I just returned from The Humane Society’s Animal Care Expo and, boy oh boy, are things moving forward! Technology, research, and great ideas are being brought to bear against problems that just a few years ago seemed to be completely intractable. The mood was hopeful, light, and celebratory. Hopeful about continued progress toward a no-kill country; but celebratory about the progress made in just a few short years.

Take for instance, The Million Cat Challenge. Proposed and implemented by mavericks, Dr. Julie Levy and Dr. Kate Hurley, this program reached its million-cats-saved goal more than a year early and now stands, as of this writing, at 1,324,722 cats saved. The 5 Key Initiatives that brought this success are: Alternatives to Intake; Removing Barriers to Adoption; Managed Admission; Return to Field; and Capacity for Care. These initiatives are explained and detailed here.

Also consider the winner of this year’s Innovation Showdown sponsored by the Petco Foundation and hosted by the world’s best-known cat advocate and behaviorist, Jackson Galaxy. Front Street Shelter in Sacramento won for its new program, Lost2Found, that helps stray animals reunite with their families. (Scroll down to view their video.)  Front Street was aghast at the low Return to Owner(RTO) ratio experienced throughout the shelter world. The national average of pets reunited with their families once they enter the shelter is an incredibly low 25 to 30%. While some owner negligence can be part of the problem, much of it is due to owners’ lack of understanding of how to find their pet once it is missing. Their program institutes a simple-to-use text message function that will instantly link the owner to the shelter. The shelter begins the recovery process by sending the owner ongoing and frequent updates of stray animals that come into the shelter and into shelters in surrounding communities. The communication also includes videos on how to look for your pet and on how to engage the community in helping to find it. Once fully operational, Front Street intends to rollout the program to any shelter that wishes to use it at no charge. The runners-up in the challenge, Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center and Hearts Speak, also deserve mention for tremendous innovation in transport programs and marketing.

A major force supporting much of this innovation is Maddie’s Fund. Founded by Dave and Cheryl Duffield in 1994 and endowed with $300MM, Maddie’s Fund has awarded nearly $210 MM dollars in grants across the U.S. The grants support community lifesaving, shelter medicine education, and pet adoptions. Maddie’s Fund was instrumental in funding research that led to the Million Cat Challenge. Chappy & Friends was the beneficiary of a $1000 Maddie ‘s grant at the event. Thank you Maddie! On a side note, I was gratified to meet many of the tremendously dedicated souls that work for Maddie.

I am happy to report that Chappy & Friends had numerous encounters with a wide variety of attendees at the conference. Many expressed their appreciation for our innovation in helping to launch grassroots projects. Some were potential C&F projects themselves; while many others knew of people or groups they could refer to us. I look forward to making many announcements of new projects in the coming months. One of those announcements may be about an agreement to cooperate with a large grant making foundation in the distribution of some of their grants.

I can’t wait to get back with more good news!