Rebranding ‘Animal Shelters’ As ‘Animal Community Centers’

Adoptable Labbie Mix at MWC

Over the past month, residents of Hometown, U.S.A. met with local dog trainers and learned how to manage their pet’s barking problem.  They were shown inexpensive alternatives to divert their cats attention from clawing up the couch.

Another group of residents’ pets received a nail trim, ear cleaning and a bath.  Some received pet ID tags while other pets had a basic exam from a vet student, maybe the first medical care their pet has had in years.

With the help of a 3D model, pet parents saw what heartworms look like, learned about the benefits of preventative care, as well as how to treat an animal who is diagnosed with heartworm.  They heard best practices on introducing new pets into their family.

They were shown how to identify and safely remove ticks and fleas.  They learned how to brush their pet’s teeth.  They had their pets microchipped and received on-site assistance with updating those records.  And some shelter and rescue pets went to new homes!

Where did all this happen?  Why, at Hometown, U.S.A.’s local ‘Animal Community Center‘ of course!

Available pittie!

Okay, this might be pie-in-the-sky right now for many shelters. But it doesn’t have to be merely a pipe dream.  As long as there are advocates who can help and shelter managers who are open to new ideas, any local shelter can be rebranded as an Animal Community Center.  Want to know more and see it in action? Meet the trio of determined women who are committed to changing how people in their city view their local shelter, and are actually implementing some of these fresh, new ideas.

Katie Hawk, from Oklahoma’s Midwest City, along with fellow Good Dogma advocates Jana Beller and Lisa Thompson, believe that changing how animal shelters are perceived by the public will help every shelter attack the problem of pet overpopulation and owner turn-ins.

While serving the two-and-four legged residents in their OKC area, Good Dogma, their non-profit, believes that rebranding shelters as “Animal Community Centers” (ACC)  could provide more than an intake, holding and adoption place.

Along with all the above ideas, an ACC, in partnership with local organizations, could also provide low-cost s/n services. Clinics, adoption days, festivals with dog-art, yes, art made by your dog, photographers on hand for wonderful keepsake photos.  Holistic medical alternatives. Raw food diet suggestions.  A lure course.  Crate training seminars. Improving your bond with your pet is never a wasted effort.   Americans will spend almost $70 BILLION dollars on their pets this year.  So you can see, the possibilities are limitless.

Birds and bunnies, potbellied pigs and parakeets, lizards and turtles, all animals would get their chance to shine.  Well, maybe not all species at the same time.

Courtesy, Pinterest

A town’s ACC would be the place where residents go to learn more and solve issues involving their pets.  Animals can receive specialized training and ‘good dog’ awards. According to Ms. Hawk, better animal ownership will naturally occur.

Good Dogma sought creative solutions for Midwest City because of a perceived lack of awareness of the community shelter, the same issue many small shelters face. Residents may know only vaguely where their local shelter can be found; a number of shelters are just “somewhere near the dump”.  The women of Good Dogma were desperate to “get in front of the train”.

In the case of MWC, once the public got involved, the situation began to improve. Shelter management was transferred to the police department, with great success. According to reports, their live-release rate has risen to 80%, a part-time rescue coordinator has come on board and rescue partners pull half the shelter’s intakes.

Though their 31-year old city-run shelter, like many, remains understaffed and underfunded, the MWC city council is actively involved in trying to change things up for the animals and meet the needs of the growing community.  To justify a funding allocation of $3.2 million towards facility improvement, said Ms. Beller, “a new shelter is a need for our community. It’s not a want.”

Says Katie, of transforming her shelter into an ACC, “for the city to take on this endeavor would be an incredible opportunity for a community of any size.”

So how have they made a difference?  Good Dogma, with the help of kind donors, has sponsored over fifty s/n just two years into the launch of their operation.

They’ve given away 1000 pet ID tags through their free Tags for Wags program.  If your pet has a collar with an ID, the chances that he or she will be returned to you are obviously much higher.  The organization, through fundraisers, hit their target of $3500 to purchase a new engraver.  They provide free ID tags at the shelter for animals adopted there. For just $3 each, they’ll send a tag anywhere in the country.  When rescue days are held at local pet stores, the stores actually allow Good Dogma to utilize their own engraving machine to give out new tags to adopted pets.  You may not know what you’ll call your new animals, but you certainly know your phone number and address.  Put it on the tag!  So many newly adopted animals get spooked, escape, and find themselves at another shelter. Tagging your pet can get them back home.

Ms. Hawk told ShelterMe the story of canine Henry, a repeat offender when it came to running off.  But because he was tagged, the finders were able to let her know his whereabouts.  They’d get the call, “Are you missing Henry? Because he’s here.”

Many rescues have adoption days at local pet food stores. When you adopt an animal from a rescue event at these major retailers, families usually get an adoption booklet with coupons.

Adoptable at MWC

Why not include a coupon for a free ID tag, instantly redeemable??? As the saying goes, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…’

Every shelter has the potential to be an Animal Community Center.  These ideas can be the tip of the iceberg in cutting down the homeless pet problem.  So take them, add your own suggestions, and make a plan for your ACC.  We can all be part of the solution in our own corners of the universe.

Please enjoy this episode of, where a dog gets a new life after being given up to a shelter!

Lisa Blanck

Writing articles about animals for more than 22 years, she dove into the rescue world with the onset of Hurricane Katrina. As an outspoken advocate for animals, she's covered everything from paws to hooves, fins to feathers. She was the Orlando Animal Rescue and Worldwide Animal Issues Examiner for seven years. She's always thinking pawsitive, looking for ways to improve the lives of animals. She lives with one dog, one cat and one patient human. She welcomes your suggestions and is thrilled to be part of the family!

1 comment

  1. Penny Eims says:

    Love it!

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