved.
Top photo: “That’s me and my ‘foster fail’ dog Ruby,” says Tiner.