Stephanie Jackson launched and piloted field trip fostering, a nationally recognized program to get large breed dogs out of the shelter. Since the launch, the program has been featured at the Best Friends National Conference in LA, as well as articles in Associated Press and many other local and national media outlets. Stephanie will share information on how you can start field trip fostering and remove roadblocks in fostering put in place in municipal shelters.
Welcome to the professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you to amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is proudly 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 Relate Transport. Now on with our show. Before Stephanie Jackson started her career at a municipal shelter in Louisville, Kentucky, she was involved in Animal Rescue Organisation, Tyson’s Chance Animal Foundation, where she served on the board of directors while working hard to place dogs. She came to Louisville Metro Animal Services in 2016 and in a short period of time grew their foster program to new levels. Her implementation of lifesaving programs has helped the shelter to save more pets, taking their lives. Release rate from 84 to 94%. Hey, Stephanie, Thanks for coming on today. Thanks for having me, Crescent. Really excited. Yeah. So get you get to start us off, right. Tell us about you and kind of your back story, right? How did you end up in animal rescue? Well, as a kid. Of course we had dogs. I think I first thought we got from the shelter, But I don’t really remember ever being as passionate about animals of the child. I was more so into music. And then as I got older, I really wanted to a doctor, Pitbull or my My boyfriend at the time did. So we looked until we did a lot of research and I went to a rescue organization called Tysons Chance Animal Foundation and Shelbyville, Kentucky, and just met the dog of my dreams. And he just changed my whole life. He was, Yeah, his name’s Malika. He’s everything you could ever want the dog just outstanding. So I did a lot of work with them. I just kind of dove in. I didn’t know that pit bulls had it so rough, and they pretty much focused on people type dogs. Um, so I joined their team and did a lot of hands on and a lot of just promotion and training, and it really prepared me for what I do now, which is the foster coordinator, much animal services, and I’ve been able to make a career out of it. Instead of just volunteering, which has been really nice to yes, for somebody that didn’t always grow up saying This is what I want to do You kind of found your calling. Yeah, it was a specifically through Malik I who I still have that. I mean, he’s the entire reason that I am so passionate about animals and rescue and specifically pit bull type dogs. Yeah. So now you’ve decided to make this your career and you went from Tyson’s over toe, Louisville Metro Animal Services. So tell us about your role there and what do you do there? I am the foster coordinator at Louisville Much Animal Services, and I’ve been doing that for 2.5 years. Um, it’s been it’s been awesome. I mean, there’s been lots of ups and downs. Working at a municipal shelter can be super rewarding. That can also be super difficult. So just finding new ways to save animals and getting them out of the shelter has been It’s what I dio. It’s everything. I live for us to get them out of the shelter. So whether it’s through foster or adoption, you know, whatever I can do to help, yeah, well, clearly it’s working. I mean, you guys went from 84 to 94% live release, right? Yeah. It’s pretty cool that that is outstanding. What an amazing achievement. And just you’ve only been there a couple of years. Yeah, it’s been, um it’s been awesome that the response from the community because of the transformation. You know, everyone wants to take a dog or cow. They want to help a no kill shelter. But, you know, a lot of people there’s a stigma within shelter that might have to euthanize eso in the in the past, a lot of people just didn’t come and help. But now that we have that no kill shelter status, um, you know, everyone’s kind of flooding to us, and that’s pretty awesome. Yeah, that’s a really good problems. Good problem to have, right? Yeah. Yeah. So tell us about, like, what does the Foster coordinator do? I mean, what what is your average day? Like a lot of e mails? Uh, so probably my average day is, you know, I come in, I kind of do an inventory of what we have. Um, and then a lot of a lot of my day has just spent answering emails and hanging out with dogs. Honestly, I bring a dog up to my desk and we hang out. And then I promote the animals that we have in Foster. And, um, I do a lot more than just foster coordinating, which I’m happy to do. I do a lot of kennel enrichment and teaching staff had on how to enrich the animals lives with shelter. And I think that, um, but there was a position specifically for foster coordinator and animal enrichment. That would be my thing. So I do a lot of that very meat. So now what was the foster program like before you joined? I came into a role that was being filled out by are being filled by one person who had many other job titles, so they were unable to dedicate like their entire workday to it. So I came in and I was able to dive in and implement ah, lot of stuff that the shelter just didn’t have. Like fost this care neonatal. Zoe’s ring Warm care behavioral fosters on that. I was able to go to Austin, Texas, through Maddie’s Fund, a partnership thanks to Maddie and, um, you know, really kind of opened up my world because I’ve always and, you know, the rescue Before with Tyson’s, we had a foster program, but that wasn’t our core mission. But this was my soul, you know, mission was to get animals out of the shelter into foster homes. Yes. So now you’ve got some really cool programs. I want to make sure we talk about this field trip program. I mean, tell us how you kind of came about with this idea to do a program. I can’t say it was initially my idea. I’m Austin Animal Center. When I was there through the A partnership, you know, it was a medium large dog, a partnership how to send them to foster or get them out of the shelter on day did the day out type program, which we didn’t do. And I was really struggling back home to figure out how, uh, you know, to get some of the bigger dogs out because a lot of people just look over them. So when I went to Austin and they, you know, taught us how to do this, I came home. No. Within that first week I had presented a pilot program to management, and they were on board for the most part, and let me kind of just take off with it. So it was It was all thanks to, you know, that apprenticeship, but coming home and doing it Was the rial the real deal? Yeah. So how does it work? Tell our listeners. Like, how does it work? I mean, how did you Week one, right? What did it look like? What? What do you go through? Um, week one, Waas. Presenting it to management. You know, begging mental. Just let me try it. Let me. I picked out a few volunteers that were also foster, so foster volunteers that were dedicated and experience. And I picked a like some certain dogs dogs that had some in kennel deterioration but thrived outside of their of their kennel. Um, and just kind of said, go do stuff with them and tell me how it goes. They took him to parks. I took Mr, you know, like the local coffee shops or restaurants and just took really awesome pictures and gave me a really, really good feedback. So they just leave the shelter for an hour or more. It has to be at least an hour. It could be all day. That could keep them all night. It could be forever. Just getting them out was the big thing. So all they all you have to do is attendant orientation for about 45 minutes, and then you can come whenever and pick up a dog. So how has that worked in terms of finding volunteers? Me? Where do you find the people? I don’t know. They kind of I Yeah, it’s been a lot of word of mouth. I mean, Facebook has obviously been instrumental to the growth of the program. You know, the amount of people you know, we had 100 and we had over 150 people show up for one orientation. Um, I was huge, and there were so many people. It was overwhelming. And but they all were really interested in learning about how they can help dogs get out of the shelter. So, um, I don’t know that specific orientation was the largest we’ve ever had. And since then, it’s been, you know, 40 to 60 to 80 people, poor orientation. So it’s been big. So It helps our foster actual foster program as well, because these people fall in love with the dog and they don’t want to bring him back to the shelter. But they’re not in the position to adopt them. So they take him home for a weekend, and they tell me even more about them. So it’s really grown. Our program, yes or no. Do you guys suggest things for them to do? Do you have AH set of things for them to try? I don’t don’t have. I mean, we have a like places you can take dogs list. But for the most part, I tell them, You know, there’s a list of things you can’t do, which is, you know, pretty basic. No dog park, snow off leash activity on Ben from there, it’s kind of do whatever you want. Um, you know, I’ve had people take them to outdoor shops where they just kind of sit on the couch and meet people. Um, I’ve had someone take them to restaurants. You know, we’ll have drinks with their friends. Some people take them home for a nap in their bed for an hour or two and then bring them back and all those air just super beneficial. And the idea of taking a shelter about home for a nap? I don’t know why. I mean, I do you know why? Cause dogs cuddling equals amazing. But people really, really like that idea. And Napster really cool, too. So, yeah, you could totally imagine, Like, just Hey, I need somebody to take a nap with me, right? And something I snuggle up to, And why not get a £50.70 pound dog to come snuggle up on your bed? And I’m sure they love it. Yeah, it’s been it’s been awesome in a lot of I mean, sometimes it just takes that one little nap to know what? You know what you’ve been missing. Yeah. Now, has this contributed to higher adoption rates? I mean, what have you seen as a result of that? Yeah. I mean, the data that we tracked with this when we did a did a Maddie’s Fund study for field trips to see how it helped the dogs in the shelter, just the overall behavior. And then we tracked adoptions. And yeah, it contributed to a lot more adoptions because we were able to share the information with the potential adopters. You know, they This is kind of something I always tell people is that you know, there’s different types of people looking to adopt. Some people see a dog behind a cage and it pulls up their heartstrings and they want that dog. And then some people see a dog on a couch in a home. And that’s Detective Dog. They want. They don’t. They need to know it’s going to be a dog that could bring in their home and everything’s gonna be fine. Eso both sides of the spectrum really work well, but I found that more people are, they have a lot of questions you can’t answer by letting a dog sit behind a colonel, you know? Are they house trained? Do they like kids? Did they like cats? You know a lot of that stuff You can’t find out just by letting a dog sit in the kennel. So getting them out into the community into a foster home, even if it’s just temporarily really makes those adoption number skyrocket. Yeah, and you can really get to see their true personality. And what are they really gonna be like? in an adoptive sense. Exactly. That’s really needs. Or now the other program is something that seems really unique. Tell us about the positive patrol program. Puzzle patrol is where police officers get to come and pick a dog up for the day. Um, and they just kind of go out and take him on their beat with them, so they can pretty much go wherever they want, Because the cool part about this is no one’s gonna tell a cop they can’t bring a dog somewhere, You know, They’re gonna take them wherever they want to go. You know, big old pit bull and a gun You’re not telling helmet a badge. All right, so they get to go toe like hospitals and malls and even traffic stops. You know, there was a capri took a dog who had the dog in the car, and there was a school bus accident. So the dog was there with them, and it wasn’t a serious accident, but they got toe people asked about the dog. Why we have a dog in your car. Is it a bomb sniffing dogs around sniffing dogs? It’s just a all American shelter dog that you can adopt today, you know? So it’s been really nice. Yeah, I can imagine. It’s like a really unique spin on the field trip. I mean, how did you guys come up with this idea? We have our current director, actually. Also, Gibson is, um, his. He has a history in the police department. He was a chief of police for a long time, so he had some connections. And there was a, um, major Kimber Brink, who really wanted some morale for her staff, for her, for her officers. So she wanted us to bring dogs there. But that’s just not feasible with, you know, short staffing and time. And so we talked about why don’t you come get a dog and take him to the precinct and let him hang out? And then it kind of turned into Why don’t you take them on the road with you and kind of let them just see everything. And so that’s kind of where that when it was a it’s happened all really quickly. Um, and it’s been been really, really cool. Yeah. I was gonna say Must have some great stories, and I’m sure that’s probably led to some adoptions as well. Oh, for sure. There was a dog named Bella that, you know, I adored the star, but she just absolutely could not be in the shelter. It was terrible to see her to tear your rate. And it was, you know, to the point where was it unfair to keep her there for as long as we had. And one of those, you know, she has been an awesome dog in every field trip. So I sent her out with a police officer and they went to a hospital and let this guy who’s like, I have to have this dog. And then he called me, like, the next morning and said, I want a doctors I want adopt Ella. And of course I’m, like, sobbing and okay, it it was it was amazing, because I don’t know that she I don’t know that she would be alive if this cop didn’t take her. I mean, I would like to think someone would, but her kennel presence was so poor, but a lot of people couldn’t see past that. So the fact that someone saw her out in about just being a dog, you know, meant so much to that adoption? Yes. Are you able to get people to take photos and use those photos and trying to market the animals? Oh, absolutely. That’s part of the shell during orientation. Is that you know, they I have to have really good pictures and videos. And so, yeah, that’s a lot of times dogs, that people want to come through the shelter and walk through. You know, they’re kind of reactive at that barrier because it’s a strange year and there’s a barrier. Dogs have behaviour problems in the shelter that you would never see out of the shelter because this is scary. So the picture of a dog eating an ice cream cone at the park with a kid. I mean, that is just who wouldn’t want that, you know, so that pictures are essential to getting the dogs out of there. Yeah, I know. I can totally imagine. And I think it it lowers the barrier and the expectation that you know, you gotta fostering. You’re gonna have him for six months, take him out. And I love the positive patrol program because it’s just you’re pairing up police officers that probably get lonely sometimes on their beat with an animal, and it helps them to engage with the community, which is what they want to do as well. What and something that the major had said is that You know, a lot of police officers get a bad rap, and so do shelter dogs. So pairing them up and seeing mother good that they can do is was something that she was really? Aren’t, you know, really looking to promote to, um And it has worked. You know, a lot of people may not approach a police officer in the community, but now they have a dog, so maybe they will, um So the comet, it kind of helped. I think it kind of helped the police department a little bit too, and certainly helped us. It helped the shelter dogs immensely. Yeah, and it sounds like the program is really growing. And you’ve got more people coming and which is ultimately the end goal. 00 yeah, yeah. I mean, so many people inquire about field trips. It’s been it’s been awesome. There’s not. There’s not a day that I don’t have an email. How can I take a dog out for the day? So it’s pretty cool. Yeah. So I mean, if somebody is on the fence about fostering because I talk to people and I’m sure you do all the time, what do you tell him? How do you How do you get him convinced that this is something they can do that will really help? Well, I found a lot of people who are on the fence. It’s usually because they say they couldn’t let the like. They couldn’t let him go. They would they want to keep him, and I just I try to let people know that they’re just a detour before the destination. You know, there are a great detour and they’re super important detour. But you know, the destination is a forever home. So being able to see yourself as that that you know that little side vacation where you stopped at the coffee shop and enjoy a nice cone. And a lot of you know, that’s what you are to this dog until they get to their forever place on, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t mean I have a lot of Foster’s who who try it and and decide that they want to keep him, and that’s awesome. But, you know, a lot of people are just on the fence because I think they can’t let go. And I think if more people just gave it a shot, just allow that one dog or cat into your home to see how much you can change their lives and how much they’ll change yours. I think that more people would be, you know, banging down, busting down the door to get into Foster. Yeah, yeah. Making them know that there The advocate for that animal right there. The voice to try and explain to people with the personalities like and what they’re like, you know, tender act with. Yeah, exactly. That People that sometimes these dogs and cats don’t have anyone but the shelter staff. And while we do our best, we have a lot of animals to be advocating for. So it’s it’s really nice to see people become their personal advocates to get them out of the shelter. Yeah, So what? What is the most rewarding part about being a foster manager? A foster program manager? Kind of more. So, what we were just talking about is that, you know, seeing the fosters rally around an animal that might be at risk at the shelter. Um, you know, it never fails that when animals at risk like we make it and we make it known to fosters and volunteers that, Hey, this time it’s not doing well. This cut is not doing well. You know, We have to get this dog out of here to see them all rally around, share their stories, share their pictures and say, Hey, you know, Brutus is an amazing dog. He’s just been dealt a bad hand. How can we get him out of the shelter? And it’s super rewarding to see everyone come together to be able to do that. Um, you know, seeing scared dogs at the shelter, warm up on field trips and the Mets one of my favorite, too. You know, there’s a lot of it fall in love with the dog and then bring them home and it’s pretty good. It’s there’s more rewarding, I think. Then the hard. So I should probably go on forever about that. Yeah, no. And what’s really cool? Is it something that you know? It really seems to be having a big impact, right? It’s engaging the community. You know, the word amount of spreading, right? Done something. You have to do a lot of advertising and will be really interested to see where where this takes off, too. Um, what advice? I guess if somebody is listening to this and they said hey with you to start this program in our shelter, what advice would you give him? Um, just do it. Find a few volunteers, go to management. Um, and just tell them what you have in mind. There is really what I was always taught when presenting stuff to management is our upper management, that is, is you now have a tool kit, collect data, you know, show them what other shelters air doing and say there’s no reason why we can’t do this. Let me try four dogs for four weeks. And those are the dogs that go, and I have these volunteers. No liability is a big thing, Especially in municipal shelters. People are always management’s always worried about liability. What if this happens? What if that happens? But you know what? If it doesn’t happen because it’s probably not the bad stuffs. Probably not gonna happen as much as everyone thinks it does. I mean, we’ve been doing this for a year and 1/2 now, and I mean, there’s it just doesn’t happen as often people as often as they think. So just go to your management team and tell them you want to get started. It it should be. I mean, I’ve heard a lot of pushback from other other shelters I’ve talked to who have tried this, and a lot of it is because of those what ifs. And if you can get over that roadblock of the what ifs and just ask for, you know, a couple of weeks with a couple dogs, I think that they would see how much the program could benefit your shelter in your community. Yeah, you’ve had quite a journey, Stephanie, to get to tour your today, and it’s so inspiring, and I can hear the passion in your voice that you found your calling. What you want to do. Yeah, yeah, I have. It’s pretty cool. It’s it’s really nice to see. I think I love working with animals. I do. But sometimes seeing people other people learn from what I’ve taught them is even more rewarding. So it’s it goes hand in hand. The people in the pets and a lot of people missed that. But it’s people and pets forever. People in pets. Well, it’s been really great having you on the program to talk today’s or anything else you wanted to mention before we wrap things up. I don’t think so. This has been really nice. Thank you for having me. I hope that you get feedback and people start field trips and Paul’s on patrols at their shelter. Sti yeah, absolutely. Why? I really hope so, too. And it’s been really great to talk to you today. Thank you. Crashed. You, too. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member during 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. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue