Episode 99 – Dr. Sara Pizano

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Dr. Pizano draws from her experience as a veterinarian and shelter leader in both private shelters and as a public shelter director. As one colleague stated, ‘Dr. Pizano leaves a wake of life-saving behind her and is devoted to helping animal welfare advocates collaborate’. Dr. Pizano’s book, The Best Practice Playbook for Animal Shelters is now available on Amazon.

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 Joubert 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, Dr Sarah Pizano is a positive force, helping organizations by creating cost effective programs and eliminating waste so they can reach their full potential. Doctor Pizano launched her new book, The Best Practice Playbook for Animal Shelters at the Humane Society of the United States Animal Care Expo. And in the first month, the Playbook is in the hands of over 1000 people. The book is edited by 1,000,000 Cat Challenge co founders Dr Kate Hurley from the University of California and Dr Julie Levy from the University of Florida. And it’s now available on Amazon. Hey, Dr Fasano, Welcome back. Thank you so much for having me, Chris. I appreciate it. So this is the second time we’ve had you on and we’ve got some really exciting stuff to talk about, but Maybe you can give everybody just a brief reminder of your background and what you’re doing. Yes, thank you. So I graduated from Cornell in 1994 celebrating my 25th vet school reunion this June. So that’s really Yeah, and I was one of those kids since I was three years old. I wanted to be a veterinarian and had the precious dogs and cats growing up, so that was my motivation. And after that school, you know, I really didn’t know what track I was going to take. But I ended up getting involved in what I call the underground adoption system in New York City and ended up at North Shore Animal League after my internship at the Animal Medical Center. So that was my introduction into animal shattering, albeit unusual, with a financially unlimited budget. Right? So have for sure. I was a little spoiled. And then I moved to Florida and worked in a very large open admission private shelter. And that’s when I realized how, really, what the reality and the challenges were, and back then, lots of euthanasia for space, even if they were healthy. So after working at that large private shelter. I was a public shelter director and got just a wealth of information about setting a foundation up for success, but mostly about the broken system that we call animal control and sheltering. And so in 2000 and 13 I was asked to begin a program called Target Zero, and I started doing shelter assessments, and we’ve had amazing, miraculously success that has been extremely humbling. And in 2017 in the summer of 2017 I started my own consulting company, Team Shelter USA. So that’s my That’s my small snapshot of who I am and what I do. You know, that’s great. I think that, you know, people can go back and listen. Chair episode It was episode number 65 from last year to get a little bit more about some of those stories, but I think that’s a good refresher for everybody. So the reason we’ve got you on today’s you’ve got some really exciting news to share. I mean, you’ve just written and released the best practice playbook for animal sheltering. Oh my gosh, and this is It’s so incredibly exciting. Chris and I have to say for me personally, it’s exciting with the response to the playbook. I mean, it’s we launched at HSUS Expo. The playbook is sponsored by by Rocks. They’ve been an amazing sponsor. The Joni Bernard Foundation sponsored the grammatical editing and graphics doctors Hurley and Levy, our medical editors. I was excited about it. But the response has been overwhelming, and the playbook is in the hands of over 1000 people are ready in just a month. It’s awesome. Incredible. Incredible, right? Yeah. So give us a little bit of background of kind of how you came about to write this. Yeah. So since 2000 and 13 I’ve done over 100 shelter and community assessments, and I’ve had more success helping shelters and euthanasia really streamline their resource is and maketh, um, super impactful and end euthanasia for space. I’ve had more success than even some of the national groups that used to do assessments. And what I found Chris’s I was writing a report for each shelter. These were municipal open admission shelters. For the most part, all open admission. And guess what? It was the same exact recommendations over and over and over. So what I found was everyone is facing the same challenges and the solutions were universal. Whether I’m sitting in Dallas, Texas, with city officials or in McCreary County, Kentucky, population 10,000. Same conversations, same solutions. And so I decided to just write that report as right. So instead of doing this report over and over, I put it together. These are all the nationally accepted best practices. But I put it together in a way that really helps shelters get organized and set the foundation of for success for life savings. Success. Yeah, that’s really fascinating that I mean, you like you said you just kept writing the same report over and over again. Didn’t really matter the size of the place in the country. So maybe frame up for us. Like, what are the key topics and key focus areas for this? Yeah. So remember this broken traditional animal control and sheltering system is just like a funnel. So we never had We never paid any attention to how animals were coming. And this is the shelter. We have this intake bias. So we have to take everyone. We have to admit them to the shelter. We cannot turn people away. All of those things are called an intake bias, and it’s simply not true. We also have judged people that have left animals in shelters and mistakenly assumed that they didn’t want other options. But here’s the thing. The research and studies that are out now have humbled me deeply because I was one of those people that judged those that left their pets in shelters or broad animals to shelters. We have a study just came out last year from the S P A S P C A. That showed that 80% of the people did not want to surrender. They just did not have access to the help that they needed. Whoa, that’s a game changer then what about How about this? Good Samaritans are the ones that really care. That’s where they’re bringing you those babies and their assuming that you have all the resource is to care for them. We’ve never asked the question. Chris, can you perhaps foster these babies will vaccinate them, sterilize them? Can you help us find them homes? We’ve never asked the questions. So this is all a tide that’s turning now in the animal welfare, especially in the last five years in particular Good Samaritan foster care. It’s called Finder Foster Care. Those are two key key pieces, of course, along with never accepting a community cat into a shelter friendly or Farrell for the adoption track or, God forbid, use in Asia. They are not lost. We need to sterilize them and put them right back with their home location, where they’re already cared for. When we think about thes conditional issues and making sure our public policy is in place, everything changes. Crest. This is a different conversation, and shelters are shocked there, like we never We never even considered that we would not be overwhelmed that we would not be overrun with animals. This is a foreign concept, and so it’s been so. It’s just been such a joy to watch these things unfold and work everywhere. Rural, urban nor South Doesn’t matter, you know. Yeah, and I think that’s what’s so fascinating to me. Just listening to you talk. Some of it seems so basic, but when you’ve been at this for decades, right, it’s almost say it’s hard to look outside what you’ve always been doing to say, Wait a minute, why don’t we try something different Chris, that is so true. And I think of what? About what? About 20 years ago. We send that those babies to foster care. They shouldn’t be in the shelter anyway because it’s very challenging environment for their immune systems. But then we just take him back into the shelter when they’re old enough, right? So and it is mandatory. So we did a double intake on the most vulnerable population, and I’m now I’m thinking, What the heck was I thinking like, Why didn’t we get our faster volunteers to place the right? Yeah, yeah, it seems so logical now, but at the time, I mean, it’s just that was the job. I mean, Askew mentioned an open admission shelters, just like Okay, people bring him in and our job is to process him. Wellness. Natural pet food is for pets and their parents, who believe, as we do, that good nutrition and healthy food are the building blocks of a long, happy life created by a nutritionist, veterinarians and animal lovers. Wellness recipes provided an ideal balance of nature’s finest ingredients. I won this. Recipes include lean meats, whole grains and fruits and veggies with no wheat, corn or soy and no edit artificial flavors, colors or preservatives from head to tail. Wellness is nutrition with a purpose. You can learn more at wellness pet food dot com and follow them on Facebook and instagram at at Wellness Pet Food. This’ll is how we do it. This is how we’ve always done it. So I tell you, there’s so many in so many ways. I’ve been humbled through this process and developing these programs in the assessment process. It’s been really humbling because, boy of I have, I am changed my own philosophies. Yeah, for sure, yes. So now I mean, I guess How is this all put together? So I mean, if I’m if I’m buying this book and trying to understand is this is it broken down by policies as a broken down by Foster, 10 are maybe kind of Give us an idea. Stow how we go about using this. Sure, and first I want to mention who the playbook is for the answer. Is everyone a volunteer? A shelter director, a commissioner of funder, a kettle staff person, a TNRCC person. This playbook was specifically written for everybody, so the audience is wide because we all hold a piece of this puzzle. Sometimes our pieces bigger. Sometimes it’s smaller. What? We’re all holding a piece of this puzzle. So I encourage whoever you are listening to. This podcast, this playbook is for you, and it is broken down thinking about these big ticket items thes foundational pieces. So, like I said, getting rid of that and take bias. How come we provide safety net? What do you need to keep your pet or place your pet outside the shelter system? Home to home is a pretty new website that’s actually tailored to your own organization, and it was developed by a nonprofit in Idaho, the Panhandle Humane Society. Who said Cheese. We got all these people on a waiting list for surrender. Why don’t we help them in the meantime? So it’s away, and I know you love this crest because it’s a virtual way to connect adopters with pats who need homes. They never come into the shelter. It’s a direct adoption. So it’s all these different pieces. What can we do in our communities that affect the intake of shelter? Then we need the shelter space and leave the shelter space. What I call sacred ground on Lee for those animals that we have no other alternative score, So could the Good Samaritan Foster. The community cat could go back to its original home. We can do a direct adoption through home toe home, and then remember that biggest foundational pieces are public policy. We have to make sure ordinances are not handcuffing or life saving, and often times that’s the case. So the playbook is split into these big chunks, and I really tried to stay hard level and say, Here’s what Here’s what the recommendation is But wait a minute. Here’s an organization that never thought this was possible. Here’s a success story and this could be a shelter that’s just like yours. And that’s, you know, a snapshot of what happened at that shelter and how they were doing it differently changed. And now they’ve succeeded. So it’s really nice for people in shelters in the trenches to know how that happened. Like for them. It can happen for us that they can do it. We can do it, and then when we go through the in the playbook, it goes through these programs that we should have. If animals do enter the shelter. We better have rounds every single day. Making sure were getting them to that the best possible life outcome in the shortest period of time. We are welcoming adopters with open, conversational adopters. And you know, Chris, there is the mentality we have off in what I call of a pathology we have in animal welfare, that of scarcity. We don’t have enough shelter space. We don’t have enough money. We don’t have enough doctors. It’s not true. We’re taking too many animals in the shelter that don’t need to come into the shelter. And then we say, there’s not enough adopters. Well, guess what best friends did us, and this is all research that’s in the playbook. So for people who want to delve in more, they can look at the all the references. But last year, best friends did a study that showed that over 70% of the people that went to breeders and pet of pet stores actually already went to a private adoption agency. Whether a shelter or a rescue group, it was too complicated or they were denied. Well, shame on us, right? Right. We’re doing it to ourselves. we’re doing it to ourselves. So we have to remember, in our microcosm, that’s often so difficult. Are microcosm is we see the worst of the worst. We have to remember on the adoption side, more people are good, you know, coming to the shelter than bad. So so it again the playbook just kind of It’s it’s snapshot of each of these pieces and why we should be doing things differently. And then, after we’ve exhausted all of these proactive pieces, then absolutely there’s a role for transport. But it’s not the the to the level that we once thought, because we know communities can resolve their own. Their own placements, for the most part, with their current resource, is my do. There’s always funding that beautiful and can you know it could be useful. Sure, for the most part, this is about resource allocation, right? Yeah, I know what I really like about the things that you’re talking about. I keep hearing the word community right, and I think that’s what really strikes me is that we’re trying to change the paradigm that animal shelters are a part of the community, and this is a community problem that we need to work on together and engaging the community involving the community, making them feel like they’re part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Chris, that is so true, because remember, the Trudeau triggered conditional broken animal control and sheltering system is our community is horrible and everybody just leaves the animals with us and that we got to figure it out. We have never asked a good Samaritan because we were too ashamed that we were euthanizing healthy animals for space. We didn’t want people to criticize us. We’ve never engage the community for the most part. And again, I’m so happy to report this is changing right because of my work is still with those shelters euthanizing the most. So that’s my microcosm. But for the most part, this is changing, and we are realizing that when we have these key pieces in the community, it changes everything for the shelter. One of the biggest ways is you know, those fixed income patterns. They want to do the right thing. They want to sterilize their pets, but it’s financially inaccessible when we provide access. Boy, did they take advantage of that? I mean, we’re proven it in northern Kentucky, all eight counties we just ended. Euthanasia is population control for dogs and cats. So in 2018 so when you provide highly subsidized surgeries for fixed income pet owners, they will take advantage of it. And it does decrease shelter intake because that’s where most of the animals were coming from. Yeah, no, and I really like the. The idea is almost like redirecting our resources and our focus and saying, You know, what is the reason for the surrender? And how do we provide the services that are again back to our community that the community needs? And if they’re looking for low cost spay and neuter services, that allows them to keep their pet better to invest in that than in the cost of having to shelter that animal in place? That animal, ah, 100% crests and the thing I say, they say I speak to him. A lot of elected officials, government officials. The night I I tell them you have a scandalous waste of resource is going on here. You have no business wasting. Resource is like this. First of all, let’s just use one glaring example. There’s no such thing as a stray cat. But yet there are a lot of ordinances that were choir that are held as straight when we know nationally that less than 3% are reunited. So here is a program that 97% of the time we know fails. Yet we continue to do it. And in my opinion, it’s a scandalous waste of public money or private. If I was a funder, I wouldn’t be happy funding that either. And wasting resource is right. So when we educate our elected officials about this, then you have their attention. I see an enormous amount of wasted resource is, and that’s why I don’t buy the scarcity. There’s been very few shelters that I’ve been to that were absolutely not at baseline funding, right. There are shelters like that that they don’t even have funding for food for animals. So those exists. But that’s not the norm. Most shelters have some level of funding, and they’re just not using it as efficiently as they can. And that goes for public and private. Yeah, I know, and I think what’s interesting is in your in the book and the playbook you’re giving them examples of these things, and you’re telling them how to solve the problem. And so it’s really kind of a step by step that says, Here’s what you need to do This is it’s almost like you’re talking to them. It’s just there reading it in the book. Exactly. And the thing is that, um, we just weren’t war. So we hold so tightly to our fears that if we change or we do something differently, there will be a negative consequence and what I’m Oh, I feel like I would have maybe been more effective in this line of work as a social psychologist, because I send a lot of time trying to help people get over their fears about changing these different things on and with. You know, the good thing we have to understand is this is with the best of intentions, right. We have these fears and we hold on to these fears because we want what’s best for animals. But in the meantime, we are creating barriers to live outcome. So I’m excited for people to read the playbook and really think about things a little bit differently, and it’s really an exciting time in animal welfare. Yeah. So I’m I know you mentioned when you and I were talking before that. Obviously, the playbook is out in the print edition and you got plans for other things as well? Yes. So the playbook is available on Amazon, the best practice playbook for animal shelters. And I am currently working on the e book. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about that. So that will be coming out. I will be at the best Friends conference. I will be selling playbooks in the exhibit hall, and I will also be doing an audio version. So those things are I’m working on and date TB A Just a few things on the side to keep you busy as you’re traversing the country and speaking and doing the shelter assessments you’re gonna you’re gonna format the book into e book and also recorded on audio. Oh, my goodness. Yes, I am still traveling every other week. Um, somewhere in the country. I just was in Butler County, Ohio, sponsored by the Joni Bernard Foundation. And I’m over the is the assessment program for the University of Florida. So we dio 10 assessments a year and so that’s a great program to really excited to be involved with that well, this else on so really exciting. And I’m really glad that you released this, and it sounds like it’s really getting some traction. So what’s the next steps for you? Well, you know, just to really get the word out, I My goal is to scale this work in this knowledge, and I want the playbook to give everybody no matter. You’re involved in animal welfare and helping dogs and cats. I want this playbook to give people the confidence to do things a little bit differently. No, I love that. And I think, like I said, it’s really It’s really smart to take all of these national things that we’ve talked about and put him in one place raid and make the book accessible to everybody. So, as you said, whether you’re a volunteer or whether you’re the executive director or funder, a state official means that the information is all there. I think sometimes we take for granted that you know you can find this information on the best Friends website or Maddie’s Ray S P C. A. But it’s kind of scattered all about. And unless you’re reading the newsletters and bog posts and participating in the forums, you don’t have alot of this stuff step by step in one place. And so kudos to you for taking the time. And I’m sure it’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears to pull this together in one place to make a handbook for everybody. Yes, yeah, that and I feel exactly the same way. It’s like stars in the galaxy. It’s all out there. I mean, you could Google any of these best practices, but it wasn’t in one place and people would often ask me, Will work and I find what you know. You just presented on its built in my head right now. So that is the whole purpose of the playbook. Toe. Have it have ah, one stop shop. Well, Dr Rosanna has been great to track to you again. Is there anything else you wanted to mention before we wrap things up? No. To just please spread the word. Get the playbook. It just try to think about things a little bit differently. I know that my own philosophies have evolved, but we we promise you that, um, week we have these proven best practices, and they’re they’re gonna work in your community just like they work everywhere else. Well, Dr Paisano, thank you again for coming on the program for a second time. Super excited for you as this book rolls out and again the best practice playbook for animal shelters and people can find it on Amazon. Awesome. Thanks for having me, Chris. We appreciate it. 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.

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