Heard about how Metro Animal Care and Control (MACC) utilized a simple but mighty feature of their shelter software to increase their RTO by 11 percentage points? This innovative use of technology also earned the Nashville, TN, agency major kudos–and $10K!–as the 2019 Diane and Bob Hoover Innovation Award winner.
The program works like this: Volunteer admins run multiple Facebook groups for lost and found pets in the county. Using Chameleon and the Postmaster automated email technology, daily intake reports get sent to the Facebook group admins. The reports include a list of animals with photos and descriptions targeted by zip code, so they can cross-check to see if any of these pets have been posted in the groups. The volunteers then directly reach out to the owners.
We did a quick Q&A with MACC’s Staci Cannon, DVM, to get more stats on the program, as well as tips for starting one of your own.
The Association: How has your RTO been impacted since the start of this program?
Dr. Staci Cannon: Since implementing this specific Postmaster program in the summer of 2017, the RTO rate at Metro Animal Care and Control increased from 19% in 2015 to 30% in 2017. This represented a significant increase in lifesaving at our municipal animal control organization. In 2017, we had 1,227 RTOs; in 2018, we had 1,341 RTOs, and in 2019, we had 1,214 RTOs. Our intake had also started to decline due to proactive intake diversion—and likely even more lost animals reunited with their families prior to shelter intake, due to the robust activity in the Facebook groups. Because we have such a robust RTO program at MACC with multiple components, I can’t say which animals were reunited solely because of a link between the Postmaster job and the Facebook Lost and Found group.
The Association: What is your advice for shelters thinking about trying this program?
Dr. Staci Cannon: My advice is to simply reach out to Chameleon to set up this automated report – they are so helpful!
Community engagement is also a key piece. The idea for this program actually came from a collaborative meeting between shelter leadership and community advocates who were already running Lost and Found Facebook pages. We brainstormed how we could make this process more efficient and help narrow their focus to lost animals from their particular zip codes, since PetHarbor didn’t show the location found. So in addition to great support from Chameleon, be open to working with your community advocates and ask for their help. Provide the messaging you want them to share with owners seeking lost pets, and then look at ways to remove barriers to reclaim when the owners do make contact with the shelter. It’s a team effort, and keeping a positive attitude and being open to changes are crucial.
The Association: Congratulations on winning the inaugural 2019 Diane and Bob Hoover Innovation Award. Do you have specific plans for the $10K?
Dr. Staci Cannon: We plan to use the generous award for further marketing and community outreach to raise awareness about steps to take when a pet is lost. We want everyone in Nashville to know about our shelter and how to use flyers, social media, and PetHarbor to locate their lost pet! We are also exploring the Lost2Found texting program that is super exciting!
The Association: Any words of encouragement for shelters interested in applying for this year’s award?
Dr. Staci Cannon: Definitely apply! The application is not overwhelming and very approachable. Everyone in our sheltering industry works so hard every day, and the to-do list never gets completed. Even if you think your innovation is minor, your idea could be a winner, and will then impact other shelters–and so many more animals and families in other communities!
You heard it from Dr. Cannon–and there’s still time to apply! The deadline to enter the Diane & Bob Hoover Annual Innovation Award is tomorrow, Friday, August 28, at noon ET. Don’t miss your chance at $10K! Get the details here. P.S. In order to qualify for the award, innovations must have been integrated within an organization’s operations prior to July 1, 2019.