Reaching Out to Underserved Communities

Animal welfare has changed significantly over the past few decades. Prior to the 1970s the outlook for stray, abandoned, or neglected animals was pretty grim. Data, what was available, clearly indicates that at least 100 animals were euthanized per every 1,000 people in the United States. A pretty staggering number, it is the numeric expression of “those who came in never went back out alive.”

Luckily, smart and dedicated folks recognized that euthanasia was never going to solve the problems facing companion animals and moreover our pets and our communities deserved better. Low-cost, high-quality spay and neuter clinics began to open; TNR (trap, neuter, return) programs began to sprout up and forever changed our understanding of community cat populations; and quite simply, more people adopted more pets. Better shelters have been dreamed up and brick and mortar realities built. Shelter medicine became not just a position for a veterinarian, but a calling and a board-certified specialty. Leaders in the animal welfare community like Maddie’s Fund, PetSmart Charities and the Petco Foundation produced research and provided financial support to those innovators changing the world. As animal welfare progressed, grew and matured, we learned that much was possible and visionaries began blazing a new trail and demonstrating that things we thought impossible were very much within our grasp.

One such notable leap forward was the construction of our nation’s pioneer no-kill communities. Washoe County was among those early few, proving that the old practices and policies were based upon wrongheaded assumptions and outdated thinking. In one year, Nevada Humane Society transformed Washoe County into a no-kill community. No animal that could be saved was or has been euthanized ever since – we still boast one of the highest save rates in the nation. NHS’ Bonney Brown and her team dreamed that this was possible and then forged that dream into a reality.

NHS again is poised to help redefine animal welfare in this community. For 83 years NHS has been the place our community has come when there was nowhere else to turn. It is now time for NHS to take its lifesaving programs, innovative interventions, and caring hands to underserved communities.

In 2014, NHS’ Animal Resource Center launched an outreach initiative that takes services and information directly to the community that needs it most. Our focus is on early intervention and proactive community impact.

These efforts took a monumental stride forward when NHS was selected for a Pets For Life (PFL) Mentorship, a Humane Society of the United States program supported by PetSmart Charities. As one of five target communities selected in the country in 2014, our Animal Resource Center staff are working closely with the PFL team to effect long-term and lasting change in our community.

By sharing the PFL goal – to improve the lives of people and animals in underserved communities by reducing suffering, preventing shelter overpopulation, and promoting veterinary care – we are actively strengthening our community and its humane relationship with animals.

This is NHS’ boldest outreach initiative since our no-kill community was built and this endeavor will forever change Northern Nevada. NHS has long been a fixture of our community and now we strive to become a dynamic force sewn into the fabric of the community, a bridge to assistance for those who most need it, and for too long have been those unable to find the help they need.

NHS is blessed to have the state-of-the-art shelter and clinic that we call home; it has been instrumental in saving well north of 75,000 animals since the doors of the Link Piazzo Shelter first flung open. While we are proud to call 2825 Longley Lane home, we are over the moon to strike out from the confines our building and hit the street, changing the world one block at a time.

One client impacted by this program articulated the impact far better than I ever could “I just can’t believe Nevada Humane Society is providing these services for our community – no one else comes out here to offer help like this.”

Kevin M. Ryan is chief executive officer for the Nevada Humane Society.

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