Concerned over the lack of attention being paid to adoptions and customer service at the Rockwall municipal shelter, two shelter volunteers began Rockwall Pets in June 2010. The original focus was off-site adoptions and marketing of adoptable pets. We launched a web site, rockwallpets.com, to focus on adoptable pets. We began marketing every adoptable pet and managing the Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet databases for the shelter. We made ourselves the shelter’s adoption “experts” by attending classes, reading books and attending webinars. We began a focus on customer service.
The original efforts were such a success that the shelter was nearly empty of adoptable pets by mid-November 2010. The shelter remained nearly empty through mid-March, even though intakes continued apace.
In the meantime, Austin happened. We were inspired by the successes of Austin Pets Alive!, FixAustin, the Town Lake Animal Center and even the Austin City Council. When we were told again that it was impossible for an open-admission municipal shelter to achieve no kill status, we simply responded by saying “Look at Austin.”
(The Rockwall facility, an open-admission shelter, remains animal control-oriented to this day. Nearly 90% of the staff is concerned with field operations and public health. Staff maintained an average kill rate between 40-50% [before Rockwall Pets started].)
When it became obvious animals were being killed even though space was very much available, we took Austin’s lead and asked for intervention from city hall. We basically said, “Give us a chance,” and took responsibility for adopting out a much larger number of pets.
One day in mid-March, when we saw that the shelter was filled with adoptable pets, we gave each other a fist bump because we knew we had turned a corner. Then we rolled up our sleeves to get to work. The results were nothing short of astounding. By April and May, we achieved live outcomes of 86%.
The animal control staff is still battling us every step of the way, but we refuse to quit. We have an ever-expanding volunteer group, and we simply outwork everyone in order to save more lives. We still have a long way to go: We’re constantly fighting with shelter staff and management to improve customer service and to keep the shelter open for longer hours. We need to begin a TNR program. We need to begin a low-cost spay/neuter program. We need to increase our fundraising.
But we’re making it happen. We stay positive and we won’t quit. If volunteers in Rockwall can do it, anyone can do it. Our mantra is love the animals, keep yourself focused, keep working and believe. The animals deserve nothing less.