New Thinking in Animal Sheltering

In a recent post I suggested that the time of rapid improvement in save rates at LAAS is past and that new technology was needed to bring save rate increases back into double digit range. I did not mean for a minute that Boks and LAAS were not doing everything possible within the confines of their budget stipulations and years of embedded technology and management style including inherited civil service laws..

Boks is probably the hardest working GM ever and we are lucky to have him. But he fighting an uphill battle by doing more of what has worked before based on the system he inherited, which includes dealing with civil service restrictions that prevent getting rid of department deadwood. This is also Winograd’s criticism of old-guard thinking-doing more of the same. Of course what Nathan offers may be more of the same also, as his innovative thinking is becoming the mainstream..

Yesterday I suggested a requirement to put contraceptives in pet food or offering over-the counter contraceptives. Contraceptives are an accepted modality for stablizing and reducing deer, grond squirrel and bear populations in the wild.

Today I suggest something different.

When I was working on a Master’s in Public Management, we studied old-style private sector management techniques applied to even older styles of top down urban public management.

New style private management techniques developed by the Japanese during the late 1980s and the US military in the 1990s focused on redistributing management decisions to lower, local, administrative level of services provision where it is assumed that optimal services are best determined locally. In the case of LAAS, this would mean giving more management and resource decisions to the shelter area level. This is the thinking behind establishing neighborhood associations by the City and the thinking behind the DAW model--giving local input into the decision process of the usual municipal top-down managers.

By the way, I suggested the neighborhood groups to Riordan in 1996 or so, and it was implemented by Wardlow a few years later. I even wrote a detailed plan for its creation and management structure. Again, as now, the group of us (Urban Management Group, including a full professor of management from Case Institute of technology) who offered the theory was ignored and the plan surfaced a year later as the administration’s own. Again, screw you says the City.

The military calls this management style distributive intelligence. That is, information gathering and asset allocation are determined on the battalion and even platoon level instead of at the division or army level.

The thought was that the local guys best knew what needed to be done in their area because they best knew what was going on in their area.

I have heard that Stuckey did exactly as I proposed and turned operations of the asylum over to the inmates, and laziness and fecklessness ruled. My source said it was like distributive unintelligence. The source stated distributed management will not work at LAAS until good management structues are installed and the department turned around. Apparently because of his abandonment of central control, staff loved Stuckey.

Well so much for my idea. Yet, Stuckey dropped the kill rate 11% during his one year here.

Another argument to support this management modality is how more efficient local, small area groups are at distributing services.

The total LAAS live saves of dogs, cats, rabbits and all others was 31,229 this year. This includes fosters, New Hope and even stolen. The cost per animal saved is a mind-boggling $704 each given a budget of $22,000,000. Incredible, no?

On the other hand, with regard to the save costs of Mary Cummins and her Animal Advocates—the only group that supplied me with saves data and costs, the cost per save is astoundingly less.

In 2005 AA saved 1,385 animals with out-of-pocket expenses of $2,200! That includes food, medication, and vet bills. This does not include her time or overhead. She got formula donated at about $300/yr. She also got some dog/cat food donated worth about $300.

Of course Cummins’ animals averaged a few pounds in weight as opposed to 10 pound cats and 40 pound dogs, but the overall message is the same. Her out-of-pocket expenses for saving 1,385 animals was $1.59 per animal saved! Incredible, no?

Of course we have to factor in AA’s overhead. She did not offer those figures, but assuming a mortgage of $4,000 and utilities of $1,000 per month—I am sure both are overestimates—and allocating 50% to her animal work, the total overhead would be $30,000 per year, for a total cost of $32,200, which is $23, only 3% of the LAAS cost per save!!

Of course we haven’t factored in salaries, but that is one of the benefits of a local private rescue group: volunteers and free hours. Even if we gave Cummins $40,000 a year for a half-time job and assume there were additional free volunteer hours, the total cost per save is still only $52. That is only 7% of the LAAS cost per save!

Cummins goes on to say, “LAAS really needs to do something to reduce the number of animals coming in. When I did that research for a foundation, I found increasing shelter size was not cost or life effective. It was a waste of funds. Of course the bond had been issued years ago but the maintenance cost for the shelters and extra employees has increased. That money would have been much better spent on spay/neuter.”

It may be more cost effective to open storefront adoption sites manned by two full-time employees and lots of volunteers at a cost of $160,000 each with maybe a constant inventory of 50 animals.

Who knows? I am just suggesting new technology in the form of new physical technology and new management styles should be tried rather than just making business as usual more cost effective..

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some quick comments, without having completely digested the whole message:
Stuckey was trying to decentralize management functions. Problem was, it simply reinforced existing lax management practices and lack of policy enforcement, while allowing the shelter managers to improvise whatever nonsense they wanted, often at odds with the kinds of strategies the humane community preferred. The department has a way to go before it will be ready to try such an experiment again. But the fact that he was willing to try it is one reason the staff liked Stuckey. Not only did it imply that he had confidence in them, it allowed the "inmates to run the asylum." It was "distributive lack-of-intelligence."
Boks does want to eventually have storefront adoption centers.
Finally, the bond money being used on the shelter construction could NOT be used on spay/neuter. Were it not for the construction projects, the money wouldn't exist, as the sale of the bonds was authorized specifically, and only, for the construction of new and/or expanded shelters. The money that will be used to add staff to cover the expanded needs of the expanded shelters COULD have been used for spay/neuter, but probably wouldn't have been made available by the City Council in anywhere near the same quantities. That's just a political reality. In the meantime, increasing spay/neuter will indeed continue to be a focal point. The question is what to do with all that expensive extra space in the shelters in a few years as the kennel populations dwindle.