Episode 77 – Cait Daly

Cait Daly is the Executive Director at the Fredericksburg SPCA, and they have improved lifesaving by over 33%, and their community engagement and awareness has increased by over 200%. They continue to make huge strides towards becoming a more progressive, all-encompassing resource for the people in their community while increasing lifesaving measures through innovative programs. One such program, Adventure Tails, has gained National recognition for the low barrier approach to getting animals out into day-foster. We have seen over a 50% reduction in length of stay (from 20+ days to 10) and a 19% increase in adoption since the program launched in April 2017. She is very excited to share this program with anyone willing to listen!

Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport now on with our show. Shortly after graduating from Longwood University in 2008 with a B s and industrial psychology and sociology, Kate Daily began volunteering for a small animal shelter. There is something about animal rescue that set her soul on fire after just two years of working in her field of study, should decide to take a chance and took a job as a kennel tech at a nonprofit animal shelter in Greensboro, North Carolina. She quickly climbed the ranks, and after less than a year, she became the shelter manager. In 2012 she accepted her first executive director position at another small nonprofit located in Ellen, North Carolina. There she was able to increase profits by 333% in two years and help bring the first law to ban tethering from dream to reality in this small town, the organization went from saving 50 lives per year to over 500 by developing positive relationships with local veterinarians and and the municipal shelter relationships which have been poor or non existent prior to her arrival. Hey, Kate, Thanks for coming on today. Yeah, thanks for having me. So you get to start us off and tell us about you and kind of how you fell into the into the realm of animal rescue. Oh, yeah. Sure. I would love to, uh, I have always been a huge animal lover. I’m sure that’s not surprised. Um, I have been bringing home injured since I was able to walk. Uh, so I guess I’ve always been an animal rescuer at heart. And, ah, through college, I took a lot of business courses and learned a lot about that aspect. Got ah, job. Ah. Pertaining to my degree, which is psychology. And, um, I want to adopt the dog and just had a really crappy experience. And I thought, you know what? I think I want to do this because I I couldn’t do it differently. And in my opinion, better. So I started bawling hearing. Um and that was it. I mean, I was the beginning, I guess of, uh, my love affair with the animal rescue. Um, volunteering turned into a job, and, uh, it was very low level. I started off as a kennel tech. And, um, now, 11 years later, executive director Wow, you covered a huge span of time there. But it’s interesting you started. I mean, obviously an animal lover and and in college, as you said, business classes and a degree in psychology and sociology. Yeah. My, um, the actual degree is an industrial site, which is kind of like marketing psychology, like business, like, uh, which I think is perfect, actually. For what I d’oh. Um, I was an executive director. Yes. And then you started with a shelter. Like you said, you volunteered. You became a ah Kendall Tech. And you really just enjoyed it and then decided. You know what this is? This is my path. This is my calling. Yeah, I I, um I took some issue with a lot of the judgmental kind of nature that went into people trying to adopt and, um, animal rescue folks finding every reason to not. And I decided that I wanted to do it differently because I I thought that a different approach would be more beneficial. And, uh, that’s what I brought to the Fred Experience PC. And we’ve seen a lot of success with that. Yes. So tell us about that. So what is different about your approach, and why do you think it works? Sure. So, um, just a little quick story. When I was in college, I really wanted to adopt, So I want to shelter. And it was, um it was pretty, uh, low budget shelter. They really needed to get those animals out. But I did not have a fence and I was a college student. And so I was denied. And I was like, Well, that interesting. I have a little love to give. Um, So, anyway, I My approach is that I don’t believe in denying people that bond. I think that it’s a really important and special bond that everyone deserves, a long as there’s no glaring reason like abuse not to. So that’s sort of my approach, um or rather, our approach at the SEC and Predator, and it really works because we’ve seen, um, much more life saving a lot more happy families. And, uh, not every pet is perfect for offense. So I think there’s somebody for everybody. No, I think it’s a really good point, Kate, that, you know, it’s like trying to find the right match right with the animal and the person. And what is the lifestyle like? And what is their home life like? But almost anything like you said, as long as it’s not an abusive situation is probably better than having to live in the kennel. Exactly. Um I mean, at the SEC and Fredericksburg, we try so hard, we’re their home before they find a home where their family. But you know what I mean. But of course, nothing can take the place of a true family. So, um, in my opinion, and in our opinion, we just think that people deserve that chance, and the animals deserve that chance. And we’re their toe find the Yes. That makes sense. Yeah. No, it definitely does. And, you know, one of the things I found really interesting about you guys is you started some innovative program there, So tell us a little bit about adventure tales. Oh, well, to, um, So at our shelter and my personal philosophy, we always try to start with the Why. So, um the why here was we had a lot of larger dogs specifically who were deteriorating pretty significantly in the kennel environment. And, uh, the next step was, Well, what do we D’oh. So, um, of course I noticed that when they got outside and they got to run around improved their overall health. So, uh, I thought, Well, we certainly don’t have the bandwidth or the staff to take every one of these guys out multiple times a day. Um, but I bet you anything that there’s people in the community who would clamor for the opportunity to to take these guys out and get him exercise. So it started off, Um, just really small. They come take a dog for a walk, and then it just sort of ballooned into an entire program that we called adventure tales on. And it’s not limited to large dogs. Pretty much any dog and interesting. We even some cats. Ah, but the idea is that these guys don’t thrive in a shelter environment, so we want to get them out. We want to get them better exposure. And also it’s just a really neat engagement tool for the community. Yes, so people then volunteer to take them for the day for the weekend. How does it work? Well, it started off. Just take him out. Get him, Get him out there for a walk. And now it’s sort of Ah, just get him out for whatever you’re into. We’ve got a lot of local hiking groups, so especially college. Both will come in and grab a dog and go out on one of the hiking meet up. We’ve got paddle boarding with your pump on. That’s been super interesting, but also really fun on. And a really fun tidbit like, Hey, uh, Sparky loves paddleboarding. Like how? Random? But how cool. Um, and it’s kind of transformed into a sleepover program. Ah, weekend fostering. So the program is still evolving. I guess I would say so. How do you find the people to come and take them on these adventures? Oh, my gosh. There. Um, it’s so funny because we have, like, we’ll have college kids coming in, and they’re like, I have two hours before the exam. I just I really need to get out from energy. Who do you got for me? And we’ll give them, you know, one of our high energy guys and no go on a really intense trail run. And then we’ve got folks who will come over from our local adult day program and, ah, there from retirement homes or what have you? And they just come to sit with our seniors or to take our seniors to Starbucks, for instance? So ah, there there is no type. It’s everybody. Everybody loves this program. So how did you guys come about to start this guy? I can imagine some people listening to this going, what a great idea. But, you know, how do we get started? How do we do this? How much work is this? I would say that you just start where you are and where we were that we had no type of program like this. I just knew that, or we just knew that we wanted to get the dogs out. So, you know, start small. If that’s what you’re comfortable with, just start an easy dog walking program or it’s really just about being lower barrier with your volunteers and, uh, I guess not being worried about. They’re there for a good reason. People are basically good, so just believe they’re there to help you out and see where it goes. I would say, Yeah, no, that’s what I tell people. Is was You look at the intent, right? They’re showing up there showing up to volunteer. It’s It’s extremely unlikely that somebody is going to show pin volunteer and try and do something bad. Yeah, I agree. Um, that’s kind of where we that’s the place we start from its Hey, everybody is coming in here. We’re an animal. Shelter it. So they’re not going to their local breeder. They’re not going to a local catch store. They made the decision to come to us. So, um, let’s board something positive here. Dressed them. I think it’s important. Yeah. So what’s been the reaction, like in the community? Oh, man, it’s been huge. The program itself, Um I mean, it was kind of just ah, loosey goosey. We had policies and procedures, but we didn’t really promote it necessarily. Um, we started our promotion formally on Earth Day 2018. And so it’s been Oh, God, what is that? Seven months, mate months. But in that time of actually putting that program out there and writing grants to get X of funding, we’ve gone from maybe one or two walks today, too. We see up to 200 walks a week. That’s amazing. Yes, the program has exploded. Um, and we’ve we Actually, our model is being used in Arizona, in Charlottesville or model uh is It’s really son. I think it’s a fun approach and it’s easy to implement. So we’ve seen huge growth is in a really short period of time. She must have some great stories or some special stories that come to mind when you think about this, anything that really would like to share. Well, my two favorite stories we had a dog did say, was Hambone And he was a huge, uh, coonhound. And he was, you know, that coon hound Who? The mark. So that’s what he did nonstop from the minute we got there to the moment we left and likely all night. So I was just this ping, So he had a really hard time finding a family. Likely people just guess that that’s what he would. D’oh! So we started pushing him on adventure tales and ah, a lot of college people came out a couple of families And then this One day this guy came in and he was like, Who really needs to go out on a walk? And so we suggested Hambone, who had been with us. Ah, maybe four months at that point, which is really long for our program. And ah, so we went on a hike and the guy came back and he was like, he didn’t bark once. He was great in the car. He’s perfect, Like I never would have walked in here and said, This is my dog But this is my dog. So, um, that’s that’s one of my favorites because hounds, a lot of times they do get looked over and they are sort of Archy in the kennel. But he got a mountain saw what a great dog he waas. And I just thought that was really cool that this program could do that for Hambone. Um And then we had a woman to lost her dog and she started a blawg and she would come in weekly and take dogs out sort of doesn’t memorial to her top that she lost and by the way, was the sixth or seventh week she posted an update and she said, Well, this was supposed to be a whole year and I was gonna hell on dhe, she said, But I found this dog to adventure tales, and I guess you know, she chose me. So within six weeks of losing her dog, she she found another best friend. I thought that was really cool. Yeah. And I was just reading on your website that since you started this program, you’ve seen a dramatic increase in adoptions, right? Yeah. Ah, lot of a lot of the bigger guys. They seem a little bit daunting, I think, in their kennels. And you know, when you’re a bigger dog, you’re really intelligent. You can get kind of Barchi and a little bit. Um, maybe, you know, you react to barriers, you’re getting stressed out. So this program is an awesome way to get those guys out and just show their true personality. And we have seen a 33% increase in adoptions across the board, but especially with our bigger dogs, and I definitely attributed to the fact that people are getting the mountain, seeing what they’re really like and realizing that it’s just the shelter environment. And once they get out of it, they’re great. Yeah, that’s terrific. Very cool. So now I’ve always wondered. I mean, what is what is the average day like for you as an executive director? Oh, my. That is an interesting question. So no two days of the same. I usually get in and I try to sip my coffee and game plan on. Then quickly, my entire game plan falls apart as usual. Uh, so I I guess I would say, um, there is no typical day. Ah, a lot of meeting people. A lot of, um, promoting our programs. But no, two days look the same. So I That’s really tough one. No. And I want things. That was really interesting, and people obviously heard it when I did the introduction. But you you’ve had this success and increasing donations and profits and things. What’s what’s your secret? What’s your magic for me? Because I think wherever you go, it seems like you’re just doing a fantastic job of engaging. Well, I think that’s the key is being engaging and getting people involved in not trying to Hi, that your struggle Because at an animal shelter, I think, um, it just goes with the territory that there are gonna be struggles and you don’t want to hide that. I think sharing that is really important and letting people know like, man, I’m really struggling with this, like, donations have been really down this month, and that means that we’re having a really tough time feeding all these copies that we got in from awarded case and just being honest and sharing your story and letting people know, Ah, what what’s really going on? Because I think a lot of times it’s kind of that Facebook. I don’t know what to call it. I’m sure that there’s a word for it, but where you look on Facebook and you’re like, Oh, man, they’re doing a great job. Look at all this cool stuff, but we are. But also you have to be honest about still tough it is, and that makes people want to get engaged. Yeah, I think that’s really important. Is you’re trying to build a relationship with your community and and instead of it just being a transaction or a promotion, right? That Hey, look at all the greats up we’re doing. It’s the good and the bad, right? To make them a part of your success. Yeah, I think telling a story is really important. People want Thio connect with you. They want to hear your successes in your failures. And a lot of times it’s the failures. Were people really clearer behind you and ah, you know, they see that you’re trying and I think that’s what matters. Yeah, Now that’s really needs her. Now, as you as you look into 2019. What’s next? What’s the future look like for Fredericksburg? So we actually just had a really exciting strategy meeting, and we were kind of talking about that exact thing and a big pool in our community. We we have our shelters, we ever municipal shelter, and then we have our Fredericksburg s P C A shelter. We have a lot of rescues. We’re doing great on that front. Uh, what? We noticed it. There’s not a lot of help for pets that already have families. So, um, a great example is this government furlough? There’s a lot of people who were, unfortunately living paycheck to paycheck, and now they don’t know what to do. So we have offered free food. Discount of veterinary service is through our own clinic. Um and, uh, things like, Hey, let us come by when you’re doing what you’re doing. Let us come by and walk your dog. Let us Maybe you really need your dog to be boarded because you I have to move out of your home. Maybe something tragic has happened. So being there to offer support to people so that while they’re having a hard time, they know that they there somebody that’s got their back and it’s us, um, through a whole bunch of different programs, whether if he boarding their animal for no cost, offering them, ah, vaccines if they have to pour their animal and they can’t afford it or something as simple as a bag of dog food. Yeah, something like you said so simple. That really makes a big difference to them. Yeah, we have a German shepherd who has really that hip issues and hot dogs. Bag of food is over $100. It’s prescription. Um, we get prescription donated to us so we were able to give that pet owner a bag of food that would have maybe meant the difference between being late on rent or even not dying themselves fixed. Yeah, no, I think it’s a really important point. And I know in the industry there’s always a lot of talk about reasons for owner surrenders. And and sometimes it is something like that. It’s either pay your rent or future animal, and in order to not have to make that choice or to have the animal suffer, people end up giving them up. Yeah, we’ve seen that for sure. Um, and through our programs, we’ve definitely seen people who are able to keep their pets. And for most, for most who own pets, that’s what they want to D’oh! The shelter is sort of the last option, So being able to offer them service is that means they can stay with their best friend. That’s huge. It sounds like you’ve done so much to really build relationships that the community and I love the Adventure Tales program. Is there anything else you wanted to mention? Kate before we wrap things up? Sure, we have a new clinic. We have re branded ourselves as the Community Medical Center. So what that means is, ah, instead of just we used to be Ah, the spay neuter clinic of products Berg. And now we’re the Furnish their community medical center. So we offer a wide array of service is from gentles to Master Moviles. Ah, to simple things like your pet is itching, um, skin, skin issues and vaccines, of course, preventive medication. Um, it’s really exciting offering things like that because sometimes even just that board a tele vaccine. When you know that you’re gonna have to pay the vest the visit see, and the vaccine fee And maybe for flea med that cannot up really quickly. That could be 100 sometimes even $200 depending on where you go. But you can come to us and get ahh flea medication board a tele, and you can leave without spending $40. So I think that’s really exciting. And I think that’s going to do a lot for people in our area who are struggling. Yeah, that’s really cool that you guys are valuing what your community needs and focused on. How do we how do we meet those needs, right? So if people are struggling to care for their pets properly, that’s a problem, right? And that’s what could end up having more pets come into the shelter. So it’s great that you guys air proactively trying to help them. Exactly. Yeah, that’s our goal. Well, we really sat down and looked at what is missing in our community again, starting with the why we looked at our data. Why are we getting pets in? Um, what are the reasons? And how can we may be bridged? The gap between, um, keeping your pet or giving up your pet in one of the number one things we landed on was offering preventative and wellness medication and even ah, sick care. I think sick care is huge for people, especially in our area. Well, Kate, thank you so much for coming on today and sharing everything. It was great to talk to you. Oh, thank you so much for having me. I love it. I love telling. People were up to Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, join the air p A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. 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