Updated: Dec 29, 2020
Animal rescues exist to serve as a safe haven for animals coming from dangerous situations.
Sometimes that involves saving an animal from a shelter where they’re about to be euthanized or rescuing an animal from a hoarding situation.
There will be times when your animal rescue will need to save homeless animals from wandering around the streets alone and the dangers that come with that.
With all the amazing things that animal rescues do, it can be easy to overlook the little things that lead to big impacts.
One of those “little things” includes providing humane education to their communities.
Humane education “encourages an understanding of the need for compassion and respect for people, animals and the environment and recognizes the interdependence of all living things.”
Animal care falls under the umbrella of humane education.
What is a Humane Education Department in the Context of an Animal Rescue?
Every animal rescue needs to have a humane education department.
Your animal rescue’s humane education team is responsible for providing your animal rescue’s workers and volunteers with the humane education they need to:
Care for animals in your organization’s care
Educate foster parents
Educate prospective adopters
Educate community members
Some animal rescues require their humane education departments to do far more than simply educate their animal rescue’s workers and volunteers.
There are animal rescues who rely on their humane education departments to offer:
Visit local schools to share humane education with classrooms
Summer camp programs for kids
Larger humane societies have been able to equip their humane education departments with the skills needed to help their organizations earn an income!
These organizations typically tend to do this through summer camp programs. Keep in mind, it may take your animal rescue a few years before your animal rescue can implement a summer program.
BUT! It’s most definitely possible.
Why Your Animal Rescue Needs to Have a Humane Education Department
1. Your animal rescue needs to know what they’re doing.
A lot of animal rescues have no idea what they’re doing.
It sounds harsh but it’s the truth.
In most countries, there are no regulations that apply to animal rescues.
That means that anyone can call themselves an animal rescue and begin operating.
There are no regulated ways of doing things in the field of animal rescue. Instead, organizations seem to be doing whatever they feel is best.
Sometimes these best practices are based on research (as they should be), other times they can be educated opinions (not good).
The absence of regulation means there is no obligation for an animal rescue to base any of their policy-based decisions or claims on regulated research.
Although there’s no obligation for animal rescues to implement policy based on quality research, animal rescues still have a responsibility to base their policies on quality research.
It is important to be very mindful of the role emotions play in decision making and personal biases at your animal rescue.
When it comes to animal care, there is no exact science.
Thoughts and opinions are valued, but it is important to remember that your animal rescue is a professional organization with professional responsibilities…
The responsibility of managing a life!
A professional responsibility includes circulating animal care information that is both accurate and humane.
Without doing the research needed to verify information on animal care, there is no way for your animal rescue to be sure that your team is providing your community with the correct information on how to care for an animal.
This is where your animal rescue’s humane education department comes into play.
Your humane education department’s primary job is to research and provide accurate and humane information on how to care for companion animals.
Creating a humane education department is a part of taking this responsibility seriously.
Your humane education department is responsible for providing your animal rescue with animal care guidelines that are sensible and humane.
These animal care guidelines are used to train your animal rescue’s employees and volunteers.
These guidelines will also be used by your animal rescue’s employees and volunteers to train members of your community.
The guidelines ensure that your organization is competent when it comes to saving animal’s lives.
2. Your animal rescue needs to have a branded position that represents the views and mission of your organization.
It can even be difficult for some of the best animal welfare professionals in the field to agree on what constitutes “sensible and humane treatment for companion animals.
This is the result of conflicting research and scientific evidence.
For example, some animal welfare professionals advocate for dogs to be fed raw food diets. Others disagree.
Your animal rescue will come across many instances where even your employees or volunteers are unable to agree on what constitutes ‘sensible and humane’ treatment for companion animals.
If your animal rescue’s staff and volunteers spread their own opinions on how they think companion animals should be cared for without scientific evidence to support their claims.
You will run the risk of your animal rescue spreading uninformed and potentially inhumane opinions if you allow your staff and volunteers to spread their own opinions on how they think companion animals should be cared for opposed without scientific evidence to support their claims.
This can make your animal rescue look irresponsible to community members.
It will also frustrate the team members of your animal rescue, who may be educated or seasoned on guidelines pertaining to animal care.
This can lead to conflict within your organization, which will lower your team’s momentum.
This can affect your animal rescue’s volunteer retention rate.
Each of these consequences can be mediated by having your humane education department ensure that each team member receives the same education.
Your animal rescue’s team will also need to be aware that the information provided by your humane education department should be the only information they provide to your community members.
This will help your animal rescue present a more unified front and will make your organization appear as a credible source of information. In turn, build trust among your community members.
3. Your animal rescue needs a team of people to educate your employees and volunteers.
Your animal rescue’s employees and volunteers will look to your organization for guidance on how to do their jobs.
Although each department will have its own manager whom their team reports to for guidance; those managers are usually only responsible for ensuring that the department is organized and meets basic departmental goals and objectives.
For example, an adoption manager may be responsible for:
Increasing your animal rescue’s adoption rate
How to lower your animal rescue’s failed adoption rate
Training your adoption team on adoption policies and procedures
Offering post-adoption support to recent adopters
Maintaining oversight of your adoption team
That doesn’t leave them much time to become experts in the area of animal care.
It would be irresponsible for your animal rescue to leave professionals with the responsibility of researching and compiling the information needed for their teams to know how to provide sensible and humane care for companion animals.
It would also be unrealistic because there is only so much time in the day.
Another factor to consider is that if each department’s manager is responsible for researching and compiling the information needed for their teams, each department manager may end up providing their team with different information.
This can lead to different teams within your organization providing conflicting information to members of your community.
It can also be frustrating for your community members.
This will surely lower your client satisfaction rate, which will hurt your animal rescue in the long run.
Your animal rescue can avoid this by having your humane education team provide your employees and volunteers with the information they need to know on how to sensibly and humanely care for companion animals.
4. Your animal rescue needs to educate your community.
If your animal rescue doesn’t educate your community on how to care for companion animals… who will?
Are there any other organizations that you trust to educate your community members on how to care for animals in your community?
That’s why your animal rescue needs to position themselves as experts on animal care.
Community members should know they can count on you to answer any of their questions on animal care.
This will help your animal rescue establish a strong community presence.
Developing a strong community presence assists your animal rescue to help more animals in need.
This means your organization will be able to reach your organizational goals a lot faster.
Here’s How Your Animal Rescue Can Deliver Humane Education to Your Community
Your Animal Rescue’s Intake Department Will Depend on Your Humane Education Team to Deliver Humane Education to Your Community.
The unfortunate truth is that some pet owners struggle with pet ownership and will consider surrendering their pets to a local animal shelter.
Unfortunately, in some communities, there are not enough animal shelters to keep up with their community’s demands.
In these instances, pet owners will contact animal rescues to find out if they can surrender their pet to a local rescue.
Some pet owners will contact your animal rescue first before contacting an animal shelter.
The common assumption is that animal rescues rely on foster homes and can be a better option than their local shelter.
In these instances, your animal rescue’s intake department is in the perfect position to deliver humane education to members of your community who are struggling with pet ownership.
Can you think of a better time when humane education can be as impactful as it is when your intake team delivers it to struggling pet owners?
When delivered at this point of contact, humane education has the power to keep companion animals in their forever homes.
In these instances, your animal rescue’s humane education program will save companion animals from having to ever suffer the stress of being admitted to an animal shelter.
Under these circumstances, your animal rescue’s humane education program will also be saving companion animals from having to be rehomed.
There’s another instance worth mentioning that no one in the field of animal rescue likes to talk about…
When the education is delivered under these circumstances, it has the power to prevent companion animals from being abused by pet owners who may not have previously had the skills needed to manage the animal’s behaviour.
In the scenarios mentioned above, your animal rescue’s humane education program will be helping both the animals and people in your community.
Having a more educated community of pet owners means that your animal rescue will eventually have a lower rate of animals being taken into care.
It also means that animals in your community are being better cared for in their homes.
There will be instances where owners will choose to surrender their pets, even after they are provided with the humane education needed to successfully navigate the difficulty associated with pet ownership.
In these instances, your animal rescue’s intake workers will still deliver humane education to these owners at the time of their owner’s surrender in hopes of equipping them with the information and tools needed to keep any animals who may come into the owner’s care in the future, safe.
Your animal rescue needs to remember that this is just one of your intake team’s many responsibilities.
Your intake department is far too busy to also be responsible for researching and compiling the information needed to provide your community with the information it needs on animal care.
It is your humane education department’s job to make sure that your intake team has the information they need to help animals in your community.
Aside from delivering humane education to your community, your intake department should be providing feedback to your humane education team on how your humane education program can grow to better fit the needs of your community.
Your Animal Rescue’s Foster Team Will Depend on Your Humane Education Team to Deliver Humane Education to Your Community.
Your foster team will interact with both foster parents and prospective foster parents regularly.
A major part of your foster team’s job will include delivering humane education to both foster parents and prospective foster alike.
Your animal rescue’s foster team will be responsible for training prospective foster parents on how to care for animals.
However, your foster team’s only job should be to deliver this information to your animal rescue’s foster parents.
Your animal rescue’s foster team should not be required to research or compile humane education.
That will be your humane education department’s job.
Your foster team will also be responsible for providing humane education to your animal rescue’s foster parents on a day to day basis. Your animal rescue needs to ensure your foster team is well educated on the subject of animal care.
If your foster team is well educated on the subject of animal care, they will be able to pass their understanding on to your animal rescue’s foster parents.
Foster parents who receive the training they need to properly care for their foster animals are more likely to provide better care to their foster animals.
Many of the animals who come into your animal rescue’s care will suffer from either medical or behavioural concerns.
Your foster team needs to have the skills to provide your foster parents with the information they need to ensure a high level of care.
Foster parents who receive the training they need to feel confident caring for their foster animals and are more likely to enjoy their experience as foster parents.
Foster parents who enjoy their experience as foster parents are more likely to continue being active foster parents.
This will drastically increase your animal rescue’s housing capacity, allowing your animal rescue to save more animals.
See what an amazing difference a humane education department can make?!?
Your Animal Rescue’s Adoption Department Will Depend on Your Humane Education Team to Deliver Humane Education to Your Community.
Your adoption team should be interacting with members of your animal rescue’s community every day.
A major part of your adoption team’s job involves delivering humane education to prospective adopters, their families and friends, recent adopters as well as declined adopters.
Your adoption team will be required to deliver humane education to your animal rescue’s community in two separate instances.
The First Instance Where Your Adoption Team Will Deliver Humane Education to Your Community will be in their Adoption Interviews.
The average adoption interview takes anywhere from 1-2 hours to complete.
Your adoption counsellors will be required to spend close to half of that time educating prospective adopters on how to care for a companion animal.
In most instances, the prospective adopter’s entire immediate family is present during these interviews. In some instances, prospective adopters will bring along their extended families or friends for support.
This is a good thing. It means your animal rescue will have the opportunity to educate even more community members on how to care for companion animals.
Although some of this education will be unique to the specific animal whom the prospective adopter is interested in adopting, most of the information will be about general animal care.
Your adoption team will need to become experts on the topic of animal care.
Your adoption team already has a huge job to do. To ask them to self-educate on the topic of animal care would be unfair.
That is not your adoption team’s job. They have enough to worry about.
The topic of animal care falls under the larger umbrella of humane education.
Creating your animal rescue’s humane education program falls under the role of your animal rescue’s humane education department.
Once your animal rescue’s humane education team can complete your education program, they need to deliver it to the team.
This information needs to be delivered to your adoption team in a manner where it is easy to absorb and applicable to what they do on a day to day basis.
The Second Instance Where Your Adoption Team Will Deliver Humane Education to Your Community Will be in their Adoption Support Program.
There is a second scenario where adoption counsellors will be expected to deliver your animal rescue’s humane education program to your animal rescue’s community.
This scenario involves your animal rescue’s post-adoption support program.
Your animal’s post-adoption support program will need to include everything that a new adopter needs to know regarding how to care for their newly adopted companion animal for the rest of the animal’s life!
Although your adoption team can deliver this information by email or by phone, it is in your animal rescue’s best interest to make your post-adoption support program accessible to recent adopters either online or in print.
This will save your animal rescue time and money.
Your adoption team will deliver this information to recent adopters, but your humane education team will create it.
That means your humane education department will play a larger role in creating your animal rescue’s post-adoption support program than your adoption team.
All your adoption team will do is understand and deliver the information.
They may give their input on areas where they would like to see the program expanded, as a result of their interactions with recent adopters.
Your humane education team will do everything else!
Your animal rescue’s humane education team needs to create a post-adoption support program, as the consequences of not having one are severe.
Animal rescues who do not have a post-adoption support program leave recent adopters on their own immediately after signing their adoption contracts and walking out the door.
This is a terrible thing for an animal rescue to do.
Pet ownership can be hard.
It can be especially hard in instances where the recent adopter is a first-time pet owner.
It can be even harder in instances where the recently adopted companion animal suffers from any medical or behavioural concerns.
Adopters are good people.
They’re people who don’t have to have pets – they choose to.
Adopters are people who choose to provide a home for a homeless animal who may have medical or behavioural concerns, as opposed to contacting a breeder to adopt a perfectly healthy puppy or kitten who has not been traumatized.
Why would your animal rescue leave them hanging?
Recent adopters who are struggling in their relationships with their new pets are more likely to return the companion animal to your animal rescue.
When companion animals are returned to your animal rescue, your animal rescue’s failed adoption rate increases.
This is a traumatic experience for companion animals.
It can be a traumatic experience for recent adopters, and it can also have very negative consequences for your animal rescue.
You can find out more information on how failing to provide post-adoption support impacts your animal rescue by clicking here.
If your animal rescue needs help to create your post-adoption support program, reach out to us at Let’s Save Animals and we can create one for you but don’t leave animals hanging!
Your humane education department is a powerhouse when it comes to animal care.
Having a humane education team can help you:
Make sure your animal rescue’s employees and volunteers are knowledgeable on how to care for companion animals
Increase the chances of your animal rescue’s employees and volunteers providing your community members with quality information
Appear credible to members of your community
Build trust with your community members
Make sure your animal rescue is helping as many pet owners as possible
Make sure your animal rescue is helping as many animals as possible
Every animal rescue needs a humane education department.
Without one, it can be very difficult for your organization to reach your goals.
If your organization is struggling to establish a humane education department or if you’re humane education department simply needs a bit of help putting together a humane education policy, please reach out to us.
We’re here to help!
Be sure to follow Rescue Corner for more information on how your animal rescue can do a better job at meeting your community’s needs!