I’ve always loved dogs. Some of my first memories are with family pets, and many of them (the memories and the pets) are hilarious.
Others are sad. Like when my dad, at his wits end, took my dog Beau to the pound. Beau had jumped the fence one too many times. That’s when I learned what animal shelters do to dogs. Throughout my life I’ve adopted, rescued, fostered and advocated on behalf of homeless animals. As my friends and family (and neighbors, and people in line at Starbucks, and the guy at my shoe repair) can tell you, I’m pretty adamant about pet adoption.
But only after I began volunteering at some of L.A.’s high-kill shelters did I start to comprehend what could be. Many shelters are run by good people who are trying to manage a system in which supply exceeds demand. Many are also dirty, loud, underfunded, short-staffed, often managed by overwhelmed public servants with little leadership training, and poorly measured.
When I volunteer I see long lines of people waiting to adopt a pet. When it’s their turn, they are asked to complete paper-based forms in triplicate, sign liability waivers, be interviewed, and wait until someone is available to show them a dog or cat. It’s a bureaucracy, reliant on paper-based processes and outdated information. Shelter staff spend more time at filing cabinets than at cages. The phrase “take a number and be seated” is still alive and well at public shelters — as are “We don’t have anyone who can show you the animal” and “Sorry, that one’s been put to sleep.” Many potential adopters leave shelters frustrated or worse, empty-handed.
This is where technology comes in. By entering the digital age — think doggie dashboards, real-time data feeds, and master data management for the canine set — and making information publicly available, shelters can save more lives.