Follow the Fellow: Update from Sheila Kouhkan

by maryheerwald • Posted in: General

Hi guys!

During my time shadowing and training with the experts at Austin Animal Center (AAC) as part of my Maddie’s Executive Leadership Fellowship experience (#ThankstoMaddie!), it has become clearer than ever that Austin’s unique collaborative community model is a huge part of its No Kill success. Both Austin Pets Alive! and Austin Animal Center operate with the mindset that people are the solution. And, in turn, the perception of the shelter by the public is that the shelter is more of a community resource rather than a holding place for homeless animals. Instead of acting as a last resort for animals, AAC works with the community to find creative solutions to keep families together. It is our responsibility as a community resource to provide people with what they need to succeed. It has been enlightening working with Austin Animal Center’s Pet Resource Center where this cultural shift has taken place successfully and proven that people truly are the solution for helping homeless animals.

Too often, people say they want to work or volunteer in animal welfare or animal sheltering positions because they “like animals more than people,” but this is not the mindset that we need in order to do the most impactful work. Animal sheltering is a people-oriented business. We must operate from the mindset that people are inherently good and beneficial to the movement, and it is crucial to make sure that a shelter has the right team members to help the community.

As part of my fellowship, I am enrolled in The Humane Network’s University of the Pacific Animal Shelter Management Certificate program. One of our readings was Good to Great by Jim Collins. He emphasizes the need to get the right people on the bus, especially since the journey is more important than the destination. This can be applied perfectly to a shelter’s journey to No Kill. It is important to ensure that an organization’s staff understands the expectations we have in regards to this shift in thinking around animal sheltering. If they are not on board, I am going to need them to “get off the bus” because they are only going to hinder the journey.

Each animal’s life is important, and each individual that brings an animal to the shelter must be offered resources that can potentially deter an animal from entering our shelter in the first place. Austin Animal Center’s Pet Resource Center does exactly that, offering a wide array of resources for the community so that they can keep animals out of the shelter. Does someone need help with a broken fence? AAC can help with that. Does someone want to foster an animal to keep it from taking a spot in the shelter? AAC can provide any supplies and support the foster might need.

The Pet Resource Center staff are patient, kind, and solution-oriented and they treat each individual that comes to the shelter with kindness and respect. In turn, the people who visit are willing to have conversations to see how they can help keep our population down and, in turn, enhance the lifesaving efforts of Austin Animal Center.

– Sheila

Missed the first post in this series? I’m Sheila, and I am a Maddie’s Executive Leadership Fellow here in Austin training with Austin Pets Alive! and Austin Animal Center. This fellowship has provided me with the unique opportunity to shadow leaders at the forefront of the No Kill movement. #ThankstoMaddie