Thinking outside the box at animal shelters – Red Bluff Daily News

Thinking outside the box at animal shelters – Red Bluff Daily News

In July of this year I wrote about how our shelter has been at or above capacity for months. Unfortunately the news has not changed.

Like so many shelters around the country, adoptions are less than stellar, and relinquishment of pets keeps increasing. The reasons are numerous. With rapidly rising inflation people are struggling just to put food on the table. People are losing their jobs. Many are losing their housing and must move to places that either do not allow pets, or have higher rent and pet fees.

The cost-of-living crisis is also leading to more pets not being spayed or neutered, not being microchipped, or not receiving medical care when necessary. All of this is resulting in a huge spike in the number of owner-surrenders and animal abandonment. Compounding the already awful problem is that the length of stay for these animals is also increasing, with fewer families adopting. Welcome to the nationwide 2022 Animal Shelter Crisis.

Thinking outside the box is more than just a cliche bandied about in business circles. What does that phrase mean? It means approaching problems in new, innovative ways and conceptualizing problems differently. You will find that most successful businesses are extremely adept at doing it, because they understand that constant reinvention is essential to long-term success. Any organization should always remain open to new ideas.

Albert Einstein is credited with stating, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”. What successful businesses and organizations are already aware of is that it is a recipe for disaster to continue to do things the same old way without constantly assessing whether the current manner of operating is working, or if it is only a perception and not fact.

By breaking down and putting away preconceived notions and shelving petty differences, the shelters, rescue agencies, and businesses that are pooling efforts and resources throughout the country to effect changes are those that are not only weathering this crisis, but also enhancing the community and, most of all, benefiting the animals. Better marketing, keen use of social media, cooperative ventures among unrelated entities, educating the public and, above all, innovative new programs are helping to solve this catastrophe.

While many of these places are private and have multiple sources of funding, many are like our own shelter, public with limited funding and staffing. Yet, these innovative organizations started thinking about what they could do differently to make a difference in the status quo. They started to think creatively and did not let the lack of space, funds, or mindsets shut down any possibility of innovation and ingenuity in processes. A short list of the many examples of “out of the box thinking” follows.

The Steinbrenner High School teamed up with the Humane Society of Tampa Bay to pair track team athletes with shelter dogs to allow them to run together. The mission is to socialize and exercise the dogs to reduce stress and boredom, improve their behavior and assist in getting them adopted faster. The extra bonus is that the high school students give back to the community and learn the multiple valuable lessons of philanthropy. Other shelters and schools, in California and throughout the US, are participating in similar “out of the box” actions.

Fosters are always in short supply, especially during kitten season. The innovative Women Inmate Social Kitty Retreat (WISKR) program ( ) helps the Idaho Humane Society by providing much needed cat fostering services. As participants in the program, inmates care for kittens who need bottle feeding and who are still too young to be spayed or neutered. They are not the only example.

The Great Plains SPCA in Kansas City, Kansas, partnered with The Piper Assisted Living and Memory Care facility in launching an initiative called the Senior Foster Friends Program, in which elderly patients in assisted-living facilities take care of month-old kittens until they find their forever homes. Other facilities across the nation have created similar programs which mutually benefit the residents and the animals.

Rehabilitating and motivating youth offenders seemed like the perfect opportunity to “think outside the box” for the Orange County Probation Department in California. Since its inception, The PAWS program (Pups and Wards) has been highly successful. The participants are offenders from the ages of 16 to 18 whose participation is based on their commitment for self-improvement and the desire to learn a new set of life skills, while making a difference in the lives of shelter dogs.

A similar program is Project Pooch ( in Oregon. Another program started in 2005 was when San Quentin began hosting Pen Pals, a Marin Humane Society (MHS) program ( enables some carefully screened inmates to care for and train shelter dogs.

Programs like those mentioned above are win-win situations, because what helps animals also tends to help people. If bringing together the shelter, other agencies (both private and public), businesses, and members of the community will ultimately benefit everyone, why not pool resources and share ideas? Isn’t it time for all of us to think outside the box.

Ronnie Casey is President of SPOT — Stray Pets of Tehama. She can be reached at For more information about SPOT, please visit

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Thinking outside the box at animal shelters – Red Bluff Daily News

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